When UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar addressed his players in the locker room after Thursday’s 70-63 victory over UCLA, he had to pause to collect his emotions.
This is not his favorite time of year. This is the time when he has to send off another class into the real world. It’s hard to let go.
I talked to team and said Saturday will be our last night together (at home), and I could hardly finish the sentence,” Romar said. We spent all these years with these guys, some many things, behind closed doors, the good and the bad, watching them grow.
I come to practice and get fired up just to see their faces. You’re with family. You know they’re going to be doing fine, but you won’t be with them every day. It gets tough.”
Saturday night against USC, at least three Huskies will be playing their final home game, senior guards Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton and senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
This senior class won a lot of ball games,” Romar said. If we’re fortunate to go to a third NCAA Tournament this year, only two other teams have done that at this school. Each one has been a big part of that. It’s safe to say those guys have been part of a lot of special success here.”
Holiday, from Chatsworth, CA., averaging 11.9 points this season, has started all 29 games this year and 50 in a row overall. He made the Pac-10 all-defensive team last season and has a good shot at repeating. He has a strong overall game with 268 career rebounds, 179 assists, 59 blocks and 88 steals.
Justin has winner written all over him,’ Romar said. Some question we only took him because of his brother (Jrue, former UCLA Bruin now with 76ers). Everyone can see why that’s not the case. Justin has a chance to play at the next level. He has worked hard enough to improve and impress people.”
Holiday has been limited throughout much of his college career. He had mono his freshman year and played only 19 games. He had a staph infection in his knee his sophomore year and could not fully participate.
Bryan-Amaning, from London, England, has matured into an all-conference performer this season. He is first on the team in rebounds at 8.3 and second in scoring at 16.5 fifth in the Pac-10. Two weeks ago, he became the 36th Husky in history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He has scored 1,118 points and has 691 rebounds. He’s also second all-time in blocks with 151 and joins Christian Welp as the only players in school history with 100 blocks and 100 steals.
Matthew has developed as a player with more substance than he had when he initially came in,” Romar said. No question, he’s an all-conference guy and one of the top rebounders in this league. That wasn’t his forte necessarily when he came in.”
Overton, from Franklin High, is the conference’s active leader in career steals with 175 and assists with 383. He was a member of the all-conference defensive team a year ago and opposing coaches have called him one of the best defenders in the country. He’s third on the school’s career list in steals and fourth in assists.
Venoy is a guy people will always remember when they talk about this team,” Romar said. He has changed games. He gets something going when he comes into the game. He has provided fun and excitement for people to watch.”
Ironically, Overton verbally committed to play ball against the team he’ll play Saturday, USC. He then changed his mind and to stay home.
Romar said all three could play professional basketball somewhere.
Junior forward Darnell Gant also was in this class but he redshirted his freshman year. His senior moment can wait for a year.
Junior guard Isaiah Thomas also should be in this class but he spent an extra year of high school at South Kent (Conn.) after his four years at Tacoma’s Curtis High. He is seventh on the career scoring list with 1,594 points and is on pace to be the school’s all-time leading scorer. But he always has dreamed of playing in the NBA.
Could this be his final home game as well?
Maybe. Maybe not,” he said. Who knows?.”
BREAKING DOWN: The feeling among the players is that Holiday will be the first to break down and cry during the pre-game senior night ceremonies.
Holiday for sure. He’s trying to say he won’t, but he will,” Thomas said. Or Matthew. Nothing will top Quincy (Pondexter) last year, crying like he did.
We rode him for while. He told me he was not going to cry. I said, ‘Quincy, you’re going crying. We know you, Quincy.’ He cried more than I thought he would.”
It’s an emotional moment, as Romar explained. He said when it came to Jon Brockman’s final home game, as we were both walking out we were thinking of other things, like movies you watched when you were a kid so you wouldn’t tear up.”
NOTES: Thomas cut his thumb on his shooting (left) hand earlier this week, which may explain his meager nine points Thursday. But he said it wasn’t a problem and won’t be against the Trojans. . . . Alittle research by UW’s Brian Tom produced at least one other half better than C.J. Wilcox’s 24 in the second half against UCLA. Mark Sanford had 25 (of his 35) points in second half against Jacksonville State on Dec. 4, 1995. But that was Jacksonville State, not UCLA…Romar joked that at one point Wilcox was bent over and winded during the second half” and guys were saying, ‘C.J. needs a sub.’ I was like, ‘what?’ ” As hot as he was, he didn’t want to take him out but he did for a quick breather. . . . With WSU’s leading scorer Klay Thompson suspended (weed possession) for Saturday’s game against UCLA and guard Reggie Moore questionable with an injury, it doesn’t seem possible that the Cougs can win. That means the Huskies, win or lose Saturday, are pretty much set in third place. It means they will play the sixth place team in the Pac-10 Tournament next Thursday. Depending on the outcomes Saturday, their opponent could be California (they beat twice), USC (they hope to beat twice) or rival rWashington State (they lost twice).