Seattle University’s meeting with the University of Washington is a highlight of every Redhawks season.
Regardless of the result of Thursday night’s game against the Huskies, Seattle U. has even higher goals ahead: Its first season in the Western Athletic Conference and a potential bid to the NCAA tournament.
“The WAC has been good for us,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “Obviously down the stretch it gives us something coming up that’s more along the lines of the norm. And that’s good. But for how we’re developing and what we do, in or out (of the conference) there are things that we have to do regardless.”
The arrival of Seattle U. this season is just one of many changes in the evolving WAC, whose other current members are Denver, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, UT Arlington, UT San Antonio, Texas State and Utah State. With the start of league play looming Dec. 29, Dollar thinks his Redhawks can be competitive in the conference and even dream of riding the WAC’s automatic bid to March Madness.
“We’ve been able to play some of the schools in the past and been competitive with them,” he said. “… Time will tell how it all shakes out, but I think we have a chance to be competitive. … Are we excited to be able to be eligible for the tournament? Yes. But the guys have always worked hard and really stretched themselves.”
Seattle U.’s record is 3-3 after their Monday victory at Eastern Washington. Losses have come to established programs such as Virginia and Stanford.
“We’ve played a lot of really good tough teams early,” forward Clarence Trent said. “It may not have showed a lot of positives, but things are coming from our losses as well: knowing that we’re still able to defend and there are just the little things we need to do on offense to get the ball moving side to side and inside out. Those little things are what we’ve got to do.”
The game at KeyArena holds special meaning to Dollar, a former UW assistant; and to Trent, a redshirt junior who grew up in Tacoma, played at Gig Harbor, and began his college career with the Huskies before transferring across town.
Trent sat out the 2010-11 season before averaging 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds last season. He has built on those numbers this season, leading Seattle U. with 11.2 points per game and is tied for the lead at 7.2 rebounds.
“It’s one of those games I look forward to just because I went there and I know the guys on the team,” Trent said. “I’m happy I made the move. Dollar’s working with me, working in the offseason, getting my shot up, working on defense and my stamina, making sure I’m ready to go.”
Dollar said he is happy with the progress Trent has made this season.
Dollar is in his fourth season at Seattle U., and said the building process is continuing steadily.
“We’re still a ways away,” he said. “… But we’ve definitely made strides. Guys work hard. The familiarity with the structure of playing (NCAA) Division I basketball, we’re getting more familiar. We’ve upgraded recruiting every year we’ve been here. So yes, all signs (point) in the right direction.”