With basketball season a little more than a month away, the Huskies held their media day on Thursday to preview the season. We had sit-down interviews with a handful of players and will pass some of those long a little later, but for now, here’s some of what coach Lorenzo Romar said about the Huskies during a 35-minute press conference. I’ll try to get the full transcript up a little later.
One item of note: freshman forward Marquese Chriss fractured his right wrist during practice and will miss three or four weeks -- he was sporting a cast when he met with reporters today -- but Romar said he should return in plenty of time for UW’s Nov. 13 opener against Texas in Shanghai.
(Opening) “That time of the year again. Good to see a lot of familiar faces, some new faces. Sounds a little bit like our team in the opposite – a lot of new faces, but a lot of eager Huskies with us this year. Our guys’ attitudes have been phenomenal. There’s a lot of appreciation among our team that they’re here playing for the Washington Huskies, which is a really good thing for camaraderie and for our program in general. We will start this weekend obviously, like we do every year, we go out to Evergreen and spend some time together and understand kind of how we handle ourselves, how we’re supposed to handle ourselves on the road a little bit, a little bit of bonding, and a whole lot of practicing. Our guys are already familiar with each other because of the seven weeks or so they spent together in the summer, and now the last couple of weeks in September we’ve been together. We have a lot to learn for our guys, you can just tell are starting to get antsy for us to really start practicing.”
(One or two things you know for sure your team will be better at this year?) “I think we have the ability to pressure the basketball more than we have in the last 2-3 years. I think we’ll do a better job of that. I think we have a group collectively that’s better at making plays – making plays for themselves or making plays for others. I think we’ll be a more athletic team, that’s for sure.”
(On getting back to up-tempo, pressure style of play) “Yeah, because of that athleticism, because we have more athleticism, and because we will be able to pressure a little more. We have more guys that can make plays. That will allow us to do what we’ve done for the majority of our time here at the University of Washington, and that is play up-tempo. It seems like (because) we haven’t done it in a couple years, it’s like we’ve never done it before. That’s how we play, up-tempo. We just haven’t had the ability to do it the last couple years.”
(On offensive and defensive sets they’ll use) “It’s the same as the last 13 years. Same thing. we run our motion and we sprinkle it in with a little high post – I said the last 13, (but) the last couple of years we haven’t been able to pressure as I’ve already said a couple times. We haven’t been able to pressure, (but) we’ll go back to doing that. Same old attack type style. Depending on the personnel, we will use more motion or more high post. Go back to 2009, 2010, we ran high post quite a bit, and 2013-14, we ran it even more than last year. We ran more motion but ran high post as well. So we’ll do pretty much the same thing we’ve been doing for the majority of the time that we’ve been here.”
(What will be difficult for such a young team to learn?) “Learning how to pull games out at the end. Learning what it takes. There were times when we’d play well enough to win the game, but then when it came down to it, we weren’t quite able to close the deal. Just weren’t quite sure how to do that, weren’t quite sure how to do that on the road at times. So that’s something that we’ll spend quite a bit of time on in the preseason, trying to put our guys in those situations as best we can, so that they’re comfortable when we are in those positions in games, which we will be.”
(On teaching the right defensive effort and knowledge to a young team) “The effort will be there with our guys. That won’t be an issue. Learning how to be in sync, working in unison together, like everyone’s on a string, that may take a little time to get it done, but I believe, hopefully earlier than later, it happens. We have a very challenging schedule right off the bat, but I think we will pick it up. Guys are already trying to take ownership of trying to play the way that we’re asking them to play.”
(Does defense still have to be the foundation of how you play?) “Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. If we can’t be aggressive and be dictators on the defensive end, then we’re just going to be mediocre. That’s where it all starts.”
(On starting from scratch with so many new players) “We kind of try to start from scratch every year, but the difference is, we have to stay there a little longer. In other years, you start from scratch, we built the foundation, but you systematically kind of go through it. Now, with these guys, it’s just going to take a little longer to get to some things so that we’re able to understand what we’re doing.”
