Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Artem Wallace will start Saturday against Washington State in their final game at Edmundson Pavilion. They arrive as part of a seven-player freshman class.
They started as seven, an unusually large incoming freshman class expected to elevate the eighth-ranked Washington Huskies to even loftier heights.
Four years later, there are only three — Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Artem Wallace — for their final home game Saturday against Washington State.
The remnants of this highly regarded class have been winners, losers and winners again. They’re the co-captains and leaders of a team that will finish with at least a share of the conference championship and could claim the school’s first outright Pac-10 title.
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During their tenure, Washington has compiled an 84-44 record. And if this season continues as planned, they’ll leave the program on the same footing as when they arrived — with a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Romar admits he has a special place in his heart for this trio because it’s his first recruiting class that has stayed with the program four years. They’re also the class that quieted critics who felt the coach couldn’t recruit.
“We have a longer investment with these guys than any other group that we’ve had since we’ve been at the University of Washington,” said Romar, who arrived at Montlake in 2002.
Rewind four years to the spring of 2005. Shortly after the Huskies’ run to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 ended, the most touted member of the recruiting class, Seattle Prep swingman Martell Webster, declared for the NBA draft and was taken sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Soon after, Roburt Sallie, a 6-foot-5 guard from Sacramento, Calif., failed to pass the SAT, narrowing UW’s incoming class.
“I think they called themselves the Fab Five,” coach Lorenzo Romar said earlier this week. “Believe me, we wanted them to come in and do what that Michigan group did, but we had a pretty good group that was already here.”
With Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones and transfer Ryan Appleby in the mix, it was impossible for all of the freshmen to make an immediate impact on a veteran team that returned to the Sweet 16 in 2006. Joe Wolfinger and Harvey Perry, a 6-4 shooting guard from Las Vegas, redshirted as freshmen.
The next season, Perry transferred in search of more playing time and ended up at Colorado State. Wolfinger remained, but a stress fracture in his right foot ruined his freshman season. He has been unable to break into the rotation this season, and it’s uncertain whether the 7-foot junior center will return next season.
Now only the three remain, and Brockman, Dentmon and Wallace will start Saturday against WSU in their final home game for the Huskies.
Their personalities and playing styles are as diverse as their roots, which trace to Snohomish, Illinois and Russia. Their careers also took divergent paths, intersecting one final time Saturday for Senior Day at Edmundson Pavilion.
Considering the pain he has inflicted, it’s amazing his teammates love Jon Brockman as much as they do. They can laugh about it now, but at some point each one has been a victim of one of his flying elbows.
Brockman sent Wolfinger in for stitches at least three times and Wallace twice. He’s knocked Quincy Pondexter’s and Elston Turner’s teeth out, broken Scott Suggs’ nose and nearly threw punches with Matthew Bryan-Amaning during a summer pickup game.
“They’re probably excited that my elbows won’t be flying around any more in open gym in the summer,” joked Brockman, who has suffered five broken noses and countless sprained ankles the past four years.
You’re forced to take the good with the bad when it comes to the 6-7, 255-pound forward, and for the Huskies it’s been mostly good. He’s the school’s career rebounding leader and will likely finish second on UW’s scoring list. But there’s much more to the All-America candidate than his nation-leading 58 career double-doubles.
Romar calls him “The Glue,” sharing stories this week about Brockman’s unselfishness, tireless work ethic and leadership in the locker room.
“He means far more than anyone would ever imagine,” Romar said.
The Comeback Kid
Justin Dentmon never believed he’d last this long at Washington. An early entry into the NBA was in his future. That’s what he believed, and regrettably that’s what he said more than once after a freshman season in which he started 32 games and averaged 8.3 points.
Dentmon made modest gains as a sophomore and was benched as a junior.
At that point, he considered transferring.
“I thought about it,” he said this week. “But I’m glad I didn’t.”
For someone who has overcome a learning disability and will graduate with an Arts degree, winning back his starting job was easy.
“It was confidence,” said the 5-11 guard, who improved his scoring average from 9.8 points last season to 15.4. “My confidence was low. I just refused to let somebody take a position that I know I could play. It made me work that much harder.”
The Russian Bear
Artem Wallace’s basketball career at Washington was building to a crescendo before it all fell apart.
The native of Russia was the first recruit to commit to the Huskies back in 2004 when he starred at tiny Toledo in Lewis County. The 6-8, 250-pound center played sparingly as a freshman. He was a part-time starter as sophomore and full-time starter as junior, creating a role as a defensive-minded big man.
In the first minute of the final game last season, he suffered a left knee injury that required surgery. After months of summer rehabilitation, he lost lateral quickness and has played little.
“There’s mixed emotions there,” said Wallace, who is averaging a career-low 1.9 points and has played in just 15 games this season. “The team is doing really well, so I’m happy. I’m happy to be a part of something historic.
“Obviously, on the other side, I wish I hadn’t gotten hurt last year and could contribute more on the court during games.”
Wallace, who shares a Wedgwood home with Brockman and Wolfinger, can relate to his housemates.
“I know what Joe went through with his injury and I remember what it was like starting and just playing every game,” Wallace said. “This isn’t how I wanted to end [his UW career], but what happened, happened. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com