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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

September 18, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Lorenzo Romar on Robert Upshaw, Ray Rice and starting practice Sept. 25

Practice begins Sept. 25 for the Washington Huskies and coach Lorenzo Romar. (Photo credit: AP - Elaine Thompson)

Practice begins Sept. 25 for the Washington Huskies and coach Lorenzo Romar. (Photo credit: AP – Elaine Thompson)

Had a chance to talk to Lorenzo Romar about several topics, including Robert Upshaw.

“To Robert’s credit there were some things that we had talked about,” Romar said. “There were some expectations and I think he’s worked hard at trying to do the right thing. As a result, we’re all in this together now.”

Many believe that if Upshaw, a 6-11 redshirt sophomore center, fulfills his potential, then the Huskies can snap their three-year NCAA tournament drought.

“He is unique because there’s just not a lot of guys like him that can run the floor and block shots and rebound the way that he does,” Romar said. “He’s a guy that is a presence. Anything around the rim, he’s going up. You’ve seen him in a couple of workouts. He’s long enough and athletic enough to get up and put that ball in the basket quickly. There’s not a lot of guys like him.”

Romar said Washington will begin practice Sept. 25. (Wow, that’s early.)

When asked about the 2014-15 season, he said: “We need to be healthy and the people that we have on paper if we’re all there and contributing, I think we can have a fun year.”

And finally, Romar talked about the domestic violence issues in the NFL. It’s a personal issue for the Washington coach and he’s been a staunch advocate against domestic violence. His foundation also focuses on the issue.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.

(Have you stopped recruiting 2014 prospects?) “Knowing that tomorrow somebody could say somebody is available – aside from that – we’re done.”

(What can you say about the 2015 recruiting class?) “I can’t comment on players. I don’t know what I can say.”

(You could say: “Man I really hate the way this class is looking.”) “(Laughs) I think we’re on the right people. I think we’re recruiting the right people. I think we’re recruiting the right student-athletes that are going to help move are program forward. I can say that. I really can’t comment further than that.”

(It seems Washington is identifying and getting verbal commitments earlier than you ever did.) “Yeah, I think one thing htat has helped this year is there’s more local talent like there was before – a few years ago. That’s helping, but at the same time my staff is doing a really good job of identifying guys that really, really have an opportunity to get. But those guys before that we thought were slam dunks we thought we were going to get. And we didn’t get them. Like I said, I don’t know if I want to comment any further. I don’t want to get in any trouble.”

(Do you expect to be in the hat game anymore?) “What is that?”

(The recruiting thing.) “Oh the big star does the hat stuff. It depends on how you mean that. Meaning that caliber player?”

(That caliber player and going down to the last-minute type of deal? It’s probably late in the spring) “We could, but we won’t put all of our eggs in one basket off of that person.”

(What’s the status on Robert Upshaw?) “It would be no different than if you asked the status of Andrew Andrews or Jahmel Taylor or anybody else on the team. Right now he’s on our team and we’re looking forward to him helping us.”

(After the season-ending loss to Utah in March, you were unsure if Upshaw would be with the team this season. But it sounds like you’re confident about him playing now.) “I would say this to Robert’s credit there were some things that we had talked about. There were some expectations and I think he’s worked hard at trying to do the right thing. As a result, we’re all in this together now.”

(I understand and respect privacy and you being vague with his situation. But what did he need to do to – for lack of a better term – get back into your good graces?) “I won’t talk specifics. I’ll just say there’s a certain standard that we want our student-athletes to uphold in all areas. Those are just things we felt he needed to work on. And he’s worked on those things.”

(What type of player do you envision him to be?) “He is unique because there’s just not a lot of guys like him that can run the floor and block shots and rebound the way that he does. He’s a guy that is a presence. Anything around the rim, he’s going up. You’ve seen him in a couple of workouts. He’s long enough and athletic enough to get up and put that ball in the basket quickly. There’s not a lot of guys like him.”

(Just from the little bit that I’ve seen, he’s jaw dropping, but you see him every day. Is he someone that can be consistent, to show up and give you whatever he’s got. It seems the gamble is can you bank on him to be consistent for 30 games and not just games, but practices, meetings and getting wherever you need to be. Can you count him over the course of a season?) “That’s one of the things we’re going to find out. You look at how many players you can count on for that in general. Secondly, how many young players bere they’ve actually played and proven themselves. When you think about it, Robert missed quite a few games his freshman year and then he sat out last year and he did not play his senior year in high school. I would hope people wouldn’t think that he comes in from Day 1 and he’s setting the world on fire. He hasn’t played organized basketball in college on a consistent basis in three years. So in fairness to him, it may take him a little while to get going. But the talent is there.”

