The Washington men's basketball team will see a few relics during its trip to Greece, which officially begins today. The one that might...
The Washington men’s basketball team will see a few relics during its trip to Greece, which officially begins today.
The one that might excite the team’s fan base the most, however, won’t be found in any guide books — the return of the Huskies of old.
The five games the Huskies will play in Greece against Greek pro teams (the first game is Thursday in Thessaloniki) figure to see a rebirth of the high-pressure defense and breakneck offense that was a hallmark of the UW teams that made three straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2004-06.
“We have to get back to that defensive mode and becoming that fast-breaking team once again,” said junior guard Joel Smith.
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The return of Smith, and the addition of Tim Morris — who sat out last year after transferring from Stanford — should go a long way toward doing that.
The conventional wisdom is that the Huskies slowed things down a bit last season — averaging 76.5 points per game in 2006-07 compared with 82.0 the year before — due to the presence of Spencer Hawes and an offense predicated on getting the ball inside.
But UW coach Lorenzo Romar insists that a bigger contributing factor was the Huskies simply weren’t as good at playing pressure defense, thus getting fewer turnovers (13.9 per game compared with 17.9 the year before) and fewer opportunities to fast break.
The Huskies are likely to be more perimeter-oriented, especially with Smith and Morris in the fold.
“They are physical, they rebound, they get after it, they have experience,” Romar said of Smith and Morris, each listed at 6-4 and 210 pounds.
Smith missed last year with a stress fracture in his foot. He decided late in the season to redshirt.
The foot has mostly passed the test during the 10 days of practice the team has had leading up to Greece, he said.
The 6-4 Morris also sat out last season as a redshirt after playing two years at Stanford. He made the move in part due to a long relationship with Romar — the two are second cousins — and UW’s fast-paced style.
That he has fit in with his teammates was evident when he was recently voted by them as one of three team captains for next season along with Jon Brockman and Ryan Appleby. Morris spent the summer working on his shooting, considered his weakness at Stanford as he made 40.4 percent of shots overall and just 20 percent (8-40) on three-pointers.
Like Smith, Morris is excited to play again, but more excited to see the new Huskies morph back into the old ones.
“Just the mindset, that is going to be the biggest thing,” Morris said. “Getting that type of identity back to being strong on defense. That is what we have to get done first.”