In Part III of our series of interviews with Lorenzo Romar, the Washington coach talked about each member of the team from the returners, to the freshmen and walk-ons.
Players report today, which is the start of a four-week period in which coaches can work with them for eight hours a week.
Fall camp begins Oct. 14.
Romar said there’s no one listed as a starter heading into camp.
Here’s the interview.
(Let’s talk about Abdul Gaddy. You were there when he received the bad news and good news about his knee. He’s talked about wanting to make 18,000 shots before the season and he seems to be pressing really hard.) “I’d rather it be that way, then the other way. Like awww I got it. It’s not big deal. When he sat out last year, Abdul is very bright. He has a high basketball IQ. I always say if players can coach before they can play, they’d be better players. He was able to do that last year. He was able to look at it from more of a technical perspective, a coach’s perspective. He was able to see the game from different point of view. When you’re emotionally tied to it, a lot of times if there’s a mistake you want to make an excuse. That’s human nature. When you’re just sitting there removed emotionally from it, you can objectively look at what’s right and wrong. I think he saw a lot out there. I think he saw where he can help this team. I think he saw how much we appreciate his value to the team. And in not in an arrogant way at all, he was able to see his value to the team. I think when you see all of that, you can’t wait to get back to put all of this into practice what you learned.
“The other thing was UCLA and USC his last two games, he didn’t have great games. But prior to that he was having a really good year. And all of sudden it was taken away from him. He wants to go back to not where he left off, but to be even better. All of the shots and all of that, that’s understandable. He couldn’t play. He was riding his bike 15 miles a day. Climbing mountains. Playing three times a day. All he could really do was shoot and work on ball handling. So what he could do, he did. What took the place of playing full court or playing 3-on-3, he had to get it out somehow.
“Lastly, I’ve been around many guys that tore they’re ACL. I’ve never seen one when they go back and they’re cleared where they (the doctors and trainers) say you can go do anything. Your leg is strong enough to support anything. A lot of times when guys come back they got to wear a brace or have to gradually get back into it. He was completely cleared. And that’s a testament to our trainers and doctors, but also to Abdul who worked his tail off. That’s a lot of work. To come back and your leg is strong enough to support whatever you’re doing.”
(Can Darnell Gant run practice?) “No question. Him and Scott Suggs. Scott is a four-year guy. Darnell is a five-year guy. Not only in practice. In the hotel. In airports. Road trips. Darnell knows exactly what we want from our guys. Academically in the weight room. In all aspects he knows exactly what we want.”
(Why haven’t you had a fifth-year senior before?) “Joel Smith and Joe Wolfinger those guys would have been fifth-year seniors. They opted to use their fifth year somewhere else. Tim Morris was a fifth-year senior.”
(Really?) “He transferred from Stanford. Ryan Appleby was a fifth-year senior. Jamaal Williams was a fifth-year senior. Both were transfers. Both those that began as freshmen for us, Desmond Simmons would be one. C.J. Wilcox would be one.”
(Are you curious what Gant will bring to the court as a guy whose been in your program five years?) “Darnell knows he’s been a great role player for us in the past. I think he needs to step up. There were role players that are in the NBA Hall of Fame. So being a role player doesn’t mean you’re not as good of a player. It just means there’s specific need that you played for your team. In Darnell’s case, he needs to rebound the ball better. He began to do that at the end of last year. If he can do that along with the other things that he’s able to do, he’ll have a great year for us.”
(I’ve called Aziz N’Diaye your most important player. What do you think?) “If Aziz plays 25-30 minutes a game, I think he can average a double double. And I think he can average a double double without being spectacular in doing it. And I don’t mean, wow Aziz was all over the place. I just think he’s our best rebounder. He has a knack for going to get the ball. And obviously he needs to be a better foul shooter, which he’s been working on. He’s going to get fouled a ton. If he’s in the game and just by the guards penetrating and getting him the ball, going for rebounds and running the floor, just that alone he’s going to average 10 points. Now if he can begin to put the ball in the basket a little better, it could be more than that. Just in him being on the floor, I think he can average a double double. I believe the game will just come to him where he can do that.”
