LOS ANGELES - The Washington Huskies enjoyed about as nice a day Thursday as a team can have away from the basketball court.
It began with the Huskies being announced as near unanimous picks to win the Pacific-10 Conference men’s basketball championship this season. A few minutes later, the Huskies learned they were voted No. 18 in The Associated Press preseason basketball poll.
“It’s flattering,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I like our team, but I don’t know if we’re ready to win a Pac-10 yet. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Washington returns four starters from a team that had a 26-10 record and advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
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“We just have to put our egos aside and not worry about who is scoring the most points and just win ballgames,” said junior Isaiah Thomas, the Curtis High product from Tacoma who was chosen as the UW player representative at media day. “We have to do whatever it will take to win ballgames, and we did that at the end of last year. Once we get the hang of that, we will be really good.”
The Huskies received 33 first-place votes from 35 participating media representatives who cover the conference.
One top vote each went to Arizona and UCLA, who finished second and third respectively in the media poll.
UW, Arizona and UCLA were the only Pac-10 teams receiving votes in the AP poll.
Like UW, the Wildcats return four starters, including Pac-10 freshman of the year Derrick Williams, who averaged 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.
However, Arizona coach Sean Miller and UCLA coach Ben Howland seemed to have no quarrel with the Huskies reigning as preseason favorites.
Said Miller: “Preseason predictions are just that. Nobody’s played a game yet. There’s probably four or five teams that can compete to finish second.”
Said Howland: “Washington, with everyone coming back but (Quincy) Pondexter), you definitely have to look at them. Arizona is a very talented team. Then after those two, it could be anybody else.”
The media ranked Arizona State fourth, followed by Washington State, USC, defending champion California, Oregon State, Stanford and Oregon.
The Cougars return all five starters from a team that had a 16-15 record in 2009-10, including All-Pac-10 guard Klay Thompson and all-defensive team forward DeAngelo Casto.
“We are anxious to get back out there, see what we can do, and change our place in the standings this year,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “We feel that we have a chance to be pretty competitive in the Pac-10, and we’re looking forward to that.”
The media day event was held at the Nokia Theatre, across from Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Coaches and athletes sat in spotlights on the stage and looked out upon a darkened theater. The move was part of new commissioner Larry Scott’s plan to raise the conference’s national profile.
Scott announced the upcoming season will be dedicated to John Wooden, the late UCLA coach who died in June at 99.
The men’s and women’s Pac-10 coach of the year awards will be renamed for Wooden, and his family will be honored during the conference tournament.
“What set him apart (were) his core values,” said Romar, who got to know the retired coach while he was an assistant at UCLA. “If Coach Wooden was in another profession, he would have been in the hall of fame for whatever career he had. He was not a philosopher by trade, he didn’t have a talk show, but I think if you go back and read his books, there is a wealth of knowledge not very many people possess.”
The Pac-10 is producing sportsmanship public service announcements that will share Wooden’s famous “Pyramid of Success” philosphy and air in each school’s arena during the season.
More from Pac-10 basketball media day is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports.
Reporters like Huskies
The Washington men’s basketball team received 33 first-place votes in a preseason poll of writers and broadcasters. The predicted Pac-10 finish, with first-place votes in parentheses:
1. Washington (33)
2. Arizona (1)
3. UCLA (1)
4. Arizona State
5. Washington State
8. Oregon State