University of Washington

UW hoops: Young Huskies host Seattle Pacific in exhibition game Thursday

Dejounte Murray scored hundreds of points for the powerhouse boys basketball team at Rainier Beach High School. Grabbed a lot of rebounds, too. Threw down a lot of dunks. Once, he scored 52 points in a game.

But what the 6-foot-4  ½ guard never did, and what he had to learn to do with strict regularity when he arrived for his first summer at the University of Washington, was lift a weight. Maybe once or twice as a kid, just messing around. But never as a high school athlete.

So when UW strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro gave Murray a workout plan to start before his arrival at UW, the freshman relented.

“I was supposed to do some stuff before I got here, like lifting and stuff,” Murray said, “and I didn’t take that too serious. But when I got here, it was like, no choice. I had to do it.”

He stuck with it, and started eating more, too — “here, you’re getting three meals-plus,” he said — and says he gained about 20 pounds as a result.

And he will need the extra muscle if he is to help carry this Huskies team the way many hope.

Washington’s 2015-16 season doesn’t officially begin until Nov. 13, when the Huskies fly to Shanghai to face Texas in the first regular-season U.S. college basketball game played in China.

But on Thursday, the Huskies will put on uniforms and play against another team, as they host Division II Seattle Pacific in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion (no TV, no radio).

It will be the first chance for the public to see a UW roster that includes just two returning rotation players — fifth-year senior Andrew Andrews, the team captain, and sophomore Donaven Dorsey — plus seven freshmen and a junior-college transfer.

Murray might be the most touted newcomer. Freshman forward Marquese Chriss has impressed in practice, too, most notably scoring 40 points in UW’s recent intramural scrimmage.

That’s never happened before, coach Lorenzo Romar said.

His 2015 recruiting class earned mostly plaudits from recruiting analysts, and it ranked among the nation’s best. The Huskies should be talented, and coaches and players tout their improved athleticism and eager chemistry.

But there is a reason they were picked by the media to finish 11th in the Pac-12 standings. This is by far the youngest team Romar has coached, and that lack of experience could be exposed by more seasoned opponents.

Against Seattle Pacific, he said, he simply wants to see “how long we can sustain our effort. That’s going to be big for me.”

Also: “How well we communicate on the floor. A number of things under the defensive topic I’m going to be looking for. Sharing the basketball.”

Andrews, the team’s second-leading scorer last season at 15.0 points per game, will move to point guard after spending most of his career as a two guard. He’ll lead an offense that Romar hopes will play fast and free, like his better teams of old.

“The other day in practice,” Andrews said, “he grabbed me aside and told me I’m pushing the ball too slow up the court. And for me, I was thinking, like, ‘Man, I’ve been pushing the ball pretty fast,’ but he wants me to go as fast as possible, all the time.”

The Huskies traveled to California two weeks ago to play a closed scrimmage against Saint Mary’s, an exercise that Romar said “pretty much just showed us all of our warts.”

“I think it served as just kind of a mirror, so to speak, so we could really see what we’re about at this point,” Romar said. “Our guys came back afterward and realized we still have some work to do, even though there were stretches where we did really well.”

Lengthening those stretches is the priority against Seattle Pacific.

“We don’t want to go out there and not take it as a real game and not be serious,” Murray said, “so we’re taking it serious, and I’m just really excited.”

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com

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@ChristianCaple

THURSDAY: Seattle Pacific at Washington, 7 p.m., no TV or radio

NOV. 13: Washington against Texas at Shanghai

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