(On setting a rotation and how many guys will play) “I don’t know. When guys were healthy in the past, even though we may not have had the most talented group, we still may have had a deep rotation. I can’t give you the numbers on what that’s going to look like. I just know we’ll be fresh when we’re in there, when we’re playing.”
(Have a starting lineup yet?) “Oh, yeah, I can give you the starting lineup, tell you how many points everybody’s going to average. I can do all that today (laughs). Just wait on it.”
(In terms of self-scouting, what do you take from last season?) “I don’t know what we can take from last year. In years prior, when we’ve had – I would compare this year more to like 2007 when we had four freshmen coming in with some new players that were going to play quality minutes. I would look back at that year. That would probably be more similar to what we’re going through here. And I think back then, I’m pretty sure we weren’t able to have two hours a week with our guys in the summer. So when we started out in October, that’s when we first started really working with them. Well, September 15th – the seven weeks make it a little easier for us to get a better feel, that we had in the summer, to learn our guys. So you see right now who picks things up like that. We’ve got a few guys that are new that you show them one time, and they’ve got it. And we don’t have very many slow learners with this group. Guys pick things up pretty quickly. So we’ve been able to assess that before our first practice.”
(Evaluation of each newcomer) “David Crisp – stocky, aggressive, really good athlete. Strong. Picks things up really well. Won a national championship last year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Is excited about being a Husky.
“Dejounte Murray, also played at Rainier Beach, won a state championship. Very versatile. Can shoot the ball, pass it, dribble it. A guy that can make plays for himself and others. Long. I think the recurring theme you’ll hear with our guys, we’ve got a lot of length. Even though we don’t have 7-footers, we have a lot of length, a lot of like-sized guys, common-sized guys, who will allow us to play that defense and get out in the passing lanes, and he’s one of those guys.
“Matisse Thybulle is a big-time athlete. He ran a 4:55 mile when we ran our mile. That’s the fastest anybody’s ever done it for us since we’ve been here. As a matter of fact, as a head coach doing this about 20 years, we’ve never had anyone break 5 minutes. … Long, again, picks things up really quickly, going to be a very good defender, but surprisingly will be a better offensive player than people may think he would be.
“Noah Dickerson arguably is our best low-post scorer right now. Really understands where he is around the basket. Can also step out and knock the shot down from the perimeter. I would say think of Jamaal Williams who played for us who was a really good low-post scorer. Noah is along those lines. We got Jamaal as a junior, now. Noah’s a freshman, but he has the capability to be able to do that. Another guy who won two national championships at Mt. Verde Academy, so he’s accustomed to winning.
“Marquese Chriss, outstanding leaper, has an immense upside. Has a lot of talent. He’s an exciting player to watch. Fast, good foot-speed. He’s going to be a good one for us. Good shot blocker.
“Malik Dime, speaking of shot blockers. Runs the floor, probably our most vocal player. Very enthusiastic. Teammates love him. He played in the national championship game at Indian Hills junior college a couple years ago, so again, he’s accustomed to winning.
“Devenir Duruisseau from California is about as solid of a player as you want to find out there. doesn’t make very many mistakes. Doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. Loves to bang, loves to hit people out there. He’s also a quick learner.
“Dominic Green can really score the ball. He’s fun to watch with the ball in his hands, because he’s one of those guys that for a lot of players it may be a bad shot, but for him it’s not because he knows exactly where he is on the floor, he knows how to get to his shot, he knows how to get the spacing on the floor where he knows he’s very efficient, so he can shoot from 3, he can drive the ball. Really good offensive player. All these guys have great length.
“Matthew Atewe will sit out this year obviously because he’s a transfer from Auburn. But very strong, very fast, but we won’t be able to have his services.
(Do you know how you’ll use Dejounte Murray? Point guard, off guard?) “That’s the beauty of Dejounte – he’s very versatile. Brandon Roy, what position was he? I don’t know. I don’t know what position Dejounte is. He’s a guy that can bring the ball in transition and make plays. He can play the point for you. He can play on the wing. You can run him off screens. He can post up. He’s very versatile. So you don’t want to pigeonhole him in one position over here, because he’s going to be all over the place.”