The Huskies left for the Valley of the Sun on Wednesday. Ahead for them are a pair of important games ... made all the more important because neither seems out of reach: Arizona State at 6 p.m. Thursday and Arizona at noon Saturday.
My preview story in the Thursday paper focuses on the key freshmen at Arizona State and Arizona, but especially on the two UW freshmen who aren't playing much but who apparently are making progress behind the scenes: Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday.
I spoke to each this week. Here are a few of their thoughts:
HOLIDAY, on when he will return to the court: I just have to keep playing, doing what I'm doing. When he needs me, he needs me and I'll be able to come in and do what I can do.
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And Gant, who is redshirting, on what he's learning this season: "I think that redshirting was a great opportunity for me to improve on my skills, increase my work ethic and try to work hard on everything that needs to be done. … My defense is getting better. When I got to college the guards are faster than they were in high school, so I have to adjust. Now I'm getting better at my help-side defense where now I'm able to block shots at this level. It's all coming from a jump from high school to college, and I feel that I'm making that adjustment very rapidly."
Gant on his role next season: "I really do see how I can help my team. I see a big vision for the team, a big uprising for the team. This team can do many good thing if we just gel together and mix to where we can just have fun and play like we're suppose to, like real Husky basketball should be played."
Gant on his style of play: "I'm going to bring that fire, that desire to win. You see how Joel Smith acts and how Quincy Pondexter acts on the floor? How they get excited and play off emotion? That's kind of how I am, I play off emotion. … I tend to rise to the occasion where I tend to help my team. I'm not a selfish player, I never have been, I never will be. I won't be the type that will try to shoot all the shots. I'll try to just be everything that they need me to do and what I feel that I have to do to help my team win a basketball game."
Turning back to the task ahead:
WASHINGTON (11-7 OVERALL, 2-3 PAC-10)
AT NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE (14-3, 4-1)
6 p.m., Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
Series: Arizona State leads 33-30 overall and 20-10 in Tempe. However, UW has won the last 10 meetings, the longest current streak in the Pac-10. In the most recent meeting, the Huskies eliminated the Sun Devils from the 2007 Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles.
Statistical leaders: For UW, F Jon Brockman, 18.7 ppg and 11.6 rpg; G Venoy Overton, 3.5 apg. For ASU, G James Harden, 18.6 ppg; F Jeff Pendergraph, 6.9 rpg; G Derek Glasser, 4.4 apg.
Scouting report: The availability of Harden, the No. 5 scorer in the league, could be a game time decision due to a groin injury. … The Sun Devils are off to their best start since the 1980-81 team, which featured Byron Scott, Alton Lister and Fat Lever. … ASU plays an aggressive zone defense. The Sun Devils lead the league in steals, and 3-point shooting and are second in assist-to-turnover ratio and field-goal percentage. They rank 20th nationally in scoring defense (59.2 ppg). … ASU guard Derek Glasser leads the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio. … Brockman was selected Pac-10 player of the week for his play against the Oregon schools last week. … ASU is 11-0 at home this season after going 7-11 last season.
Next: Noon Saturday, at Arizona, McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.; FSN.