About the only thing that won't seem familiar for many of the Washington Huskies when they hit the court at Stanford's Maples Pavilion tonight is the feeling of victory.
Washington hasn't won at Stanford since Jan. 30, 1993, when Lynn Nance still was the coach. It's the school's longest drought in any conference arena.
But a lot of other things tonight will have a friendly air, at least until tipoff.
"There are a lot of different connections with Stanford," said Washington forward Jon Brockman.
Brockman and teammate Spencer Hawes, for instance, will be reunited with Stanford point guard Mitch Johnson, a longtime teammate on AAU teams.
And UW forward Quincy Pondexter will look over and see high school teammates and lifelong friends Brook and Robin Lopez, twin 7-foot freshmen for the Cardinal.
All three grew up in Fresno, Calif., and attended San Joaquin Memorial High. Pondexter said this week they were all "like family" through their teenage years.
Brook Lopez, in fact, lists Pondexter in the Stanford media guide as one of the three athletes he admires most, after Magic Johnson and Adonal Foyle of the Golden State Warriors.
"I think the last time we played against each other was the third grade," said Brook Lopez. "I'm going to try to go out there and just be business as usual. But it will be really weird to me, really bizarre, playing against Quincy. Hopefully I don't pass the ball to him."
Pondexter pointed out that he and the twins play different positions, so they might not match up all that often. Still, those drives to the hoop tonight by Pondexter might have a different feel.
"I think he'll be fired up for his team to go out there and do well," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar.
Romar saw the Lopez twins often while recruiting Pondexter, but the Huskies never had a chance to keep the three together.
The twins' mother, Deborah Ledford, was a swimmer at Stanford, graduating in 1971. Her oldest son, Alex, turned down Stanford to sign with Bob Bender and Washington in 1994, but played just one season for the Huskies before transferring to Santa Clara. "A mistake," Ledford said of Alex's decision to spurn Stanford for UW in a San Francisco Chronicle story last year.
One that Brook and Robin wouldn't repeat.
"I knew they were going to Stanford since junior high," Pondexter said. "There was no recruiting buzz with them."
Still, they made a lot of noise, each being named to the McDonald's All-American team last season after teaming with Pondexter to lead to San Joaquin Memorial to within a point of the Southern California Division IV championship.
Brook has been regarded as a slightly better prospect because of a more refined offensive game while Robin is known more for defense (the two are distinguishable by their hair — Brook's is short while Robin's is bushier).
"Brook's more offensive minded, a little bit more skilled on the inside with his moves," said Hawes, who faced them once while playing AAU ball. "Robin, defensively he dominates that area. Their games are a real good complement to each other."
It's taken awhile for Stanford to get a full taste of what the twins can bring, however. Brook missed five games while recovering from surgery to repair a bulging disk. He says he's about 75 percent now. But that was good enough for the Cardinal to finally start them together Sunday when Stanford won 76-75 at Virginia. The two combined for 27 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Romar can lament only that the twins are finding their game as the Huskies come to town, though he shouldn't expect anything else. Games at Stanford have delivered UW maybe its most disappointing defeats the past two years. In 2005, UW lost on the final day of the regular season to blow a chance to at least tie for the Pac-10 title. Last year, UW was defeated in overtime when Chris Hernandez sank three foul shots with 0.2 seconds left to tie the game after the Huskies appeared headed to a victory.
The Huskies are 0-3 on the road this season, with the game tonight marking the beginning of a stretch of three in a row away from home that figures to determine whether UW can remain a legitimate contender in the Pac-10 race.
"It's very important for us to play well out here on the road," Romar said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.