Coach Lorenzo Romar thinks he already knows 60 percent of his starting lineup for the coming Washington Huskies men's basketball season, even before the first practice Friday.
Pencil in Wooden Award-candidate guard Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma alongside senior forwards Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday.
“I would think those guys going into camp would be the ones that would start off as starters,” Romar said. “And again – I repeat – that means absolutely nothing if we come out here the first day and a guy is getting outplayed. It doesn’t mean anyone’s starting. But going into it, you would think that those guys would have the edge.”
After that, almost anything can happen.
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Romar believes he has the most athletic roster of his nine seasons at UW, and one of the most experienced and versatile.
Back from the 26-10 Sweet 16 team of a season ago are guards Abdul Gaddy of Tacoma, Venoy Overton and Scott Suggs, along with redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox and true freshman Terrence Ross. At forward, junior Darnell Gant is joined by freshman forward Desmond Simmons. Towering over them all is 7-foot, 260-pound newcomer Aziz N’Diaye, a sophomore from Senegal and the College of Southern Idaho.
That roster, Romar said, offers options.
“There are so many different lineups we could put out on the floor,” he said. “We could go big: We could start Aziz and Matthew. We could go small: We could start Matthew and Justin Holiday up front (with) three smaller guys. We could start a small guard with two big wings. There are just so many different looks we could have.”
The process of identifying the best lineup will begin this weekend away from any Midnight Madness glitter: three days of closed practices in Lacey.
Then the team returns to campus for three weeks of practices leading up to a Nov. 6 exhibition game against St. Martin’s University. Another week of practice will follow before the regular-season opener on Nov. 13 against McNeese State.
Romar said he’s interested in settling his rotation earlier this season – if possible – because a series of difficult opponents await at the Maui Invitational, Nov. 22-24.
“That’s kind of the granddaddy of all tournaments,” Romar said.
Other comments from the Huskies as camp nears:
• Thomas, on team goals: “National championship. That’s the big picture, that’s what everybody wants. Pac-10 championship, things like that. We’re trying to look at the big picture. We got to the Sweet 16 last year – we got there and we felt what that was like, and we feel if we come together as a team we might go further.”
• N’Diaye, on adding size to a running team: “I think I won’t have a big problem running with them. I can run up and down. I like that. I feel like I’m in the right fit. Right now, I’m just doing my job: rebounding and helping the team.”