SEATTLE – In April 2002, Bobby Jones was an undecided high school senior. The parents of the Compton, Calif., native, wanted him to stay in-state for college.
Lorenzo Romar was just a couple of weeks into his new job at the University of Washington. Romar was looking for a starting point, a building block.
Jones wanted assurances that if he provided evidence in practice, he would earn playing time. Romar said that would be the case and persuaded Jones to be his first Montlake recruit.
On Sunday, Jones was back in Hec Edmundson Pavilion playing again after a long flight from Italy, where he plays professionally. He was part of the pre-2009 team playing in Washington’s inaugural and well-received alumni event.
Jones’ team lost, 107-103, to the post-2009 ensemble, during a day that served as a jolt and a reminder of glory in the Huskies’ basketball program.
Hec Ed was full and hot. Romar was hoping that 5,000 fans would show up in the 10,000-seat arena. The Huskies ended up turning people away at the door.
Though it may not be an even comparison to a regular-season game, it’s worth noting that the Huskies did not have a home sellout last season.
That 18-16 Washington team missed the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. Sunday’s talent ensemble – from legendary Bob Houbregs to Brandon Roy – stood in contrast to the programs recent doldrums.
“I was very optimistic and
positive that we could make something special here,” Jones said. “I didn’t know if it was going to happen by the time I left after my first season, but it happened and now here we are.”
Romar, who was MVP of the abbreviated “Legends” game with 11 points, beamed throughout the day. He watched Roy, who expects to officially retire from the NBA shortly, play with former teammates such as guard Will Conroy.
More recent players such as game-MVP Isaiah Thomas were able to be on the floor with their old teammates. Thomas, a former Curtis High star now with the Sacramento Kings, was running again with Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors.
Ross’ ascension from athletic bench player to NBA dunk champion in just three years may be the swiftest elevation for any Romar player.
Romar is now 54. He has been at Washington for 11 years and just shook up his coaching staff, a move that caught current and former players by surprise. His contract runs through 2020 after being extended for 10 years in 2010.
He has created the expectations that an alumni event full of pro players will be the norm. He is also victimized by it.
However, on Sunday, there was nothing but joy. Guard Justin Dentmon won the 3-point contest. He’ll be trying to win a spot in the NBA next season.
Forward Darnell Gant, back from playing in Austria, upset Ross in the dunk contest.
Swingman Quincy Pondexter of the Memphis Grizzlies took a long journey to the event. He left Singapore at 5:55 a.m. for a 7-hour flight to Tokyo and an 8-hour flight to Seattle in order to make the game Sunday morning.
All of which left Romar satisfied for a day.