Dec. 12, 2009
Part 2: Todd MacCulloch, Nate Robinson, Bob Bender, and The Guy Who Had an Unrelated Band of Horses Song Named for Him: One Blogger’s Adventure with the Washington Huskies
You can barely make it out anymore.
I’m not sure why anyone thought an autographed basketball makes for a good souvenir. Unless you get one of those special ones with the white panels, it’s kind of awkward to sign. Often the textured surface means it’s being signed on an area of small bumps that make the signature erratic. And once it’s signed, you better get yourself a replacement because you’re never using that to play ball again.
But regardless of its illegibility, I know exactly what it says. Detlef Schrempf.
It’s a small basketball, one of the ones you give to a kid until he reaches the age of eight and can start using regulation sizes. Did I mention it’s purple and gold? That’s kind of important.
It was 1994 and, absent baseball, Detlef Schrempf was the coolest thing in my eyes. This was at that age when you pick favorite players for all sorts of strange reasons that have little to do with their skill. I think it was because he was German, or maybe it was just because his name was fun to say and impossible to spell, but Detlef Schrempf was by far my favorite Seattle Sonic. (Other players who would contend for this honor included Nate McMillan and Sam Perkins, so it wasn’t necessarily a ticket to the Hall of Fame.) And now, at a small electronics store in Chehalis, Washington, I had an autographed University of Washington basketball.
Growing up a UW basketball fan in the early 1990s wasn’t easy. For one thing, the Husky cagers lived in the sizable shadow of Steve Emtman and the 1991 co-national* champion football team. It had been half a century since the Huskies’ last period of sustained success, the 27-year tenure of Hec Edmundson, for whom the Huskies’ on-campus home is named. By the early 1990s, the Huskies had been hovering around the .500 mark and the bottom of the Pac-10 for seasons on end, and 1994, the first season of head coach Bob Bender, saw the Huskies post a 5-22 mark. Bender turned the program around with solid, fundamental basketball and got UW to their first NCAA Tournament in a decade in 1998. Palpable excitement about the Huskies’ chances grew as the Todd MacCulloch-led squad reached the Sweet 16, but that would be it for UW as Khalid El-Amin and Rip Hamilton combined for one of the NCAA Tournament’s most memorable buzzer-beaters to lead UConn over their Husky counterparts from Seattle.
(*Should have been sole national champions, thanks a lot Wide Right I)
Following disappointing seasons in the early part of the decade, Lorenzo Romar took the reins of the UW program in 2002-2003 and wasted no time in turning the program around. Explosive athleticism and running the floor were hallmarks of the Romar-led Huskies, typified by the explosive Nate Robinson at guard. The high-energy Huskies would return to the Tourney in 2004 and post their winningest season since the 1950s the following year, going 29-6 and returning to the Sweet 16. Led by future Blazer star Brandon Roy, the Huskies made it back to the Sweet 16 the following year, but winning a third game in the Tourney has proven elusive for the men from Montlake.**
After two rebuilding years, last year’s Husky squad made it back to the Tournament and is attempting to build on that momentum this year. Per Ken Pomeroy, the Huskies have been in the top 15 nationally in average tempo in four of the past seven years. UW is equally quick to the offensive boards as they are running in the open floor, as one of the top ten offensive rebounding teams in the country in six of the past seven years. Despite losing bruising power forward Jon Brockman to the NBA, they have grabbed offensive rebounds at an astounding 45.5% rate to date this year, second-highest in the country, posing a tough test for Georgetown. What is surprising is that the Huskies are managing such impressive rebounding numbers despite a lineup that is relatively small compared to the Hoyas. The Huskies start three guards in Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton, and Elston Turner and a frontline of 6’6” Quincy Pondexter and 6’9” Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Due to their quick pace, ball control (33rd lowest turnover percentage in the country), and offensive boarding prowess, the Huskies have been especially adroit at getting to and converting from the free-throw line. For the second consecutive game, the Hoyas would appear to have the height advantage, but the Huskies have proven an ability to crash the boards and push the tempo in a way that should prove a challenge the Hoyas.
If this is Big East Week, think DeJuan Blair’s Pitt team with a few dozen cups of Starbucks coursing through their veins.
Paul Campbell (MSB '09)
**In Part 1, I mentioned my 2005-2006 freshman year home, New South 432. Three months after the Hoyas went to Eugene and beat the Ducks, I was next door in 433 watching a DJ Owens three-pointer come within an inch of a half of sending the Hoyas to the Elite 8, only to lose to eventual champion Florida. Packed around a TV with about eight other freshmen guys, the game cut immediately away from our heartbreak to the Huskies-Huskies Sweet 16 game that was a rematch of the Rip Hamilton 1998 buzzer-beater. CBS cut straight to the action taking place live 2.8 miles away right as the (Washington) Huskies took a six-point lead with two minutes to go. Disappointed as I was that the Hoyas’ season had just come to an end, I took solace in the chance that my childhood team would at least get revenge for 8 years prior, and knock UConn out of the tournament to boot. (Even then I sensed that Jim Calhoun and I would not be the best of friends.) UConn would go on to tie the game on a Rashad Anderson three-pointer with 1.8 seconds to go and pull away in overtime on the strength of five fouled-out Washington players and 24 more free throw attempts.