Two veterans who had missed UW’s exhibition game last week – senior guard Venoy Overton and junior forward Darnell Gant – returned in time to reassume their usual roles.
And with that deep and experienced roster in place, coach Lorenzo Romar announced that true freshman forward Desmond Simmons of Vallejo, Calif., will redshirt.
Meanwhile, the game was so one-sided that everyone else on the roster played, including walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Antoine Hosley.
Gant, who had missed time with a groin injury, moved directly into the starting lineup, taking the place of Scott Suggs, who had started in the exhibition against Saint Martin’s.
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Romar said the move was made to add size and experience to the first unit, and Gant responded with five points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. Suggs got almost as much work: 17 minutes, while providing 11 points and three rebounds.
Overton, who had missed most of camp with a hamstring injury, checked in about four minutes after the tip. And he immediately made his mark, seemingly with his reputation as much as his quick hands.
“Their guards were scared,” fellow-guard Isaiah Thomas said. “You could see it right when he came in. (A McNeese guard) dribbled it off his foot, then he backed up and went backcourt. (Overton) does that to some guards. That’s what you love him for.”
Overton said he felt 100 percent.
And he agreed that the McNeese guards seemed aware of his reputation as a defensive terror.
“I’m pretty sure their coach told them, ‘Don’t play with the ball,’” he said. “It’s a good feeling to know that you intimidate somebody like that. I felt it when I came in the game, I jabbed at him like I was going to reach, and it seemed like he threw it out of bounds.”
Overton played 21 minutes, contributing game-highs with six assists and three steals.
“We’ve got a lot more talent that we did my first two years,” Thomas said. “Not to put anything against them teams, but we’ve got guys who can run the floor, who can jump, who can shoot threes. Everybody does multiple things.”
In the closing minutes, Romar cleared his bench, right down to Hosley, a guard from Portland who declined overtures from Montana and Sacramento State to walk on at UW.
“I knew I’d have to work my way into a position,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get playing time right off the bat. But I feel like sitting on the bench is going to make me work even harder. I feel at this level – the highest level in college basketball – I’ll have to push myself to become a better player in years to come.”