As players and their families and friends milled about the Hec Edmundson Pavilion basketball court and bleachers following Washington’s 87-69 victory over Cal State-Fullerton on Sunday night, coach Lorenzo Romar still had work to do. He walked up the stairs and onto the arena concourse. A tall teenager and his father followed him.
The teenager is Sam Timmins, a 6-foot-10, 278-pound center from New Zealand who signed with the Huskies in April and plans to enroll at UW in January. Timmins was in Seattle on his official visit, accompanied by his father, Brendon, a former New Zealand rugby player.
The two sat behind the Huskies’ bench during Sunday’s game.
For now, Romar said, “I just like looking at him. ‘Just stand there, Sam. Wow.’ We measured him and barefoot he was right at 6-10, so shoes, you could say he’s 6-10 ½, 6-11. He’s 278 pounds, and if you look at him, you don’t think he’s 278 pounds. But it shows how well-proportioned he is, and with a little bit over a 7-foot, 2-inch wingspan … when you look at him, look at his frame, understand he hasn’t lifted very many weights. So when (strength and conditioning) Coach (Daniel) Shapiro gets a hold of him in about three weeks, his body’s going to get more toned. It’s just good to have him.”
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Once Timmins arrives, he will participate fully in all team activities -- practices, workouts, travel to all road games, pregame warmups both home and away -- but will not play in any games, and will be a freshman for the 2016-17 season.
“Sam will do everything with the team – everything – as if he were on the team, except check in the game,” Romar said. “I hope we don’t all foul out one of these games and I’m looking down there at him – no, he won’t play. He will not play this year. But it’s great that he’s able to come early, a lot like football, when they’re able to come at this quarter, because not only will he get in really good condition and tone up his body, but he will learn our concepts, he will learn our philosophy, so that when we go out and play next year, he’ll be a little ahead of the curve for an incoming freshman. So it’s great to have him.”
In July, Timmins took a leave of absence from the Canterbury Rams -- a New Zealand professional team for which Timmins plays as an amateur -- to compete at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships in Hungary. Timmins helped New Zealand win the tournament championship, and was one of 22 players invited in July to try out to play for the Tall Blacks -- the New Zealand national team -- in the FIBA Oceania Championship series against Australia, but he did not make the final cut. It was Timmins’ first time being invited to the trial camps. (The Tall Blacks eventually lost to the Aussie Boomers, whose roster includes Matthew Dellavadova, Andrew Bogut and former Washington State star Brock Motum, and Australia therefore earned a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.)
This was Timmins’ first visit to Seattle. Romar visited him for two days in Dunedin, New Zealand in September (as noted in this story from the Otago Daily Times, which has an entertaining photograph alongside it).
“'We get tips, but very rarely are they who they say they are,” Romar told the Otago Daily Times about his recruitment of Timmins. “Sam was in fact as tall as he said he was. He was as good a player as they said he was, and really did have genuine interest in Washington. Those three coming together don't happen a lot.
''I think the sky is the limit. He could play at the highest level and the highest level I know of is the NBA.''
Timmins is one of two players the Huskies signed in the class of 2016 -- the other is 5-star guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 7-ranked player in the 2016 class.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple