There is no such thing as a sure thing for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team. Not even Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. visit to the USC Trojans, owners of the Pac-12 Conference’s worst league record (2-14).
And that’s especially true now that senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr. will almost certainly not play — the 6-foot-9 starter is still recovering from a concussion he suffered during Sunday’s game at Washington State.
Kemp, who averages 9.9 points a game, sat out UW’s game Wednesday at UCLA, an 88-66 Bruins victory. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said Friday before UW’s practice at the Galen Center that Kemp probably won’t be able to play against the Trojans, either.
Each player is given a “baseline” test prior to the season to establish the manner in which they function when healthy. As part of protocol, a concussed player must return to the baseline level at which he tested before he can be cleared to return to play.
Romar said that hasn’t happened yet for Kemp.
“He’s doing better, but it doesn’t look like today he’s going to be able to go tomorrow,” Romar said. “Something could change within 24 hours, but it doesn’t appear that way right now.”
Kemp suffered the concussion early in the second half of the WSU game, and hasn’t practiced since. He sat on the sideline in sweatpants and a sweatshirt as the Huskies (15-12, 4-11 Pac-12) began Friday’s practice. Former Timberline High star Donaven Dorsey, a 6-7 freshman shooting guard, is expected to start in his place.
Kemp’s absence against UCLA left a noticeable void in UW’s interior, especially on defense. Bruins forward Tony Parker, who checks in at 6-9 and 260 pounds, had his way with the Huskies’ undersized frontcourt, scoring 20 points on 10 for 12 shooting.
Starting forward Jernard Jarreau, a 6-10 junior, is the only healthy member of the rotation of frontcourt players with which the Huskies began the season, and even he returned from a knee injury just two games ago. Gilles Dierickx, a seldom-used 7-0 center, has been pressed into increased playing time. The Huskies don’t have anyone else taller than 6-7. And, obviously, they already lost an irreplaceable big man earlier this season when 7-footer Robert Upshaw, then the nation’s leading shot-blocker, was dismissed from the team for violating rules.
Romar said losing Kemp, considering prior circumstances, is “frustrating.”
But, he said, “at this point, we’ve just got to go. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve just got to go. We’ve got to go work and continue to try to control things we can control.”
The Trojans (10-18, 2-14) have struggled all season to score against anybody — they rank last in the Pac-12 with a 41.5 field goal percentage — but they do have some size. Against WSU on Wednesday, they started two 6-11 players — forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Malik Martin — and brought 6-7 forward Darion Clark off the bench, along with lesser-used 6-9 forward Strahinja Gavrilovic.
So while USC is the one team in the Pac-12 the Huskies should absolutely be expected to beat, they will have to defend the rim and rebound considerably better than they did against UCLA to avoid an embarrassing loss. The Bruins outrebounded the Huskies 42-20, and shot 62.7 percent from the field.
“We have to rebound as five,” Romar said. “We have to guard the post as five. We have to have a little more help down there. We’ve got to work. We’ve got to be tough.
“We said that against UCLA, but we were just a little outmanned in that regard on the inside. But, more of the same. (We) just have to come out and be dialed in, and pay attention to the scout, be nails on that, and try to keep mistakes at a minimum.”