|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
UW Men's Basketball
Dentmon growing into point-guard role for Huskies
Seattle Times staff reporter
About as quickly as he can stutter-step past a flailing defender, Justin Dentmon has become one of Washington's take-charge guys on offense.
Through six games, the freshman point guard leads the team in assists and has a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio (30 to 15), not far off the pace set last year by the men he was recruited to replace — Will Conroy and Nate Robinson.
He has also, however, become a "takes-charges" guy on defense, something he says is surprising even himself.
"In high school I was told I didn't have no defense," said Dentmon. "They would put me on little, weaker players so I wouldn't foul out."
But something has clicked — maybe it's simply the constant exhortations of Washington coaches — and Dentmon has suddenly emerged as one of UW's leading defenders.
"He's drawing charges, picking the ball up high for us," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. "He's spearheaded our defense in that regard."
Gonzaga at Washington men, 7:30 p.m., FSN
Laughs Dentmon: "I wish there was a record for charges. I'd be on a roll for that one."
Just how ready Dentmon really is for the big time, however, comes at 7:30 Sunday night at Edmundson Pavilion when he will be entrusted with the task of slowing down Gonzaga point guard Derek Raivio. Raivio had a breakout game against the Huskies in Spokane last year, scoring a then-career-high 21 points in Gonzaga's 99-87 victory.
"Untested," Romar admits when asked to judge how prepared Dentmon is for the challenge of Gonzaga. "I do know this — beginning in the third game of the BCA Classic to now, he has really grown up as a point guard."
The Huskies trailed Air Force 46-40 in that BCA championship game Romar refers to, with Dentmon having scored just two points with one assist and four turnovers. But in the second half, as UW rallied to win, Dentmon led the way with 10 points, three assists and one turnover. And, as Romar says, "the light came on" and Dentmon has secured his place as the team's point guard.
That light is sure to flicker at some point this season — it always does for freshmen. But Dentmon, who has played more minutes than any other Husky so far, appears capable of living up to the words of Washington coaches, who insisted he could make as big an impact as any of the members of the much-heralded class of 2005.
As often happens in recruiting, the Huskies kind of fell into Dentmon, a native of Carbondale, Ill. Romar first saw him as a freshman in high school when still the coach at Saint Louis.
After Romar left for UW, Dentmon signed with Illinois State. And that's where he was headed when UW assistant Jim Shaw — then working for Oklahoma — saw Dentmon lead his team to third place at the Illinois state high-school tournament. In one game, he matched up admirably against point guard Shaun Livingston, who went straight to the NBA and became the No. 4 overall pick by the Clippers.
"Those are very, very-well attended games, like 10,000 people are there," Shaw said. "It's a big-time environment. And he played with a high level of confidence. He just looked like he was watching TV on the couch in terms of being very, very calm."
Problems with the SAT, however, derailed the plans for Illinois State and Dentmon decided to attend The Winchendon School, a prep school in Winchendon, Mass., and reopen his recruiting. By then, Shaw was at UW and the Huskies leaped on him quickly, getting him to commit before he took any other visits.
"I knew there was an opportunity for me to come in and play right away," he said. "I liked the city. I thought it might be the type of place I might want to live after basketball. And I liked coach Romar. They like to run, and that's the type of player I am."
Before running, however, Dentmon had to learn to walk Huskies-style. He'd been a big-time scorer in high school, but with this team, he's needed to run the offense and play defense, and Dentmon and some of his teammates admit there were some rocky moments in early practices as he adjusted to his new role.
"He's been able to transform himself, and he's been getting better every game," said senior guard Bobby Jones. "That's saying a lot for the type of talent and potential he has."
But Dentmon has always been able to adapt. As a young kid, he idolized Mike Tyson and wanted to be a boxer. His mother, Stephine — who is making the first airplane flight of her life to see the Gonzaga game — talked him out of that and he concentrated on basketball instead.
At The Winchendon, he said the structured atmosphere led to a lot of "off-time." So he filled the void by writing poetry.
"I write some funny ones, some sad ones," he said. "I've got a little collection so I can go back and remember them some day."
Certainly, the first verse he's writing to his UW career is one worth keeping as well.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company