Dominic Green sat on the bench, waiting his turn, wondering what he needed to do differently to become a part of the Washington Huskies’ regular rotation.
The freshman from Renton barely played during the non-conference season, registering double-digit minutes only twice, in a pair of blowouts. He played four minutes in a double-overtime game against UCLA, four minutes two days later against USC, and one minute in an overtime game at Washington State.
Given how frequently the Huskies were in foul trouble in those games, it didn’t seem an encouraging sign for Green that he still wasn’t able to get on the floor.
It was during that early portion of the season that Green, Hazen High School’s all-time leading scorer, met with UW coach Lorenzo Romar to ask what he should work on.
“It was just finding things that I can do to improve,” Green said after Tuesday’s practice, a day ahead of UW’s Wednesday home game against Arizona State. “Defense was one of the things he told me I needed to try to work on, and that’s one thing I’ve been working a lot on. I’ve been getting exceptionally better at it.”
And playing a lot more as a result. Green’s improvement allowed Romar to extend his regular rotation from seven players to eight, with Green now playing important minutes off the bench in tightly-contested Pac-12 games.
His services might be even more important Wednesday, because Romar still wasn’t certain of the status of Noah Dickerson, a starting forward who sustained a foot injury last week and missed Monday’s practice.
The first time the Huskies (14-7, 6-3 Pac-12) played ASU — in Tempe, where Green originally signed to play before the firing of coach Herb Sendek — Green played 20 minutes, by far his most significant contribution to that point, scored six points including a crucial 3-pointer.
He played 16 minutes in a win against Colorado. Last week, he set a career-high with 23 minutes in UW’s 86-84 win at UCLA, and scored a career-high 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Reputed as a scorer, Green appears far more comfortable with the ball in his hands than he did in November. He’s shooting only 24.2 percent from 3-point range this season but is 7-for-19 (36.8 percent) during Pac-12 play. And, at 6-foot-6 with long, skinny arms, he’s become reliable enough within UW’s defensive scheme to be trusted with more minutes.
“He’s such a good scorer with a scorer’s mindset that a lot of times, he would go and begin to hunt his shot, and maybe the ball would stop at times,” Romar said. “Now, he is understanding a lot more of the team concept. And he wasn’t doing it because he was selfish. He’s just been successful doing it. And again, he’s a scorer. In his mind, he was going to show why he belonged on the floor.
“Well, while that was going on, he still wasn’t where he needed to be defensively. We are aware he was a scorer. We knew we recruited him to score. But once he began to take his time a little more offensively and began to defend and do some things that way, then he naturally got his opportunity.”
His attitude helped, too.
“He is determined to do things the right way,” Romar said. “He comes out every day in practice, and you can see he’s really trying to learn. He’s really trying to focus and pick things up. That’s one of the reasons he was rewarded with playing time.”
Green said playing against ASU (12-10, 2-7) revives no special feelings, only that “it’s just another game that we’ve got to win.” He liked ASU and was set to play for the Sun Devils before the school fired Sendek and hired Bobby Hurley, with whom Green met once before and decided he’d be better off elsewhere.
UW began its recruitment of Green late, Romar said — in July 2014, when Green was starting to turn some heads on the AAU circuit — so the Huskies didn’t have much of a chance when Green originally decided on the Sun Devils. But UW quickly became the frontrunner after he was released from his letter of intent, and the Huskies officially signed him in late April.
“It was just close to home,” Green said, “and I knew a lot of the players.”
Green’s ability to score, UW senior guard Andrew Andrews said, has always been apparent in practice. But Andrews said he can tell Green has become sharper mentally, and because of it, the Huskies have a deeper, more versatile rotation.
“It gives us that small lineup that we’ve kind of been accustomed to playing throughout the year,” Andrews said. “Whenever he’s in the game, we go four out and we have shooters on both sides and it makes my job a whole lot easier getting into the paint, (because) I can find him. It makes the defense’s job a whole lot harder trying to figure out who to cover when they’re guarding us. And then defensively, since we switch everything, it puts another guy on the perimeter who can guard any guard (and) have backside help. We just have a lot more speed when he’s out there.”
Arizona State (12-10, 2-7 Pac-12) at Washington (14-7, 6-3)
8 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7 FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 42-37.
Statistics for 2015-16:
0 Tra Holder, G (6-1, so.): 15.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
4 Gerry Blakes, G (6-4, sr.): 10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
5 Obinna Oleka, F (6-7, jr.): 9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
2 Willie Atwood, F (6-7, sr): 10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg
21 Eric Jacobsen, C (6-10, sr.): 7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg
12 Andrew Andrews, G (6-2, sr.): 21.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.9 apg
5 Dejounte Murray, G (6-4.5, fr.): 14.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.7 apg
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, fr.): 6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, fr.): 8.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg
0 Marquese Chriss, F (6-9, fr.): 11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Scouting report: After the first half of Pac-12 play, Arizona State resides in 11th place by itself with a 2-7 conference record. The Sun Devils have beaten only Washington State (the conference’s last-place team) and Oregon State (the Pac-12’s 10th-place team), and have yet to win a Pac-12 road game despite beating both Creighton and UNLV on the road during non-conference play. … The first time the Huskies and Sun Devils played in Tempe, Arizona, UW won 89-85 behind a 30-point, 12-assist performance by Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer. The Huskies led that game 44-34 at halftime and weathered a pair of ASU comebacks in the second half to hold on. … ASU has four double-figure scorers, three of whom start. Savon Goodman, at 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, is the Sun Devils’ top reserve. Kodi Justice, a sophomore guard, averages 8.1 points per game off the bench and scored 17 points against the Huskies in the first meeting. That’s his highest single-game point total against a Pac-12 opponent this season. ASU had five other players score in double-figures in that game (Holder, Blakes, Oleka, Goodman and Atwood). … The Sun Devils don’t shoot or defend particularly well. Their offensive field-goal percentage of 43.1 ranks 10th in the Pac-12, and they have the worst field-goal percentage defense at 44.7. They shoot only 33.3 percent from 3-point range (just a tick worse than UW, which shoots 33.4), but have attempted more 3-pointers than any team in the conference. ... Holder could hurt UW with his dribble penetration, and is ASU’s best scorer. If both him and Justice get hot from 3-point range, the Sun Devils become a much more difficult team to defend. But they have enough scoring savvy on the interior to make things interesting, too, especially if UW’s big men can’t avoid foul trouble.