(How much has Suggs improved since his freshman year?) “Here’s the thing, Scott was very talented the first day he stepped on the floor. He’s always been talented. Now he’s gotten a lot stronger and he’s much more confident and he’s matured a lot. I think because of those three things, we’ll begin to see exactly what type of talent he has because he’s always been talented.”
(I’ve heard Wilcox has been phenomenal in offseason workouts in the weight room and on and off the court.) “When C.J. began, the report was – and I’ll never forget – he touched 11 feet 6 inches. And that’s the top of the square on the backboard. So he’s always been athletic. But he’s gotten stronger with his athleticism. He’s always been fast. When you get older, you get stronger. That quickness, that speed and the strength at which he jumps now has gotten better.”
(That’s funny because most folks hadn’t seen that athleticism from him. When I think of Wilcox, I think of a jump shooter.) “Naw. He’s a big-time athlete. People look at C.J. and even Scott. I remember Klay Thompson as a freshman. With two or three games left in the season – we played them – and one of the things we talked about as a staff is he’d gone to the (free throw) line 22 times. That was probably their 28th game. He went from doing nothing but shooting to where he continued to evolve. He could penetrate and pass. He could to it all. And we’ll see same with Scott and C.J.”
(That was probably the biggest criticism I had of Suggs and Wilcox, especially Suggs. He had 17 free throw attempts last season and that’s very low for a guy that shoots as well as he does and plays as much as he does.) “He was aware of that. I think we’ll see more from those guys.”
(There’s projections that has Terrence Ross taken in the NBA lottery next summer, but as you noted earlier no one averaged more than eight points last year. What does he need to do to make the jump from being a role player to someone you can depend on game after game?) “He needs to be consistent. You talk about the lottery, he’s talented enough to be one. Just because you’re talented that doesn’t make it a sure thing. Do the little things. Defend and rebound. And be more consistent. I say the eight point thing and no one has averaged more than that, but C.J. scored 20 points in a half. Scott scored 20 points. Terrence was all-Pac-10 Tournament. So it’s not like we have guys that average eight points a game and that’s their ceiling. Brandon Roy averaged 15 or 14 as a junior and averaged 20 as a senior. Quincy (Pondexter) averaged almost 20 as a senior, but only 13 maybe as a junior. Guys have made big (scoring) jumps before. A guy like Terrence Ross, if he does the little things and is consistent, he can make a huge jump.”
(When I talk to Desmond Simmons, he sounds a lot like Gaddy in that he just can’t wait to get going again.) “Everyone brings something to the table. We have several guys on this team that are just junkyard dogs and they just tough. And he’s one of them. He’s not going to back down from anyone. He’s probably our scrappiest guy on the team. Just will not take no for answer going for the boards.”
(I think Simmons may help define the team’s personality. Teams sometimes get a label for being soft, but it seems as if Simmons and N’Diaye will keep that soft tag away from Washington.) “Those guys, there’s not a soft tissue in their bodies. Not one soft tissue. They’re tough.”
(Let’s talk about the freshmen, Andrew Andrews told me he plans to redshirt. If so, why?) “First of all he was going to go to prep school. I’ll never forget what he did. This was a very good guard who said I just want to be a Husky. Whatever I have to do to be a Husky, I’ll do it. Because there’s a logjam at that point guard position and we may not have a scholarship we just asked him would you be open to going to prep school for a year knowing that you’re going to come in the following year. He said yeah I’ll do whatever I need to do. When Isaiah (Thomas) declared for the draft, a scholarship opened up and he was able to come. Well there’s still a logjam and we’ll just redshirt him. And he’ll learn and he’ll play against those guys every day. Then come in as a freshman. What I keep hearing is you sure you want to redshirt him because he’s really good? But there’s only so many minutes to go around. We heard that when C.J. was a freshman and he redshirted. People said you’re going to need shooting and we weren’t a great shooting team. That year we went to the Sweet 16 and it worked out. But even with that there was a lot of positives there. There were somethings he had to learn too on the defensive end. Okay he could have played 10 minutes a game. Do you want to use that or do you want to use the back end where he’s playing 30 minutes a game? I think that’s the point with Andrew. We have capable guards this year. Why would you want to play him? And even if he’s good enough to play, use the minutes this year as opposed to in the future when it’s likely those minutes will increase. So we talked about it.”
