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Originally published October 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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UW Men's Basketball | Freshmen embrace program

Washington's freshman basketball class didn't quite need a suitcase to carry its combined press clippings to Montlake. Maybe more like a...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington's freshman basketball class didn't quite need a suitcase to carry its combined press clippings to Montlake.

Maybe more like a lunch pail.

Which seems fitting.

Because while the group this season didn't inspire the signing-day hype of last year's group, which included Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter, UW coaches figure it will have more staying power. Gone already from the 2006 group are Hawes (to the NBA) and Phil Nelson (transferred to Portland State).

Commitment to the cause has been one of the first things coach Lorenzo Romar has noticed about this year's incoming freshmen: 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning; 6-8, 210-pound forward Darnell Gant; 6-6, 175-pound swingman Justin Holiday; and 5-11, 180-pound guard Venoy Overton.

"As a foursome — not one or two of them, but as a foursome — they are as tuned in as any freshman class we've had," Romar said. "It's important to them that they do things right for the program. It means something to them. We've not had it where every last one of them feels that way, and that's good."

As the Huskies finish their second full week of practice, Romar says all four of the freshmen have been impressive on the floor as well.

"They all bring something different to the table," Romar said. "They are all athletic."

Romar says the reputation Bryan-Amaning, a native of London who played at South Kent (Conn.) School last year, as a shot-blocking defensive presence in the middle has fit "to a T."

"He's good at making plays off the dribble," he said. "At 6-9, he's good around the basket and he's got good basketball instincts. He has not totally understood how good he can be yet, however, because he's got a lot of potential."

Holiday, a graduate of Campbell Hall High in Chatsworth, Calif., has drawn comparisons to a former Husky Bobby Jones for his willingness to do the dirty work.

"Time after time, he makes winning plays," Romar said. "Justin is not a dazzler, but he really is a lot like Bobby Jones. Jon Brockman scores a layup, but Justin Holiday was the one who tipped it to him on the fast break. One of our guys gets a dunk, and it was Justin who stole the ball and threw it up the floor. He just really knows how to play basketball. He's the type of player who makes the other four better."

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Overton, a graduate of Franklin, has — as advertised — brought quickness and athleticism to the guard spot.

"He's gives us a great push with the basketball," Romar said. "He's probably turned the ball over more than we would like. But playing at this speed and [being] a freshman, that's not uncommon. But his turnovers need to be cut down. But he sees people on the floor. He sees the floor well. "

Of Gant, a graduate of Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, Romar said, "He has a very nice touch from the outside, he's a good shot-blocker, and he plays with energy."

Some speculate Bryan-Amaning could start. Romar says roles are not yet defined.

"Time will only tell," he said. "We've still got a few weeks, and then we'll have a better idea of what they are doing."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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