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I've seen Mark over the years, including the NWAACC 2012 title game and he is a good one. He averaged 27 points and eight boards and more importantly did a very good job of involving his team mates, playing defense and all of the "little things". With Ross committing to the draft, I expect an announcement by Mark to be coming soon, probably for the Dawgs. I also sense good things in regards to filling Gant's spot. To keep up to the minute on the Husky recruiting picture, always go
to huskydigest.com for the latest and most insightful news. Among quite a few names that are in the picture to help the Husky front court in 2012-13, are UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi, a starter and major contributor on last season's national championship team. According to zagsblog.com on Sunday, Alex is looking at four schools for visits, one of them being UW, and has a solid relationship with Husky assistant Raphael Chillious who "coached Oriakhi at various Nike events and also on a trip to Brazil" before he went to UConn.

There are a number of others as well, including McDonald's All-American Anthony Bennett. Add Bennett and/or Oriakhi to a rapidly maturing 2012-13 UW squad and the sky is literally the limit. On Tuesday Bleacher Report chose the Dawgs to be
part of next year's NCAA Tournament, "Even if Tony Wroten is gone". Losing Ross is not as tough as losing Wroten would be, as well. What Terrence brings is something that can come from big rangy wings like Suggs, McLaughlin, Jarreau and Wilcox. If he stays though, Tony will thrive in his role of attacking the basket. If UW gets help down low on offense, I would think that 2012-13 could actually be Romar's best team ever. Jeff Taylor of Husky Haul put it well, when he spoke about his opinion of Tony's decision at this stage.

"I think Tony Wroten is an NBA level talent. But, I think his game would be improved tremendously and his draft status much improved if he returned for one more season to the Washington Huskies. He might also be able to finish what he
started by getting the Huskies to the NCAA tournament and win Pac-12 Player of the Year next year."

I'll add to that by saying that improving his shooting and decision making at the same rate that he did over the course of this past season, should put him in the top-5 NBA picks. I think that Tony would be the odds on favorite to win the Pac-12 POY and that the Dawgs are likely to not only make the big dance again, but go far there with Wroten. Without him I feel that they will do well, but only by making moves to find help inside, will they get back to the top-20 nationally again. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said on Tuesday after working the telecast, "Ross should go and in my mind, Tony could use another year". Franchilla added "I wonder if others are telling them that."

Taylor asked if UW would be better off if Tony went pro on Saturday and I'll answer that for him. Absolutely not. Wroten can't help but improve on a season in which I would have to point to him more than any other single factor, as to why the Dawgs won the out right Pac-12 title. Tony is a gem of a talent and it is a win/win for him and UW, in my opinion, if he stays another year. Romar added other pearls of wisdom, when he spoke to the media after the game on Tuesday.

"When you're talented enough and you have room to grow you should stay (in school) until you can come into that league and make an impact. I think you should stay until then."

Lorenzo added, "You may spend some time in the NBDL or wait a couple of years before making an impact, then you may as well stay in school and get closer to your degree and be a little bit more ready to go". Lorenzo even admitted something
that I was adamant about at the time, that Spencer Hawes would have benefited from one more year at UW. I thought that it was interesting that Romar brought that up, while discussing Wroten, but I think that Hawes is the kind of player that was even more likely to see the court in the NBA in his first season than Tony will. Wroten will eventually make it to the NBA in my opinion, but a guy who can either get to the hoop of get fouled, but struggles so much at the FT line is an NBA project, where as a seven footer who can shoot and pass on a lottery team is probably going to get PT.

Wroten will probably get picked by a team in the last third of the 1st round, should he decide to go into the draft. That is where the better teams are generally. They will want him to do a lot of work before giving him prime time minutes. He will be a big star next year in a place like Sioux Falls, Bakersfield or Boise next season, as the UW Daily's Jacob Thorpe so eloquently stated on Tuesday. If that makes him happy, that's fine, but I think that long term he would do best to stick around for one more year in Seattle. He will be a huge success I believe and he will be much more ready to take on his next big challenge.

The stakes are high, as an explanation of the finances from hoopsworld.com explains and I would not blame Tony based on the concern about injury, if he chose to take the money. I was particularly hard on Hawes, as I thought that he made the wrong decision, but his concerns for injury also had to play a role in that choice as well. I think that time has shown that Spencer did in fact make the wrong decision, but he's landed on his feet. I feel that if Tony decides to go, he will likely feel a year from now feel that he could have benefited from one more year, but it's anybodies guess as to what is actually going to be his call. Ross gave no clue at the press conference Sunday, when he announced his intentions, as to Tony's.

“I talked to him about it a few times. When it comes down to it, it’s really all up to him and his family and what’s best for Tony.”

The news and scuttlebutt should be fast and furious for Husky fans, as they move closer to the NCAA deadline for Tony to declare on April 10th and the subsequent Spring Signing period. Something is going to happen and I have a good feeling that it will turn out well for the Dawgs, even with the sad loss of Ross. I think that Terrence will be drafted in the first round and be yet another UW/NBA success story, like last year's Husky star guard Isaiah Thomas is fast becoming. On March 23rd basketballticket.com talked about Thomas being firmly in the 2nd slot in the NBA Rookie of the Year race to Kyrie Irving.

"Currently Thomas is sitting on the second rung of NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder. This is where he will likely remain, but after being drafted dead last, second best doesn’t look half bad."

Also on March 23rd, thekingsblog.com took a much more in-depth look at the numbers and after doing so, Thomas' case even looks better. Sactownroyalty.com also talked on March 23rd about how Isaiah makes the Kings a lot better team, aside from his personal stats. Last Monday a promo film on YouTube by the Kings was a nice touch towards giving Thomas some good PR. On Wednesday in a 117-112 loss to San Antonio Thomas exploded for 28 points and 10 assists. He followed that with a 19 point effort in a win at Utah on Friday and an 11 point effort in a loss to NJ on Saturday. Even when he doesn't score much he is logging his assist numbers. On Sunday the sacbee.com ran a huge feature on Thomas' growing presence in the Sacramento community and his wanting to be a bigger role model in his native Tacoma WA.

Things are happening in my career as well, not that you who follow Husky Hoops News would necessarily care and certainly not to the degree that they are for Thomas, but I will also be making some big moves this week. One is that this is my
last column for mynorthwest.com for the time being, after a very long and productive tenure. I was recently hired to co-produce a film documentary on the king of the Mississippi Delta blues harp, Sonny Boy Williamson. Because of that added commitment and a lot of additional traveling which I will be doing for that project, I have to limit my hoops activity to Husky Digest and my weekly podcast radio show "Talkin' Hoops", which airs live every Monday night at 8 p.m. (PST), but is always available by podcast.

I'm also very busy doing 150-200 dates a year (as I have over the past 15 years) with the Jim Basnight Band, solo and the NW Rivals, an all-star band of guys that I grew up with in the Seattle area. I'll also be releasing a new CD, which I am currently about 45-60 days away from finishing. I have really appreciated doing this column, as well as Pac-12 Roundups for mynorthwest.com and I look forward to staying in touch with all of my friends in the hoops community.

Former Dawgs Doing Well

Justin Dentmon is in the midst of his 10-day NBA contract with the San Antonio Spurs and last Saturday JD played his first seven NBA minutes, which were captured in a YouTube highlight clip. Last Sunday JD played 12 minutes against Philly in a home loss. He did not see the court in Spurs games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The name Marv Harshman came up once again as WWU won the NCAA DII championship. Viking coach Brad Jackson models himself after the former Husky, Cougar and PLU coaching legend and it was great to see another Puget Sound Area hoops success story unfold. Jackson recently talked about Marv, who he played for at WSU in the late 60's and early 70's, when he spoke to the Seattle Times on March 20th.

"Marv is such a wonderful friend and mentor and I think he is one of the best coaches ever."

One of the greatest hoops success stories ever from this area was George Irvine, who I was fortunate enough to interview on last Monday's "Talkin' Hoops". George pulled no punches as he talked about the game, as it exists today and how it was
when he played. Irvine was a first team All Pac-8 player in 1969-70, then went on to play in the ABA for five years. When his career was shortened by knee problems, just as the ABA Denver Nuggets became an NBA franchise in 1975-76, he seamlessly started working as a coach in the NBA, followed by a successful stint as a GM and a variety of jobs scouting. He even coached AAU ball and had a lot to say about that world. This one is a must listen for anyone who cares about hoops, especially it's local history.

I'd like to start by saying thanks for all of the great times covering this year's Husky team. It was a fun year with a lot of spectacular moments. I thought that coach Lorenzo Romar and his staff did a particularly good job. I was very happy to see them appropriately acknowledged when Romar was awarded the Pac-12 Coach of the Year award. Washington won the Pac-12 title out right for the second time in the past four seasons, though only the third time in the past 60 years. Husky guard Tony Wroten Jr. extended his family's outstanding Husky legacy (his dad, Tony Sr. played on a number of prominent UW football teams in the early 80's), by being instrumental for the 2011-12 Dawgs in that conference title.

Wroten was also awarded the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and it wasn't even a close race. Tony was also voted first team All Pac-12, along with sophomore guard Terrence Ross and that duo, along with inspired performances from a number of Huskies made for a highlight filled and anything but dull season. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times did a nice job on Thursday of identifying the highlights (and lows) of year. The Dawgs were extremely young, averaging 1.2 years of experience up and down their roster and as a result, were a tough group to count on emotionally. It was a roller coaster ride, resulting in close losses to Duke and Marquette in NYC and a blow out loss at Saint Louis in November and a another pasting by South Dakota State at home in December.

Other than those games, the Dawgs were surprisingly consistent, as they would lose close games to decent teams on the road through out the year, but to Romar's credit win almost everything at home and beat the teams that they should beat on the road in league play. Despite being able to come back to look as if they had them in control, UW would consistently grasp games, then let them go. Whether it was Duke, Marquette, Nevada (OT), Cal (the Dawgs only home conference loss, when sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox was out with a stress fracture in his femur), UCLA and in the Pac-12 tourney against Oregon State, UW fell behind early, clawed back to look as if they had their opponent on the ropes and couldn't finish.

This is common with such a young team, almost regardless to the talent level, but Romar was able to grind out just enough wins (6-3 on the road and 8-1 at home in league play) to come in first by a game over 13-5 Oregon and Cal. The Dawgs were
beaten soundly by the Buffaloes in Boulder CO and by the Ducks in Eugene OR, but other than those two games, looked like the better team in the rest of their league and post-season games. They just didn't always play the better game, but they did remarkably well for such a young group. With senior guard Scott Suggs out for the year (to return for his senior season in 2012-13) and Wilcox slowed by the injury (which he played through for the rest of the season), the Dawgs were really thin as well as young.

It was because of remarkable performances by Ross, Wroten and Wilcox and great strides by junior point guard Abdul Gaddy and junior post Aziz N'Diaye, plus tremendous leadership and post play by lone scholarship senior Darnell Gant, that UW succeeded. The Dawgs swept Arizona and WSU and bounced back from the doldrums of being left out of the NCAA Tournament, to win three straight at home in the NIT to gain another shot in the NIT Finals in Madison Square Garden. Though their ride ended in yet another contest where they fell behind, had to claw back to gain control and then couldn't close, in a 68-67 overtime loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, it was still a very positive year for the UW program.

They beat arch-rival Oregon, who were in my opinion the 2nd best team to them in the conference this season, to earn that second Big Apple trip. The Dawgs were the best team in a down year in the conference, but they in no way deserved to be left out of the NCAA Tournament. It was fun for the Dawgs to get a return trip to NYC, after the week long trip in November, but in the NIT semis against Minnesota, the Huskies produced almost a carbon copy of the disappointing trip to LA that yielded a NCAA at-large bid killing first game loss to the Beavers.

It was another rodent that gnawed the sleepy Dawgs into submission, as the Gophers out worked UW and left them fighting for their lives. Romar, Gaddy and others said all of the right things in press ops building up to the game in NY, but
once again the Dawgs came back to take control, after falling way behind, yet couldn't finish. This year's UW team could literally do anything they wanted to, if they wanted it, but it seemed at times they felt that they were entitled and didn't do what it took to earn. Very typical immature behavior.

Romar talked a lot prior to the game Tuesday, not only of his friendship, but of his respect for Gopher coach Tubby Smith and the UW team should have realized that it was more than just lip-service and coach-speak. Many UW pundits, including thehuskyhaul.com, chose the Dawgs to win, but Ryan Divish of thenewstribune.com put it well when he described the loss.