(And obviously the decision was made for him to sit this year.) “In the time we’ve been here, there’s been two players that we decided (before training camp) they were going to redshirt and that’s C.J. and Andrew. People ask well who are you going to redshirt. No one. No one is going to redshirt. If we’re going along and someone gets behind like Desmond did last year, he got behind because of his knee injury and his conditioning wasn’t there. But we don’t go into the year redshirting anyone. People bring up Jernard Jarreau because he’s thin. (John) Henson from North Carolina was lighter and thinner than he is right now. Just because he’s thin doesn’t mean he has to redshirt.”
(I’ve also know you’ve been reluctant to burn a kid’s redshirt. Knowing that are you fearful about another injury hurting your depth as it did last year when you lost Gaddy? In that case, would Andrews play this season?) “That would be situational. I don’t think we’d want to do that. That’s my initial thought. Unless a kid says, I don’t care if we have 16 games left. I want to play. Maybe you’d look at it that way. But a lot times I don’t think it’s fair to the kid for him to sit out half the year and then get pushed into duty.”
(Which freshman can come in and immediately help the team?) “Tony Wroten is the furthest along and he will help us. He will be an impact player this year. The rest, and I really mean this, the rest remains to be seen when we start practicing because anyone of those guys can pick stuff up. As coaches we’re over there saying, wow he’s really going to help us. They’re all going to have that opportunity.”
(How do you think Shawn Kemp Jr. will deal with playing in the city where his father became a legend?) “I talked to Shawn about it and he has a pretty good perspective on it. A few years ago, it was something that maybe he didn’t want to do. As he’s gotten older and he’s matured, I think he’s learned to embrace it more than anything and not run from it. It is what it is. You’re not going to be able to walk out there in glasses, a beard and a hat incognito. It is what it is. He’s ready to face that. I think he has a pretty good perspective about it.”
(Maybe because he didn’t have the hype of the other newcomers, but I’ve been impressed with Martin Breuning.) “Hardworker. Very hardworker. He’s here’s one day and saying coach I got to find a strength coach. I said yeah we’ll get that done. And he says no, I need to find him now. I need to get in that weight room now. That’s his attitude. You love to see that with kids.”
(You mentioned Jarreau earlier. The first time I talked to him, he talked about starting. When we spoke weeks later, it seemed as if he had a rude awakening and was talking about finding a spot in the rotation. Where does he fit in?) “He’s unbelievably skilled. A guy that if he comes out and catches on to what we’re doing right away, in spite of his frame he’s still able to get stuff done. Jernard is a tough kid. He’s slightly built, but he’s not a soft kid. He can come out with that length. He can be a big surprise to those that don’t know about him. He wasn’t a guy that was an McDonald’s All-American, but a guy whose ceiling is really, really high. When we start practicing, we’re going to be looking at him really closely because he’s a guy that could come out and catch on what we’re doing.”
(Hikeem Stewart doesn’t get the hype of the other freshmen, but he reminds me of Justin Dentmon.) “It’s interesting. If you talk to 30 people that did not coach him or play with him, I guarantee you rarely would any of them say how good a passer he is. But he’s an unbelievable passer.”
(Really. I hadn’t seen that.) “Just a really good passer. People don’t realize that about him. With constant reps and shooting the ball the right way, I think he can become a really good shooter. And he’s a guy that’s a willing defender. He’s a multi-dimensional guard. The thing with Hikeem is last year he played almost the whole year with a knee injury. There were times he played where he didn’t play up to the level that he’s capable of. I think a lot of people saw that and formed an opinion of him. He’s going to prove some people wrong.”
