Young Pups Face First Road Test
Nov. 19, 2011
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Much of the focus prior to Sunday's game between Washington (3-0) and Saint Louis (2-0) has been on the return home for Scott Suggs and the first visit back to where Lorenzo Romar cut his coaching teeth for three seasons before his arrival at Washington.
Lost in the shuffle of the hoopla is that the game will mark the first road contest for the young Huskies - and even more specifically the six freshman that Washington brings off the bench.
The initial concern for Romar is not the young guys. It's more just seeing how the group responds to a hostile environment.
"It will be interesting to see how we handle the road," Romar said at his Tuesday press conference in Seattle. "I don't say it's a concern now, it's more intrigue. If we don't rebound better and if we don't defend for the full 40 minutes it's going to cost us on Sunday."
Romar may lean heavily on his veterans tomorrow. The Huskies' starting five - Aziz N'Diaye, Darnell Gant, C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross and Abdul Gaddy - have plenty of experience under their belts. The group - minus Gaddy - all played tournament games last season vs. Georgia and North Carolina. Gaddy has 52 games under his belt and helped UW to the Sweet 16 in 2010. All told, the five entered the 2011-12 campaign with 256 games under their belts.
"By the end of the year last year, I know the guys were playing pretty well on the road. We had to play North Carolina in basically what was a road game in the NCAA tournament," Romar said. "This will be a first for the young players, so it will be interesting to see how they respond."
The Huskies' bench is a stark contrast to the starters. With Suggs out until early December nursing a broken foot, the Huskies' bench rotation features a total of ZERO games played entering the season. Only walk-on reserve Brendan Sherrer, with 23 total games, has played in an away college atmosphere - and those appearances have all been in mop up duty with the game in hand.
Even though it is the first college game away from Seattle for those Husky freshmen, the times have changed. With AAU basketball playing such a big role in the development of young, star hoopsters, playing in a big-time atmosphere is nothing that overwhelms newcomers these days.
Freshmen Tony Wroten has played in the high school all-star Nike Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit games, plus the 2009-10 USA Basketball Men's Development National Team. Martin Breunig competed for the German under-18 national team at the FIBA European Championships in Vilnius, Lithuania during the summer of 2010. All of the members of the Husky freshmen class have been part of the AAU circuit.
So Sunday shouldn't be a shock to their systems, right? Not necessarily.
"I think the freshmen are less and less fazed by big time games as opposed to the road, because the road is different than a big time game," Romar explained. "If you play a big time game at a neutral site, I don't think that fazes freshmen.
"But when you go on the road and there are 12-15,000 fans getting after you, I think that affects you," Romar said, before immediately correcting himself.
"I think it affects most. Not all."
Romar and the Husky fans will find out Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. PT in the 10,600-seat Chaifetz Arena which category the UW newcomers fall under.
The flappable or the unflappable.