"Perhaps it was fitting that the Washington Huskies’ season ended this way – a lethargic start, a furious comeback and a disappointing loss. After all, those were constant themes throughout the season."

What was most difficult for UW fans to watch was the poor defense in the first half, where Minnesota scored 20 of their 38 points on lay-ups and dunks, most of them wide open. Minnesota outscored Washington 44-28 in the paint overall for the game. Ross scored 12 in the first half, as the Dawgs one bright light, other than Gant's buzzer beater three that brought UW to being only behind 12 at the break. In the second half the Dawgs clawed and scratched their way back, despite a solid effort from the Gophers. In the final minute of regulation, on a very physical in bounds play, Wilcox grabbed a loose ball caused by tough on ball defense from
Wroten and tied the game. After a solid defensive play from the Dawgs, Wroten missed a wild looking three at the buzzer. In the overtime though, with the Gopher's big guns in foul trouble and all of the momentum heading their way, UW just couldn't keep their focus. Romar talked about what happened in the OT, when he spoke to the media after the game.

"A turnover, difficult shot and then to have a couple of defensive lapses. It always comes back to defense."

Ross finished the game and his Husky playing career with 21 points and six boards, while Gant had a near double/double with 12 and nine. Romar said after the game that "At the end of his career, suddenly Darnell Gant is playing as good of basketball as he has in his career". Gant showed that not only is he playing well, but he showed to me that he is on top of the mental side of the game. Gant astutely compared this year's Dawgs (after the game to the media), to his last three, all of which were NCAA Tournament teams that won at least one game in the dance.

"We wanted to bring back something special, but that didn't happen. We were too immature at times this season. That's the difference between this team and those other teams. Those teams knew how to win and we never really learned how."

Abdul had another encouraging game (as he appears to be primed for a brilliant senior season) with nine points, three boards and five assists, but his turnover in the OT was a killer (three overall). Wilcox gave his all in the season finale, with 12 hard fought points, as the Gophers did a great job of limiting and altering his looks. N'Diaye was rendered useless by the Gopher's style of play and scored no points in only 21 minutes of the 45-minute game. Aziz had only five boards, but the Dawgs scrapped their way to win the battle on the glass 43-40, after their ferocious second half comeback. Ultimately a putrid 37% from the field to 44% for Minnesota was UW's undoing. A big part of the Huskies poor shooting, was a horrible night from the field from Wroten, despite his late game defensive heroics. Tony went 4-16 from the field and was especially unable to buy a bucket in the first half, when the Gophers (like the legendary pool shark "Minnesota Fats") put UW behind the proverbial "8-ball".

Even on a tough night like this, where he also had no assists, Wroten had three steals and five boards. A photo gallery from AP and a YouTube highlight reel gives an idea as to the tough competition that Minnesota brought and the frustration that UW showed in their body language. Despite their disappointments, UW fans had plenty to be proud of I feel this season. Though his last game was a goose egg, Aziz was named by Bleacher Report last Monday as one of the top-25 seniors going into next year. Though Ross announced on Sunday that he will enter the NBA draft and sign with an agent and Gant's leadership and energy will be sorely missed, nothing suggests to me that the Huskies will not be a better team next season and much more likely back in the "Big dance" come "Selection Sunday" 2013.

The challenges now are replacing Ross and Gant and possibly Wroten, who as of yet has not announced his intentions, but I have a good feeling about the UW staff's ability to bring in talent that is out there and interested, as well as the what
remains on their roster. I also feel good about this team, as Gant put it, "Learning to win". Next year will see the return of Suggs, who looked really improved before his injury in late summer and has drawn high praise from many in practices of late. In a Wednesday tweet by Jon Rothstein of MSG Network in NY, Scott was nicely
complimented.

"Scott Suggs looked terrific at Washington's practice yesterday in NYC. Huskies will still be OK even if they lose Wroten + Ross."

Freshman guard Andrew Andrews is another player who impressed me in summer workouts and has drawn high praise for his play in practices all season. Rothstein also talked about Andrews in a Tuesday tweet from NYC.

"Remember the name Andrew Andrews. Washington red-shirt guard will have an impact in the Pac-12 in 2012-13"

On Thursday thehuskyhaul.com ran a feature on Andrews that pointed out that his steady and solid approach will help the Dawgs a lot, but that his impact will likely not be as great next year if Wroten stays another year. I feel that Andrew will relate more to Gaddy's minutes than Wroten's in either case. This allows Gaddy to not have to play so many minutes. Andrews is a more complimentary back-up to Abdul than Tony, though if Tony comes back and his off-season work continues that could change. Look for Andrews to log 10-15 minutes, even if Tony stays, with Abdul logging a fresher 25-30 instead of 35-40. If Wroten leaves, look for Andrews to do about the same, plus a few important minutes at the off-guard position.

Wroten works best in that off-guard position in UW's system, much like his cousin Nate Robinson did, with Tony's friend Will Conroy at the PG spot. Another good example of that dynamic is the role that Isaiah Thomas played before Abdul was
hurt in 2010-11 and Thomas had to be moved to the PG spot. Tony is a potential PG in the NBA game, but at UW he is best at the off-guard, as it is a system that prefers off-guards with PG skills, who can also aggressively look to score.

Fellow red-shirt frosh Jernard Jarreau is a guard in a 6-foot-10 frame. Because of a growth spurt, this potential giant prospect brings the skills of a guard to a huge length that could be devastating in a number of ways, as he fills that frame and develops his game. According to numerous reports, he has not lost those guard skills, but also shows an outstanding ability to learn post skills. Besides rising sophomore Hikeem Stewart (who played a deep reserve role this season, but has a lot of potential), there is yet another guard. Besides Gaddy, Andrews, Wilcox, Suggs, Jarreau, Stewart and possibly Wroten, a former WSU commit, Nevada signee, Baylor signee, Seattle U player and the leading college scorer in the nation (in all levels of competition) in 2011-12 is a very likely possibility. I'm not talking about another five guards, to go with the other 6-7. I'm talking about 6-foot-6 Mark McLaughlin.

