Anyone who thinks the Huskies can't re-create the togetherness that helped them turn last year's 0-5 start in the Pac-10 into a second-place finish should watch this team at the end of practice. If one player is assigned extra running, all his teammates run too. Voluntarily. Happily. "We do everything together; we don't like being apart," says 6'6" junior guard Brandon Roy, one of five returning starters. "We wear each other's numbered sweatbands, we wear each other's sweaters. When guys left for the summer, the rest of us were, like, Man, when are you coming back?"
Much of Washington's team-first attitude comes from Roy, a Seattle native who considered going directly to the NBA out of high school but now doesn't seem concerned about impressing scouts. Though he is arguably Washington's best all-around player, he is satisfied with having the spotlight shine on his flashier backcourt mate, 5'9" junior point guard Nate Robinson. "I'm one of four kids, so I'm used to sharing," says Roy. "When it comes to basketball, I love my friends getting the attention. I'm just a giving guy, I guess."
Indeed, coach Lorenzo Romar calls Roy "the provider" because there is no statistical category he doesn't enrich. Last year Roy averaged a team-high 30.3 minutes and 5.3 rebounds and was the Huskies' second-leading scorer (12.9 points) behind Robinson. "He'll rebound for us, pass for us, defend for us, score for us," Romar says of Roy. "He does for us whatever is needed."
What the Huskies may need this year is more seats. The expectations generated by their 19-12 finish last season--their best since 1998--and the presence of nine Seattle-area players on the roster have fans suddenly scrambling for tickets. But Roy insists that the extra attention will not diminish the team's hunger or hard-nosed approach.
"We'll get after you for 40 minutes," says Roy. "You may be winning by 10 points in the first half, but halfway through the second half you'll be wearing down. Last year we kept at people and used up our fouls. We didn't try to win pretty, we just grinded it out. It'll be the same way this year."
However, Romar thinks this team will be different in one respect. "Guys on last year's team wanted to win but didn't know how," he says. "Now they do." --K.A.
2003-04 Record: 19-12 (12-6, 2nd in Pac-10)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to UAB in 1st round
Blink and you'll miss 'em. With the rapid Robinson leading the pack, Romar never calls off his dogs.
ENEMY LINES an opposing coach's view
"Their pace is as high-octane as anything I've seen in a long time. They want to make it a pickup game so they can wear you out.... When they're not scoring, they tend to get into foul trouble. If that happens, you can get some easy baskets on them.... The court is too small for Nate Robinson; no matter where you are on the floor, he's guarding you. He doesn't allow his teammates to quit.... Tre Simmons is motivated by offense. Some days he's on fire, but other days he's not the same guy.... Jamaal Williams is an undersized Charles Barkley type. If he were 6'8", he'd be all-world."