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Men's Hoops Notebook: "Just another game" for UW's Dentmon
Seattle Times staff reporter
SAN DIEGO — Finally, Justin Dentmon admitted it.
"I'd rather play Southern Illinois," Dentmon said. "Illinois, I'm taking it as just another game."
That wasn't what most of the media assembled here to pump up today's Washington-Illinois game wanted to hear, however.
Dentmon was one of the most sought-after players by a media contingent that assumed that since he's from Carbondale, Ill., was once recruited by Illinois and knows Illini coach Bruce Weber well, that facing Illinois would be a big deal.
But he insisted it's big solely because it's the second round of the NCAA tournament, and that the state school he'd feel the most rivalry with is Southern Illinois, located in his hometown.
That's where he got to know Weber, who was the coach at SIU from 1999 to 2003. Dentmon even went to school with two of Weber's daughters.
"I've known him since he was in the fifth, sixth grade," Weber said.
Dentmon, however, never had designs on going to SIU. When Weber coached there, SIU ran a deliberate offense that Dentmon felt wouldn't favor his game. Also, his mom wanted him to get out of Carbondale, where he had a sometimes-rocky upbringing as the oldest of six children of a single mother.
He initially signed with Illinois State, located about 200 miles away.
When academics got in the way, he went to a prep school in Massachusetts, where he re-opened his recruitment. By then, Weber had moved to Illinois and had some interest in Dentmon.
"It wasn't the right fit," Dentmon said of Illinois. "Washington was the right fit."
He holds no grudges against Illinois or Weber, and counts several of the Illini as friends, namely freshman guard Jamar Smith, who was a teammate for two years on AAU teams.
He knows, though, that the game will be a big deal back home.
"Everybody in Illinois will be watching it," he said. Including, he hopes, his mom. He said UW's opener against Utah State wasn't shown in Illinois other than brief highlights.
He's also looking forward to going up against Illinois point guard Dee Brown, whom he has known for a few years. Dentmon isn't likely to guard the senior much himself but knows their paths will cross.
"It's kind of a privilege to play against him," Dentmon said. "In high school, they compared me to him."
UW coach Lorenzo Romar listened as a reporter drew a list of comparisons between UW and Illinois – including that the two have almost the same record (UW is 25-6, Illinois is 26-6).
"'Their size, that's different,'' Romar said.
Indeed, Illinois starts a front line that features two 6-10 players – forward James Augustine and center Shaun Pruitt – and one who stands 6-8 (forward Brian Randle).
That might seem to give Illinois an edge in the rebounding department, especially considering the Huskies were outboarded by Utah State 35-22 Thursday. UW coaches, however, say that number is a little misleading as the Huskies played a pressure defense that often left them out of position to rebound.
Still, the Huskies know they can't do that again and survive.
"If we don't win the rebounding battle with them, or come out even, that will probably be the deciding factor in the game,'' said UW forward Bobby Jones.
Raising the flag
Washington's win over Utah State Thursday put the Huskies in some rarefied air. Since 1963, only UCLA, Arizona, Cal and Stanford among Pac-10 teams have won NCAA tournament games in consecutive seasons, something UW did by beating the Aggies.
Only UCLA, Arizona and Stanford have made it to the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons, which the Huskies can do today.
"It's a huge stepping stone for this program to get that elite level where Washington basketball is mentioned with everyone else in the country,'' said UW senior forward Jamaal Williams.
• Weber had this to say about UW's Brandon Roy: "Watching film, I'm wondering why he is still in college, to be honest."
• Illinois holds a 3-2 lead in the all-time series against UW. The teams last played on Dec. 7, 1991, in Champaign, Ill., a 76-55 win for the Illini.
• Weber and UW coach Lorenzo Romar have never faced each other.
• UW is 12-0 against nonconference competition this season.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company