Should UW be able to get to the Finals in NY, those five games go a long way to making them into real veterans. The problem for UW, as it was against the Beavers at the Staple Center and the last time they played in Madison Square Garden in two close losses to Marquette and Duke, is that UW is spotty outside of Hec Ed Pavilion. The Dawgs went 6-3 on the road in conference play, which was spectacular, but they tended to lose to the better of the two teams on Pac-12 road trips. If you believe the "experts", those lesser of two road match-ups in conference were generally pretty bad, although UW beat 'Zona in Tempe, WSU in Pullman and OSU in Corvallis, none of which were slam dunks like USC, Utah and ASU were perceived to be.

Another problem for the Dawgs is that while it helps develop the young team as a whole, sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox is extending a situation in which he is playing with a stress fracture in his femur. They must not feel that it is that bad of a condition, as the UW staff used C.J. for 30-minutes against the Ducks. His 17 points, including 6-6 from the FT line in the last 29-seconds were also key stats in UW's win. I wonder if it is good for Wilcox to be playing these five games, as much as it is for guys like Aziz and Abdul. Again, this is outside of my knowledge base, so it remains to be seen if this experience helps of hurts C.J.'s ability to move forward. One thing is certain. UW would not be in NYC this week if it were not for Wilcox.

With the loss of Bryan-Amaning, Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton, Justin Holiday and Scott Suggs, 2011-12 had the looks of a rebuilding year. Romar and his staff did an incredible job of putting a solid team on the court under the circumstances, with what they lost and the overall youth that was left over. If you don't believe that UW lost something after watching Matt's highlights, weigh in that Thomas had yet another solid week as the starting PG for Sacramento. Isaiah averaged 15 points, four assists and four boards, as the Kings went 2-1, their only loss being a one pointer to Utah in which the Jazz did a good job focusing on him.

Thomas committed four TO's against Utah, but the important fact here is that an NBA team is having to game plan for him as the last pick of the 2nd round. Thomas is possibly the most undervalued NBA rookie, from the stand point of the draft "experts" in recent history. You probably have to go back to Manu Ginobili, drafted by the Spurs at 57 in 1999 to find as big of one. In NYC the Dawgs will showcase a team that has a lot of talent, but enough youth that it is hard to predict upon. Gregg Bell of gohuskies.com on Wednesday talked about the job that Romar has done this season in getting such a young team to perform in a number of situations. They have also fallen short in a number, which just goes with the territory of such a young group.

A key for UW fans on Tuesday will be how well the UW team starts out against the Golden Gophers. The way they look early seems to be the litmus test as to the mental edge that the 2011-12 Dawgs seem to play most games, both good and bad. If Minnesota doesn't lose NBA prospect Trevor Mbakwe this season, they are an NCAA tournament lock in my opinion. Freshman PG Andre Hollins could be to this year's UW team as then freshman Kendall Marshall was to last year's post season Husky hopes. Hollins is all business, as is junior wing Rodney Williams, who could make a convincing argument to NBA scouts against UW's NBA mock draft superstars Ross and Wroten. Though Williams was rated lower than Tony and T-Ross, nbadraft.net had this to say about him before the tournament.

"Williams is the most athletic guy on this list. He might be the best in-game dunker in college basketball. He has all of the physical tools to be a solid NBA player but he has yet to reach his full potential on the court. He had to step his game up when Trevor Mbakwe went down early in the season and that should go a long way with his development."

Minnesota has a freshman PG that is much more efficient than Wroten, though not nearly as flashy or with as much upside. They have a wing that is a fair match for Ross. what's more they are much more experienced. Junior Julian Welch is a strong all-around player who both leads the team in assists at three per game and 3-point shooting at 45%. Talk all you want about how talented UW is, but Welch's stats show him to be the kind of player that Wilcox might be a year from now, if he gets back to full health. Julian also averages 10 PPG. Sophomore guard Austin Hollins averages nine and like Andre (no relation, but 'Dre is the son of NBA great Lionel Hollins) is an efficient highly talented guard.

Rodney also averages six rebounds per game from his wing position, which is an area that UW could use to propel them to a win. After losing Ralph Sampson III and Mbakwe, the Golden Gophers have had to rely on freshman Elliot Eliason in the pivot, but he has shown well with 12 points, seven boards, two blocks and two steals in their win over Middle Tennesee State to make the semis. On Sunday, according to thenewstribune.com , Sampson practiced on with the team. I expect to see him to some degree. UW is 5th overall in D1 in rebounding, but Minnesota is 27th in assists. This game appears to be another tough match-up for UW, like the Oregon game and if they are not mentally prepared to compete on that level 3,000 miles away from home, they will get beat.

On Saturday Husky Haul predicted that UW had too many weapons for the Gophers and would win 68-61. UW's poor performances this season have come on the heels of success and media darling attention. Don't show this to Terrence and Tony, but they were already being talked about before their jet left the runway at Sea/Tac for the Big Apple, by the NY press Saturday. If it is any consolation to UW fans, UW has done well to perform as the Vegas odd-makers have predicted, other than the Pac-12 tourney. On Saturday Vegas had UW as a slight favorite to win the NIT. Whatever happens on Tuesday or even if the Dawgs can get to the NIT Final on Thursday, the immediate top story for UW fans will be the question of "will he or won't he" to the 2nd power. Ross was chosen on Monday by bleacherreport.com as the 19th pick in the draft, comparing him to former UW recruit Wesley Johnson.

Also on Monday, foxsportswest.com ran a feature on Terrence's growing resume as an NBA prospect. On Thursday Husky Haul ran a piece that explored the prospect of the 2012-13 season without either one. The two star Dawgs will have until April 10th to decide if they are in the draft or out, according to the way the rule was explained by Andy Katz of ESPN on Thursday. Katz quotes Sonny Vaccaro and John Calipari as being four square against it. For that reason count me as loving it right off the bat. I say let them go. If they are not ready and are willing to take the advise of agents and their "runners", without any real focused feedback from NBA scouts and GM's, let them. I'm not talking about the two UW guys this year, but prospects in general.

Time will show when they are proven wrong much more often than not and these kids will give this decision much more thought before hand rather than putting it off to getting the red carpet treatment with all of it's finery. At this point, the more careers that are ruined by poor decisions during limo rides, the better. The college game needs to rid itself of the influence of this element (aggressive agents and the "runners" who do their dirty work, as well as that of corrupt boosters before college). The great advice of these vermin needs to be seen for what it is. Opportunism. They care about as much about these young men than pimps do about young women. Follow the money I say and you'll find that Vaccaro (adidas) and “Paypal Cal” and his close friend William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley (Nike) are knee deep in this corrupt "game" that stems from the summer AAU leagues that are funded by these two rival international corporate giants. I also find it a curious coincidence that Katz has these two warring hoop gangsters on speed dial for comment so readily.

