Huskies' Shawn Kemp Jr. getting more minutes
For three games, Shawn Kemp Jr. sat on the bench and mostly watched. He sat the entire game against Stanford, played four minutes at Arizona State and then sat the entire game at Arizona.
Four minutes in three games? The University of Washington freshman wasn’t expecting to get a surplus of minutes this season, but the few minutes he had been getting were going to someone else – a football player who had joined the team midseason, no less.
While Kemp was on the bench, Austin Seferian-Jenkins worked his way onto the court 21/2 weeks after joining the team. And he was flourishing by playing a physical, aggressive style, particularly when it came to rebounding and defense, while reaching cult hero status with Washington fans.
But instead of pouting and complaining, Kemp worked that much harder in practice
“It motivated me a lot, actually,” Kemp said.
He became determined to make the most of any future minutes that might come his way.
So Thursday against UCLA, when Aziz N’Diaye got into foul trouble and Kemp came into the game, he didn’t let the opportunity pass him by.
He got in late in the first half and made his presence felt, ripping down a hard defensive rebound.
A few minutes later he took a pass from C.J. Wilcox on a cut. Instead of being careful and just trying to lay the ball in, which he might have done earlier in the season, Kemp attacked the rim.
He exploded off one foot and threw down a nasty left-handed dunk – letting out a scream. For a fleeting moment, he played like his father, former Seattle SuperSonics star Shawn Kemp.
“I was thinking, it’s a wide open lane and this is my chance to get a dunk,” he said.
Two possessions later, he outmuscled UCLA’s 6-foot-10 Travis Wear on a missed shot and dunked it back in.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar often says, “Coaches don’t determine playing time, players determine their playing time.” Kemp forced Romar to put him back on the floor more.
Kemp’s solid play against UCLA earned him early minutes Saturday against USC. He checked into the game after four minutes and made his presence felt. Abdul Gaddy threw him a lob pass that he slammed home.
On Washington’s next possession, he posted up, got solid position, made a nice move and scored on a jump hook.
Later in the game, he scored on another dunk.
Of the 10 points he scored in two games, eight of them came on dunks.
“Those were Shawn’s best minutes this year,” Romar said.
It was also the most minutes he’d seen in a while.
“I’m relaxed when I go into games early like that,” he said. “I feel like it works better with me.”
To be fair, not much was expected of Kemp this season. He was a late signee to the program. And he hadn’t played much organized basketball in two years.
After committing to Auburn and failing to qualify academically in 2009, he enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia to become eligible.
When he signed with UW last summer, Kemp was nowhere near ready with his conditioning. Kemp estimated he’s lost 25 pounds along with adding muscle since the summer.
“He hadn’t played basketball in two years,” Romar said. “It’s one thing to play two years in college and then sit out two years and come back. But he’d never played in college.”
Kemp admitted it was a challenge to get in shape, shake off the rust to learn the Huskies’ system, learn about life at the Division I level and then try to find success.
“I’m a lot less hesitant,” he said. “Things are getting easier. It’s easier for me to get in the flow of things. It’s been coming around.”
IN THE PAINT
Wilcox will continue to not practice during the week and play in games as he tries to rest the stress fracture in his left femur. Romar said Wilcox has been cleared to shoot more jumpshots this week. Last week, Wilcox was limited to 50 shots per practice.
Freshman Tony Wroten said his bruised thigh is doing better. He did admit he’d never been this physically beaten up. Besides the thigh bruise, he had a bruised tailbone and elbows from a nasty spill. Wroten said he will continue to wear the pads on his elbows, shins and thighs each game.
Wroten has made 13 of his past 16 free throws over the past three games to raise his season percentage to 57.1. He ranks third in the nation among freshmen in scoring at 16.7 points per game. His 385 points rank him fifth on the UW freshman scoring list.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports
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