Andrew Andrews spent most of the summer at his family’s home in
Portland after graduating from the University of Washington in June.
His sociology degree in hand, Andrews, a fifth-year senior, didn’t need to stay in Seattle for summer classes, though he said he returned to campus every now and then to work out and catch up with teammates.
New teammates, that is. Most of the old ones are gone.
The Huskies men’s basketball team bid farewell to eight players from last season’s ill-fated squad, including leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss (transferred to Gonzaga), star center Robert Upshaw (dismissed midseason, in January, for violating team policy) and starting forward Jernard Jarreau (transferred to Tulane), to say nothing of the two starters it lost to graduation (Shawn Kemp Jr. and Mike Anderson).
So it is that Andrews and sophomore Donaven Dorsey (Timberline High) represent the whole of UW’s returning scholarship experience for 2015-16. Andrews, in particular, will be relied upon for leadership on a team that welcomes eight newcomers, seven true freshmen among them.
And yet the mood on Montlake is one of rejuvenation, if not outright certainty that this younger, fresher outfit will fare better than the disappointment of last season, which the Huskies began 11-0 before Upshaw’s dismissal and a deluge of injuries precipitated a 16-15 final record and an 11th-place finish in the Pac-12.
“It’s kind of just like (we hit) the reset button,” Andrews said.
UW is doing it with players whom coach Lorenzo Romar praises for their athleticism and earnestness, traits Romar believes necessary to re-establish a culture and a style that he often refers to as “Husky basketball” — pressure defense that encourages hands in passing lanes, and an up-tempo offensive approach that seeks to convert turnovers into fast-break points.
The Huskies didn’t do much of that last season, their fourth consecutive year without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I think we have the ability to pressure the basketball more than we have in the last two to three years,” Romar said at UW’s media day on Thursday. “I think we’ll do a better job of that. I think we have a group collectively that’s better at making plays — making plays for themselves or making plays for others. I think we’ll be a more athletic team, that’s for sure.”
Think “wingspan,” too. The Huskies added local prep stars Dejounte Murray and Matisse Thybulle, both slim, both about 6 foot 5 (Murray is listed at 6 foot 4.5), both with long arms and quickness. Same can be said of 6-foot-6 guard Dominic Green, another local product — he’s from Hazen High in Renton — who signed as part of UW’s nationally renowned 2015 recruiting class.
Marquese Chriss, at 6 foot 9 and 225 pounds, brings that same level of athleticism to the low post. So does Malik Dime, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound junior transfer from Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College (by way of Dakar, Senegal).
The collection of high leapers caused Thybulle to remark of the action at UW’s open gym sessions: “If people saw the kind of dunks that are happening, what fast breaks look like for us, they’d be in awe, because literally everyone is just so athletic. It’s fun to play in that kind of atmosphere, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch. It’s awesome.”
The young players already speak of an established camaraderie, something last year’s Huskies never seemed to harness.
“We all like each other. That’s the best thing,” said Murray, the former Rainier Beach star and a likely Day 1 starter. “You don’t want any cancers on your team, like a couple people not liking somebody. Everybody likes each other, everybody hangs out with each other.”
Andrews, who averaged 15 points per game last season and hit a pair of winning jumpers, returns as UW’s primary ballhandler. He said a few college coaches reached out to “people that I associate with back home” during the offseason to gauge his interest in transferring from UW, but that “as far as me looking into any of that, I didn’t.”
He said he considers himself a loyal person, and just as he maintained his commitment to UW as a high-schooler when other offers arrived, he didn’t want to bail on the Huskies now.
“I don’t think Andrew is a quitter at all,” Romar said. “I think Andrew saw that this was going to be his last go-round around here, and Andrew is just stubborn enough to believe that he’s going to help get this done this last year. I think that’s how he saw it.
“I think he also started to see the young people we were bringing in. I feel like Andrew may have thought, ‘You know what? We may have something here. I’m going to stick this out.’ ”
Romar said “it gives you a little bit of ease” knowing that, on such a young team, his starting point guard, at least, has three years of experience.
But if the Huskies are to return to the NCAA Tournament, it will be because their freshmen acclimated quickly enough to make a winning impact.
“I don’t set expectations until we start playing,” said Murray, who attended nearly all of UW’s home games last season. “but what I know is, this team’s going to play tough every single night. We’re going to play tough, and I feel like we’re going to play Husky basketball.”
Romar said Chriss fractured his right wrist during the offseason. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks of practice, but is forecast to be healthy for the Huskies’ Nov. 13 season opener against Texas in Shanghai. … Dan Kingma, who walked on to the UW team as a freshman last season, was put on scholarship in the spring. … The Huskies begin practice Saturday at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.