Wroten and Ross, who have both had to endure a great deal of that culture I'm sure, are projected by most if not all to be first round picks. Both kids can likely be helped by another year at UW, but could probably get guaranteed money this year. It may be quite a bit more next year, if one or both of them can play themselves into the top-10 picks or better. I see Wroten as having a greater chance to do that than Ross, as he has such a tremendous upside, if he could just show a decidedly upward trend as a shooter. Ross is a great prospect too, but he may be more likely to see the value of becoming a more consistent player with one more year.

Either way, both have a tough choice to make and I wouldn't fault either of them too hard for making either choice. If I had to offer an opinion, I would say that Tony would benefit more from another year, but that Ross could as well. Wroten also runs the risk of lowering his stock, if he continues to shoot poorly. NBA GM's may take a chance on him now, choosing to feel that shooting can be learned much more easily than Tony's ability to go hard to the hoop and either score or get fouled. To me, Wroten is kind of a project though, because you really have to ask the question. What good is a guard that draws fouls so well, if he can't shoot FT's, let alone can be allowed to shoot wide open 20-footers and brick? I think that the smart money that makes those decisions will look closer at Tony during the workout process and very possibly decide to pass on him for other less risky prospects.

What is probably most likely to happen is that Wroten will slide to the late 1st round where he will sit on the bench for a few years and will either learn to shoot or not. If he can learn to shoot better before going into the NBA, Tony will be chosen in the high lottery, possibly the top-3 or “ping pong picks”. I think that it is also entirely possible that Wroten could slip to the 2nd round. Not so for Ross, who I think will wear better in those April-June workouts and camps. Ross, however is very respectful of the legacy of Brandon Roy, who really benefited by playing his senior year at UW and putting on the consistent show that Ross really has yet to.

All this said, these two are great competitors and it would not surprise me at all to see both of them outperform their detractors, once they actually suit up for an NBA team. One thing that they have going for them is the advice and counsel of a former NBA player in their coach. On Tuesday pacifictakes.com held a panel discussion of internet fan site publishers from the Pac-12 and only host Aaron Butler (a 'Zona fan) the OSU site guy and Griffin Bennett of Montlake Madness chose Romar. Altman also received three votes, but the winner with four votes was Tad Boyle. I feel that Romar deserved it 100%, but then again I also think that UW deserved an NCAA bid.

Lorenzo has done a very good job at UW and recently I said that he has now become the best coach in modern UW history, passing Marv Harshman, but that is a hard one. Marv will always be one of my favorite coaches. Though I don't demote Romar after his team blew the game in the Pac-12 tournament, as some have, after reading David Eskanazi's look back at Marv's amazing accomplishments, I feel that the two are 1A and 1B. It's also hard to take one over the other because though Lorenzo has accomplished more in a shorter period of time, Marv was responsible for both bringing Romar to UW as a player and was probably most responsible for his hiring as head coach in 2002. When I write my book on the history of Husky Basketball, both will be heavily featured.

The PAC-12 is still alive, as the Dawgs and Stanford move to NYC and Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four, while WSU meets Pittsburgh in the CBI Finals in a best of three. The Cougs beat Oregon State to earn the right to meet Pitt for the first game in Pullman WA on Monday at 7 pm. (PST), then move to Pittsburgh PA for a second game at 4 pm. (PST) on Wednesday.

If necessary there will be a championship game on Friday at 4 pm. (PST) in Pittsburgh. The Cardinal will face U Mass at 4 pm. (PST) on Tuesday, followed by the Huskies meeting Minnesota at 6 pm. (PST). It sounds to me like that UW tip time is not likely, as it seems hard to have a game and the switchover happen in a 2-hour time frame, in the same gym. The conference will have three teams playing when the NCAA has already arrived on it's Final Four and though that doesn't mean as much to me, as if one league team had made the Sweet-16, it backs up my previously stated opinion that the PAC-12 overall was better than the "experts" and the "committee" saw them.

I won't belabor my opinion again about why, but there were more quality teams in conference and if you just judge on who is actually better on Selection Sunday among at-large candidates, I feel that the PAC-12 should have had 3-4 teams. Cinderella Colorado had to get in by winning the conference tourney. Washington should have gotten in, as the Dawes were the best team on the court during the conference season. UW has also performed better in the post-season. Though the Buffs win over UNLV makes a strong argument for them, UW has taken down three NIT opponents (albeit at home) in Texas-Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon.

The main reason why I feel that UW has looked the best of all of the league teams in March is that they beat the Ducks, who I feel were the second best PAC-12 team on Selection Sunday. Cal was the 4th best team in my opinion (the Buffs being 3rd), but only by a hair over the Cardinal, who beat them in the last game of the final season to allow UW to own the conference crown out right. The Bears were fading, along with Arizona as the season wore down and both teams demonstrated that with unimpressive showings in the NCAA play-in game and the NIT respectively. If there were qualified basketball people making decisions on Selection Sunday, I feel that UW, Oregon, CU and Cal (play-in game) or at least the Ducks in the play-in and UW and CU selected, with Cal in the NIT along with Stanford and 'Zona.

You can't re-write history, but as I referenced recently in regards to Husky coach Lorenzo Romar and free throw shooting, insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". This can also be applied to the media "experts" that chirp year round about how poor the conference is and the AD's and conference commissioners (basically fat cat, board member types who know very little about the game itself) who make up the NCAA selection committee. OK, I did belabor it a little, but this brings us to my point. Tuesday's 90-86 win over Oregon decided who was the best team in the conference. UW's 16-point win at Hec Ed on New Year's Eve was slammed back in their face by a 25-point Eugene embarrassment on February 9th. Romar pointed out how tough of a challenge the game was in his post game comments.

"I would have to say, that was an outstanding basketball game. A total of 15 turnovers between the two teams. I think both teams were playing pretty efficient basketball. A lot of plays, big plays that were made. It was one of those 'somebody had to lose' type games. I’m proud of our team and I’m proud that we were the ones that came out on top and we’re headed to New York."