(Have you had a player like him at Washington?) “The closest would have been Spencer Hawes, but they’re so different. Spencer was a more dynamic offensive player – more skilled in that regards. Robert is more athletic and better defender and rebounder.”

(Have they played against each other this summer?) “I have not seen it, but they have played against each other several times. I take that back. There was one day that we were doing something and Spencer kind of worked out with us, which is legal to be able to do. It was good to see them push each other.”

(How did Upshaw do?) “Spencer I think was shooting the ball pretty good that day. Robert wasn’t in great condition at the time. But Robert held his own.”

(You expect Upshaw will challenge for a spot in the starting lineup?) “Oh he’ll definitely challenge for sure.”

(Think he’ll start or is it too early to say?) “As a starter, we don’t know that yet. He’s definitely challenging for it no doubt. He will have an opportunity for sure, but that position has not been selected as who the starter will be.”

(How does he make you guys different? It seems he brings back the low-post element.) “Definitely yes. Down low he’s a good passer. But again, he’s so long and athletic and rebounds so well, just anything around the rim he’s able to make a play with it.”

(And that’s not to disparage Perris Blackwell, but Upshaw is much different physically than Blackwell.) “They’re two different players, but again in fairness to Perris, Perris would have benefitted by Robert playing last year or Shawn Kemp being healthy all year. Perris was playing kind of out of position as an undersized five (center). Where if he had someone that could take the load and play against the bigger opponent, it would have been a lot better for Perris. Perris did a lot and at times he was our only effective big guy.”

(Have the other newcomers enrolled?) “Yes they are enrolled. They’ve already been in summer school. … They’re all here.”

(When are you starting practice?) “We play Nov. 6 in an exhibition game and you get 42 days prior to that day, which is Sept. 25. You get 30 practices out of those 42 (days). So those are going to be kind of spread out. But the 25th is when we’ll probably use one of those practice days.”

(So everything begins Sept. 25?) “It depends on how you say that. We’ll go two days and then we’ll be off for 4-5 days.”

(Wow that seems early.) “It is early.”

(How are you feeling?) “I feel like we need to be healthy and the people that we have on paper if we’re all there and contributing, I think we can have a fun year.”

(It seems with Washington there’s a lot of question marks. And if the answers to those questions are positive, then the Huskies should compete to return to the NCAA tournament. Is that fair?) “I will say if the question marks are answered, yeah I think we will have a successful season and we’ll see what that means.”

(Have you filled the basketball operations position on your staff?) “Not yet.”

(Have a timeline?) “I wouldn’t say we have a timeline, but we would like to get it taken care of. We’re close.”

(Do you think a qualified woman would ever fill a spot on a staff of a major Division I basketball team?) “Yes. And it already happened once. I think Rick Pittino when he was at Kentucky. It’s happened once and yeah I think there’s a time when it will happen again.”

(What’s your take on the domestic violence issues that are happening in the NFL? Is it a chance for you to talk with your guys about that issue?) “We’ve talked about this before, before this more recent incident came up. Yeah that’s something that we have talked about before.”

(What are you telling your guys?) “We will discuss certain things. But the relationship that my coaching staff and myself have with our players is that these are on-going conversations. These are conversations that might take place on the road and in the airport. These conversations might take place in the hotel room as I’m sitting down with 2-3 of them. This might be a conversation after we have a team meal the night before a game and we’re done at 9 o’clock or 10 and everyone is going to their room and a couple of guys stay around and we start talking about things in general and something like this comes up. Things like this have come up before and we’ve talked about it. You mention what kind of things you talk about and one is there is never a reason to lay your hands on a female. (That’s) number one. Also to try to help educate and give males some tools to deal with it. In many homes that’s how the father or the step father or whomever dealt with it and that’s what they saw. And although they hated it, that’s the only way they know how to deal with conflict with a female. Without knowing another way to deal with it, that’s how they deal with it. I talk to them about what can you do. We got to know how to communicate a little more. We have to try to understand our wife or our girlfriend, which is difficult, but at the same time you have to try to work together. But whatever you do, that’s not the answer.”

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