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Originally published November 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 8, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Huskies work for MBA

In his British accent, Matthew Bryan-Amaning keeps talking about being quiet. He uses the word as a synonym for unknown, and he cradles...

Seattle Times staff columnist

In his British accent, Matthew Bryan-Amaning keeps talking about being quiet. He uses the word as a synonym for unknown, and he cradles that designation.

Quiet works for him. Three years ago, Bryan-Amaning ventured from England to Connecticut with the fanfare of an ant walking across a sidewalk. He came not just to hone his basketball skills, but to test them, too. At last, he was about to discover the answer to a question many players from his country must ask.

Am I good enough?

Look at him now. The kid who wandered to the United States at 6 feet 7, 200 pounds has grown 2 inches and put on 35 pounds. His arms spread from Washington to Maine. He's the latest recruiting pearl to enter the Washington basketball program, potentially the most versatile signee of Lorenzo Romar's tenure.

Good enough?

What kind of question is that?

"It's real unexpected," Bryan-Amaning said when asked of his rise from being a quiet player to quite a player. "I was real surprised because, from overseas, when you hear about players in the States, you kind of put them on a pedestal. Because you haven't been there before, you think they're way better than you are."

If he progresses as planned, Bryan-Amaning could become like Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts — a hyphenated name to remember.

And if Matthew Bryan-Amaning is too much of a mouthful, his initials make for a perfect college nickname — MBA.

Or how about tweaking his last name? Bryan-Amazing, anyone?

Well, first Romar wants the kid to realize how good he can be.

"When he learns to play with intensity every moment he's on the floor, he's going to really take off," Romar said. "But he's a willing learner."

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MBA fits in a cluster of players vying to fill the void left by Spencer Hawes' departure to the NBA. It's a group that also includes sweet-shooting 7-footer Joel Wolfinger (if he stays healthy), brawny junior Artem Wallace and another long-limbed freshman, Darnell Gant.

The Huskies could also decide to play with four true perimeter players and use Jon Brockman as the single big man, but that's unlikely. So some of those inexperienced bigs must perform. And MBA, the most talented of the bunch, needs to lead that effort.

"He can get the ball off the rim and bring it up in transition," Romar said. "That's the type of player he is. He's versatile. He is unique. With the size, the length and the versatility, you like that."

This is also another chance for Bryan-Amaning to test his worth. He wears No. 11 because that was his age when he began playing organized basketball.

He was good from the beginning. He remembers scoring 16 points in his first game. He started to dream big. He knew he would have to leave London to succeed. He knew he would have to take the route that Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, a family friend and fellow countryman, took.

So, at 15, Bryan-Amaning enlisted the help of his club basketball coach to find an American high school. MBA decided on South Kent School, a prep school in Connecticut.

As a sophomore at Kent, he was a role player, stuck in the rotation behind several college-bound upperclassmen. The star of that team was Andray Blatche, who jumped directly to the NBA.

Bryan-Amaning attended the Nike All-America Camp after his sophomore year and stood in awe of all the big-name talent. Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright. True superstars, future NBA lottery picks. Bryan-Amaning didn't get the ball much that camp, but he was motivated to improve.

He was able to showcase his multifaceted game his junior year. Then he turned into a beast his senior season, gaining recognition as a top-50 recruit.

"It was real weird, real different," MBA said of the notoriety. "Something I wasn't expecting."

Now it's on to the new challenge: Help the Huskies restore their credibility.

After back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, a young Washington team fell to 19-12 last season and didn't even get picked for the NIT. Then Hawes left.

"There is no Spencer replacement," Romar said. "There was no Nate Robinson replacement. There was no Brandon Roy replacement. They're different. They're just totally different."

Instead, Romar must reinvent his team once again. Expect the Huskies, after a year of playing a slower pace to capitalize on Hawes' talents, to turn up the defensive intensity and return to their fast-paced ways.

That's why Bryan-Amaning came here. He watched the Pac-10 from afar, watched Washington from afar, and thought it suited his style of play.

He wants to block shots, rebound and dunk with force, but he also wants to handle the ball like a guard and shoot jumpers.

He can do that here. In fact, if he reaches his potential, he might be the ideal fit for this coaching staff's philosophies.

"The personnel we've got this year helps us get back to old Husky basketball, which is the running style," Bryan-Amaning said.

Funny — Romar is in his sixth season at UW, and the kids are already talking about "old Husky basketball."

True to MBA's burgeoning career, his squad enters this season as a quiet team, picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10.

Time for more noise.

"You just have to let people know that just because you haven't heard of certain people, it doesn't mean that you're better than them," Bryan-Amaning said. "We can make noise without anybody knowing who we are, really.

"Growing up, I just wanted an opportunity. Now I have it. I plan to make the best of it."

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. For more columns and the Extra Points blog, visit seattletimes.com/sports.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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