On the lighter side, Lorenzo pulled out his best Sinatra, as he addressed the crowd from the public address mic after the game, "Start spreading the news". A nice photo gallery on gohuskies.com and YouTube Highlight reel give an idea as to the well played and hard fought game that it was, definitely as good a game as there was in the conference season. But the Dawgs prevailed in this shoot-out with a team effort that included sound performances from most of it's key performers. Sophomore guard Terrence Ross scored 24 points, to bring his average over the course of the NIT to 26 points per game. Freshman guard Tony Wroten scored 22, but more importantly hit 10-14 from the FT line in what was probably the difference in the game. It certainly was in the Pac-12 tourney, where his 4-straight misses in the final minute, sunk UW against OSU. Romar talked after the game about how good of a player Tony is, for such a youngster.

"He had eight assists in the Arlington game and took maybe five shots and contributed in that way. Tonight, he went to the line and hit 10 out of 14. He rebounded and had a big-time hustle play on the block on the 3-point shot. He just busted his tail like a champion. He got on the floor and did things like that. He just shows a lot of versatility on the floor. Each game presents a different challenge and he's talented enough to adjust to whatever games he plays."

Wroten's seven boards co-led the Dawgs on the glass with junior post Aziz N'Diaye, junior guard Abdul Gaddy and senior post Darnell Gant. Gaddy was particularly notable with 10 assists and 11 points to boot. Abdul is in the midst of a coming of age, as he has put in consistent performances down the stretch of the 2011-12 season, that remind me of the progress of Tre Simmons, Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Those three players became much better (all of a sudden) in the latter stages of their junior years, which set the stage for All Pac-10 seasons as seniors. It just takes some players that long to put themselves in that higher gear. In Pondexter's case that meant the NBA, while in Simmons', Dentmon's and in that of "MBA" it has meant success in the NBDL or overseas pro play.

Dentmon has chosen the D-League route and it seems as if it could be working. The San Antonio Spurs reportedly signed him to a 10-day contract, according to mysanantonio.com on Saturday. Matthew is doing so well in Europe that he'll likely be offered an NBA contract soon. Check out this YouTube highlight reel from 2011-12, if you don't believe me. Simmons seems satisfied to just play out his career in Europe, earning a six-figure salary. Not bad for anyone these days, even with a college education. Tre has yet to get his 4-year degree, but finishing that should be easy enough after building up a nice solid amount of capital. Gaddy is heading in the direction of these four Husky pros. If Abdul continues to progress like this, he could be an NBA first round pick after all. Like Pondexter, Gaddy was young for his class and even more so than Quincy it has taken him longer than many of his highly rated prep contemporaries like John Wall, who he was rated right behind in the point guard rankings in the class of 2009.

The signs are all there though for Abdul to play a very important role in 2012-13 for the Dawgs and for that matter on Tuesday against the Golden Gophers. Gant and N'Diaye will also be very important against Minnesota, as they were against the Ducks. Darnell scored six points, but more importantly slowed a veteran Oregon front court that has been key to it's success in conference play. 5th year Duck senior Olu Ashaolu scored 20 points to lead Oregon and looked every bit as good as the NBA scouts, who (according to sources) chose him as the best power forward to declare for the draft last season but pull out, saw him. Juniors Tony Woods and E.J. Singler scorer 15 and 19 respectively, while junior Carlos Emory and seniors Jeremy Jacob and Tyrone Nared continued to be the load that they have been on Pac-12 bigs this season.

To add some perspective just how much more experienced a team Oregon are than UW, Ashaolu, Singler, senior guard Garrett Sim and senior guard Devoe Joseph have all scored over 1,000 points at the D1 level. Sim ended his career at UO with a school record 136 consecutive games. When you add to that an Oregon front court manned by six good four and five year players and a back court manned by two seniors, you get the picture. Gant, N'Diaye and freshman football walk-on Austin Seferian-Jenkins did the little things (if you can use that term for these huge kids) to minimize that veteran group in what was the story behind the story of Wroten's FT's. Washington out rebounded the Ducks 40-36 in what was a battle made harder by top rebounder N'Diaye's foul trouble. Both teams did well on the offensive glass with UW winning that stat 16-14 in another key number.

Gant also did what he has done most of this season for UW, as he yielded 20 to Ashaolu, along with a little help from freshman post Desmond Simmons, but he stopped Olu from going for much bigger numbers. He did very much the same thankless job on Northwestern's John Shurna, who scored 24 (but could have gone for 40) and a whole host of others this year. Darnell also spent a lot of time on Singler in the 2nd half, which did well for UW to slow E.J. After 15 first half points, Gant held Singler to four in the 2nd. All Pac-12 Oregon guard Devoe Joseph was held to 12 points on 4-15 from the field, which was another demonstration of the improvements that Gaddy is showing.

On Wednesday Husky Haul ran a nice piece which talked about Abdul's emergence and how it has really helped the UW team play a more organized looking offense. But Ross said on Tuesday that, "It's all about getting stops", adding "which ever team does that will have a good chance at winning". Down the stretch it was Gaddy that stepped up as much as anyone defensively. In a sequence that helped decide the game, Gaddy drew a charge from Joseph on a play that could have easily been an old fashioned 3-point play the other way with UW in the lead 82-77. Abdul then drew a charge from Singler that fouled out the key Duck with 55-seconds left.

'Dul was on Joseph a lot of the night, while Tony did what he could to use the mismatches that sophomore Jon Loyd and senior Garrett Sim provided UW. Sim still did some damage on the offensive end, with seven assists, but Tony did a good job of keeping him quiet from three, where Garrett has been brilliant down the stretch with only 1-5. Sim made a blunder by talking a bit too much to the media on Monday when he said about UW, "They can say all they want, but we'll be ready", adding "We'll be ready to fight them". Talking about fighting in a rivalry that included a forearm shiver from Aaron Brooks, resulting in a ton of well publicized blood from Ryan Appleby in the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament, was not a good choice of words. Garrett continued the war of words, even after the game had ended.

"We weren’t getting any calls tonight and they were getting all of them. Apparently if you flop you get a foul called, for them."