(How is his injury?) “He’s good now.”
(Would you redshirt anyone else?) “Today I’m not looking to say this kid is going to redshirt. Again for future reference, we will never go into a season saying we’re going to redshirt somebody.”
(Andrews?) “I’m sorry. Unless we’ve already said it. Andrew was redshirting. That’s already been determined. C.J. it was determined he was going to redshirt. If we don’t say it, it’s not our intention to redshirt anyone. That wasn’t our intent, but it worked out that way with Desmond and with Darnell and with Wolfinger. With Wolfinger we knew it might be a redshirt year, but I’m just not going to say that going into camp. We don’t know that yet. So at this point, no we’re not planning on redshirting anyone else.”
(But it could happen?) “It could always happen like it happened with Desmond. But at this point, I don’t know.”
(You picked up a new walk-on in Alex Wegner. How did that happen?) “We were recruiting John Gage a couple of years ago. He was on his team. His parents were both UW alums. They like the University of Washington. They really do. Coach (Jim) Shaw had stayed close to that situation. He mentioned that this guy Alex may want to walk on and I think he’d be a good walk-on. He decided that he really wanted to do it and I think he’ll be a fantastic walk-on.”
(Justin Holiday told me if you had to play Brendan Sherrer for extended minutes in the middle of a game, you wouldn’t regret it.) “He’s the most improved player on our team. From where he started, no one has improved like Brendan Sherrer has. People forget last year in our opener at USC, we’re in foul trouble and with two minutes to go in the half I sent him to the scorer’s table. And I didn’t do it with one eye closed. I sent him in thinking we’ll be fine. He’ll get through this half. He’ll hold his own. He’ll defend. And he’s even better now.”
(He never got in.) “No he didn’t.”
(It’s like a Disney movie.) “Yeah. Given that fact that if you flash back a few years of him in the Dawg Pack yelling for the Huskies and now he’s out there playing. It’s just incredible. Talk about a guy who’s going to be successful in life. The work he’s put in.”
(What happened to Antoine Hosley?) “Right now he’s at Northern Idaho Community College. His situation, he tried it. Tried to be a part of something knowing that he wouldn’t play and just decided alright this has been a great experience, but I think I’d like to go somewhere else and have a chance to play more. I talked to him (the other day) as a matter of fact.”
(Are you going to have any practice players this season?) “No. We have 15 players and that’s enough.”
(Morgan Maxie was on the practice squad last season and had hoped to walk on. Did that not work out?) “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
(Are you excited about this upcoming season?) “I’m very excited because on the one hand we’re a team with a lot of potential. We hadn’t done anything yet. On the other hand, if we can come close to our potential I think we can be a very exciting and competitive team.”
(Roles weren’t defined quickly enough two seasons ago. It seems that’s going to be a problem again this year.) “I actually don’t think it will take a long, long time. I’m trying to go back two years ago and what was the make-up of our team? I think this year we have more guys that have accomplished more at this point coming into the year. Again, Abdul played in two NCAA tournaments. Aziz played last year. Darnell is a fifth-year senior. Scott Suggs played three years. C.J. was on the all-Freshman team. We have more guys with experience than we did two years ago. I think roles will be defined.”
(Do you have any starters right now?) “No.”
(Even N’Diaye?) “We’ll just leave it like that.”
(N’Diaye seems like a guy who will at least be a big part of of the team?) “No question about it. If you’re going to look at the starters, for sure he’d probably be the closest thing there is before we start to practice. We have no one that does remotely close to what he does.”
(When does camp begin?) “Sept. 15 is the first day we get to start to work with our guys. The (second) Friday in October, I believe Oct. 14 is the first day of practice.”
(Are you planning any Midnight Madness type of an event? ESPN coming in or anything like that.) “No. Not this year.”