Physical freshman football player's seven rebounds — and five fouls — in just 16 minutes brings out the Jon Brockman comparisons.
Darnell Gant played alongside Jon Brockman and battled the Washington icon in practice for two years.
He’d never shared the basketball court with anyone as aggressive, physical and relentless as Brockman, a bull of a man who finished a four-year UW career first on the school’s all-time rebound list and second in points.
After watching what Austin Seferian-Jenkins did in his basketball debut Saturday — seven rebounds and five fouls in 16 minutes — Gant knew the comparisons with Brockman were inevitable.
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“That’s not really fair to Austin because Jon is a special player,” Gant said. “But in the sense of their bodies, yeah, they’re similar.”
Seferian-Jenkins is listed at 6 feet 6 and 258 pounds. Brockman is 6-7 and 255.
Gant has a sore wrist to prove how strong Seferian-Jenkins is.
“It’s almost the same to trying to box out Jon because they’re both so strong,” Gant said. “Most guys you can hit them once and then you can get the rebound. With him, you got to stay on him and you’ve almost got to hold him.
“Rebound-wise, I see the comparison. But Jon is a great, great basketball player, and Austin is really just learning the game.”
At the very least, the freshman tight end is learning where to be on the court for the Huskies.
Seferian-Jenkins knew three or four plays when he played last week against Stanford. Others thought it was closer to one or two.
“I know enough to play,” Seferian-Jenkins said.
On his first possession, the bruising forward set a screen on Jarrett Mann that buckled the knees of the Cardinal guard and set the tone for a physical game in which Washington out-rebounded Stanford 47-32.
“Every screen I intend to hit someone really hard,” Seferian-Jenkins said.
Coach Lorenzo Romar wasn’t sure what to expect when the football standout reported for practice Jan. 9. He watched the first three games from the bench before essentially replacing freshmen Shawn Kemp Jr. and Martin Breunig in the rotation.
“We wanted to put him in the game early just to see what would happen,” Romar said. “Whatever happens, you have a little more margin for error early, but he immediately made his presence felt just with his rebounding and his energy, getting the loose balls and his overall physicality.
“So with that we played him a little longer. I didn’t know he would play 16 minutes. I thought he might play a few minutes, get his feet wet and then we move on. But he made a case to stay in the game.”
Seferian-Jenkins became the first UW football player to play in a basketball game since Nate Robinson in 2002.
Perhaps there was no better two-sport athlete at Washington than Reggie Rogers, a defensive lineman taken No. 7 overall in the 1987 NFL draft. He started the 1982-83 season for the basketball team and averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, then lettered the next two seasons.
Romar said Rogers may have been more serious about basketball whereas Seferian-Jenkins considers hoops more of a hobby.
“This is something that’s fun for him on the side,” Romar said. “This is more like a Tony Gonzalez situation.”
Seferian-Jenkins hears all of the comparisons. Forget Brockman, Rogers and Gonzalez, he said.
“I try to play like — I’m not even close to it — but I try to be like DaJuan Blair of Pittsburgh a couple of years back,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I kind of looked up to him in basketball.
“After watching him play in the tournament a couple of years back, I just like the way he rebounded.”
Blair was an All-American and Co-Big East Player of the Year when he led Pittsburgh to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight in 2009.
The Huskies aren’t expecting Seferian-Jenkins to carry them to the postseason, but they believe he’s a potential X-factor to a run at the Pac-12 Conference title.
“I’m happy I could energize the team, but I was just playing and having a fun time,” he said. “I’m happy that people feel like I gave them energy. That’s great. I’m going to just keep doing what I do and play hard.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org