I really didn't see any truly bad calls against Oregon on offensive foul calls, but what I did see was both teams playing very well and one had to come out on top. Sure it would have been nice if the Dawgs had been motivate to play this well against the Beavers, when it was imperative for their dance card, but I feel that the win over Oregon was satisfying none the less. By playing three games in the post season against quality opponents, it allows UW players like Gaddy and N'Diaye, two of the three seniors of 2012-12, to gain valuable big game experience.

Numbers cruncher Alex Pattani of ESPN used the excuse that UW won the league by winning the games they should against weak opponents on Sunday. Even if you have severe short term memory loss and know anything about the Dawgs, you should be able to remember that the 2010-11 Dawgs lost the league by losing to teams that it should have beaten when it lost to WSU, OSU and Oregon on the road in consecutive games.

"The Huskies won the regular-season title by consistently beating up on the dregs of the conference."

The Dawgs did the one thing right that cost them the most last year and won the league out right, but losing in the conference tourney was used by the NCAA no less as the reason they were excluded? It was stupid for the Huskies to take the Pac-12 tourney for granted, like they did, but they were clearly the best team in the conference, when you look at their body of work. They were better than everyone else in the standings and that should have told the story. UW's boneheaded performance against OSU and subsequent snub pointed that out more clearly than any team in history, even more than the 2010 ASU team that finished 2nd in the Pac-10 bit were left to the NIT. Unlike that Sun Devil team, the
snub was not so devastating emotionally, that they folded to a decent low major at home in the first game. Coincidentally that ASU team also lost in their first conference tourney game.

Gant talked about overcoming that same type of disappointment, arguably an even greater one, when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

"You just try to hold your emotions as best you can and try not to let them all out. You got a lot of things going on. You’re upset. You’re mad. You’re sad. There’s a lot of emotions, but you got to hold it together."

Wroten put his own spin on it, to find motivation on Tuesday.

"Yeah. We’re going to treat this like it’s the national championship. Obviously it’s not what we wanted, but since we’re here, we’re going to deal with it and play like we are in the national championship.”

Flawed as the system is, UW showed enough heart to overcome that letdown by beating an impressive Texas-Arlington team on Tuesday at Hec Ed 82-72. Senior Maverick wing LaMarcus Reed III was as advertised with 20 points on 10-12 from the stripe, but Ross was able to score 23 on 9-15 in the games key match-up, (Reed shot 4-14 from the field). Ross, who was named to the NABC District 20 First Team on Wednesday (Wroten was named to the second team) was consistent throughout the game and played just as well in holding down Reed on defense as he was in leading the Dawgs in scoring.

UTA beat the Dawgs badly on the glass 37-27 and 17-4 on the offensive glass, but it was Gant staying tough for 10 boards, to add to his 13 points that kept the Dawgs in a position to win. Wilcox also lent key offensive production, including
8-10 himself from the FT line, while Gaddy went for 10 points on 4-5 from the field, plus six assists. Wroten, after his career 29 point game against OSU in the tragic loss, was a huge part of the comeback win with eight assists to go with his nine points. Tony did have four turnovers, but negated those with two steals and a block. Wroten's presence has been very important in UW's success this season.

In the first half however the Huskies came out very lackadaisical. Their pregame ritual wasn't the same as it has been all year. The body language of the players seemed as if they didn't really want to play. UT-Arlington and the Mavericks scored 22 of their 37 first half points in the paint, out rebounding the Huskies 25-12 in the half. This was a half that the Huskies played down to their opponent and though they came back strong in the 2nd for a while, they didn't play to their potential for pretty much the whole game. The crowd was very slim and the mood wasn't the same as a normal Husky game. With that being said, UT-Arlington played a first half that disrupted the Dawgs. What stood out the in the half was the rebounding, but there were positives in Gaddy and Wroten combining for nine assists and Ross scoring 11 points to keep the score at the end of the half at 37-37.

Romar talked about his team playing poorly in the first half, after the game.

"I thought it was unacceptable in the first half, our overall lack of physicality all the way down to that buzzer."

Gant talked more on Tuesday after the game about what actually happened in the locker room at half-time.

"I feel like his point got across. He was animated like he usually is. I wish you guys could have seen it."

The second half came around and the body language was the same minus a couple minutes where the team showed some urgency to win. UT-Arlington has a player in Reed who put on a show along with senior guard Bo Ingram who scored 17 in the game. Both players showed they can hang with the big boys. Wroten came alive showing his court vision and showed his pride in his ability to do other things than score, displaying a smile every time he threw a nice pass. Gant showed a strong will to win in the second half. You could tell he didn't want it to be his last game.

There was one point in the second half where Gant's mind drifted a bit. Romar grabbed the senior aside and said something to get his mind back into the game. After that, Darnell responded and other than that lapse had a very important role in keeping the Mavericks at arms length down the stretch. Gaddy was connecting from the field in the 2nd half and especially when Gaddy's and/or Darnell's jump shot is dropping, it makes things a lot easier on the court for the Dawgs. Although the Huskies had some urgency late in the game, UTA hung around until very late.

With seven minutes to play UW was up three and though the Dawgs pumped it up to a game where they were up 8-10 for the rest of the way, the kind of runs that UTA had put on through the game made it feel close. Reed and Ingram ran out of gas though in the last five minutes of the game and the Mavericks were never able to summon another of those runs. On a comic note, there was one point in the game where even the refs weren't paying attention. Aziz picked up his 5th foul and still was playing until the Huskies called a timeout. Mr. Magoo was seen in purple and gold yelling "Let's get a touchdown".

The game on Tuesday was one where UW played poorly enough to lose, if they had to play on the road. Romar was part of the 1980 Dawgs that traveled to Las Vegas NV to meet the UNLV Rebels in the NIT's first round. The Romar led Dawgs lost 93-73 there to a UNLV team that made it to Madison Square Garden where they lost to eventual NIT champs Virginia that year. Those Jerry Tarkanian coached Rebs featured, among other elite level talent, post and future NBA journeyman Sidney Green. I think Lorenzo knows what hosting an NIT game means and how history has a way of showing how important these games can look down the road.

On Friday the Dawgs took on an impressive looking Northwestern team and put out a much better effort front to back in a 76-55 win. Ross was listed as probable for much of the time between games, after a hip injury against UTA, but Terrence came out with a career best and a team season high 32 points. It was the highest score since Ryan Appleby scored 32 on Feb. 16th 2008 and since Brandon Roy scored 35 in consecutive games on December 29th and December 31st 2005. The Dawgs are now 6-2 lifetime against their purple Big-10 counterparts.

Romar compared the Wildcats stylistically to the South Dakota State team who beat them by 19 in December at Hec Ed on Thursday stating of Wildcat senior post John Shurna, "There’s not many guys that match up well with him". Gant had the
assignment for much of the night and though Shurna scored 24, Darnell did a great job of keeping him from going off. Gant talked about it to the media after the game.

"He had 24 points, but he had to work for them. In the second half he hit two threes, but I felt like every time we made a mistake he scored. I felt like if we didn’t do a good job on him, he was liable for 40.”

I felt the same way. The kind of shots he was hitting, it seemed like he could put on one of those performances very easily in Hec Ed. Additionally the Dawgs teamed up to hold the Big-10's 4th leading scorer, junior guard Drew Crawford, to only five points. Shurna "got his", but UW made him take very tough shots to do it, while keeping his team mates from getting good looks. This was an impressive win, not only because Northwestern beat Michigan State this season, but because UW played well. It's the old eye test again. UW shared the ball, executed well against the Wildcats solid 1-3-1 zone an defended well as a team. NU scored 20 3-pointers against Mississippi Valley State this year and if the Dawgs had been a tick slow like they were against OSU, or for much of the UTA game, the game could have been a lot closer.

Wilcox also contributed to the win with 20 big points, including three straight 3's which kept UW up 20 when NU tried to climb back into in in the middle of the 2nd half. Aziz had a good night, after his foul plagued effort against UTA, with 11 points, 7 rebounds and two steals. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times broke down N'Diaye's effort well after the game.

"N'Diaye did a really nice job on the defensive end against smaller players like 6-4 guard Reggie Hearn, who had six points on 3-for-11 shooting. N'Diaye got low in a defensive stance on the perimeter at times and was shadowed NU players as they drove into the lane. At the point of attack, N'Diaye extended and created a 7-foot barrier that was difficult to shoot ever. He also didn't pick up a foul for the first time this season."

Tony had only two points, but his 7 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks were very impressive. He set up Ross and others with some beautiful feeds and came off as a player that wanted to use his awesome talent to win more than he wanted to
selfishly put the team on his shoulders. Gaddy had a nice game with some impressive defensive plays that seemed to be on a different level for him, to go with his usual fabulous performance handling the ball with seven assists. Abdul scored five and grabbed four boards, but he and Tony had five TO's each. Gaddy talked about how he and the team found motivation, despite being snubbed by the tournament committee.

"I'm just happy to be playing. Not a lot of teams are playing right now, and we're still playing. We're playing with a chip on our shoulders. We're still trying to prove we should have been in the NCAA tournament."

Had freshman guard Hikeem Stewart not added four TO's in five minutes during garbage time though, UW would have won the TO battle 13-15. Stewart to his credit played a mistake free minute to end the half when Ross and Wilcox both had two fouls. It was a tough game from two teams that played well on both ends and UW was especially impressive, considering their youth. Speaking of youth, Wroten and Ross are both very young, but awesomely talented players that will be a big part of NBA draft conversation when the season finally ends. Wroten is already a star, appearing on Wednesday in what looks more like a legit documentary than a home made YouTube vanity promo clip.

Whether Ross and/or Wroten return to UW next season, the Dawgs will still be pretty good in my opinion. I think that for all I have nit picked Romar about free throws, he is an excellent strategic coach, even better talent evaluator/manager and a skilled and honest recruiter. He'll find some solid talent to replace either or both of those guys, but the Dawgs could be pretty special if even one of them decided to stick around and improve before taking on the NBA. All of the mock drafts have Terrence and Tony in the mid-to-late first round, including nbadraft.net, draftexpress.com, mynbadraft.com, hoopsworld.com and draftsite.com. I will talk more about what is going on with Tony and Terrence at greater length when the season is over at huskydigest.com.

Also next year, with or without Ross and Wroten, the Pac-12 will start it's huge TV contract with ESPN/ABC/Fox and the conference tourney will be officially moving to Las Vegas NV, according to a report on Tuesday in cbssports.com. Scott explained the move on YouTube also on Wednesday.

Former Dawgs in the News

Husky Haul on Monday did a roundup of former Huskies in the NBA, including Roy (who they mentioned despite the fact that he just retired), Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas, Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter. Thomas has particularly had a good year. On Tuesday Isaiah and Nate had a showdown again and both started and performed well in a Warriors win over Thomas' Kings. On Wednesday Thomas moved up the NBA rookie ladder to the 2nd rung, with the injury to Ricky Rubio. Thomas was even mentioned by 'Zona star Solomon Hill, as a player to aspire to.

"A guy like Isaiah Thomas, they were right there, they won the Pac-10 (tournament). He was a winner. He led the team, he beat us when it mattered. And they played in the tournament, they played (North) Carolina, so that helped his chances out. He made the tournament and he was at 60. So a guy like me has to just come back, re-evaluate the team and really get those freshmen guys coming in because I don't have a rsum."

Husky fans can only hope that Ross and Wroten see the logic of that thinking. Frankly, I think that Thomas should have seen that same logic when he chose to leave a year early. Can you imagine a Husky back-court with Thomas, Wroten, Ross, Gaddy and Wilcox? I think that Isaiah wouldn't have been the 60th pick, as he probably would have answered a lot of the questions that NBA people had about him this season at UW. Things have worked out well for Isaiah anyway, so all's well
in his world, but he sure took a chance in doing it the way he did.

Pondexter also is starting to make a name for himself as a capable all-around player. On Friday Pondexter took on the legendary Kobe Bryant in the late stages of a double overtime loss to the Lakers. His denial of Kobe prevented a game winning shot at the end of the first OT.

Next »

Jim Basnight

Jim Basnight has been following Basketball with an emphasis on the Washington Huskies for 40 years. He was the publisher of the Rivals/Yahoo.com Husky Sports site from May 2005 through August 2008 and has continued to cover Husky Basketball, as well as the Cougars, Seattle U and all of the other NW teams. His basketball coverage and analysis pieces have been published in Scout, Realdawg and many other internet outlets. Jim also helped launch the Seattle Times Husky Basketball Blog in 2005.



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