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

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Pac-10 Basketball | Appleby's injury alters UW lineup

A washington starting lineup filled with uncertainty grew even harder to pin down when senior guard Ryan Appleby broke his thumb in basketball...

Seattle Times staff reporter

LOS ANGELES — A Washington starting lineup filled with uncertainty grew even harder to pin down when senior guard Ryan Appleby broke his thumb in basketball practice Wednesday.

He will be sidelined six weeks.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Appleby was one of the few sure things in Washington's starting lineup — forward Jon Brockman being the other heading into the team's first exhibition game Monday at Edmundson Pavilion against Seattle Pacific.

Romar said Appleby, the team's best outside shooter, was injured during a rebounding drill when his right thumb jammed into the hand of another player.

"Ryan was as stable as anyone on the perimeter in terms of showing good leadership and doing what we ask," Romar said. "He's a senior, and he knows what is going on. So that hurts you. But it's not a knee or a back or some things that are a little trickier. It's pretty much cut and dried that he'll be back."

Still, Appleby will miss the Preseason NIT as well as games against Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh.

Romar said the starting lineup — besides Brockman and probably Quincy Pondexter at a forward spot — remains in flux heading into the SPU game.

He said either Justin Dentmon or freshman Venoy Overton of Franklin High will start at point guard, with Dentmon having a slight edge right now.

The other spots are pretty wide open, depending both on who is playing well and matchups in the game.

Romar said the fact the team is deeper, and more versatile and experienced than a year ago, is making decisions tough and that the lineup is likely to fluctuate greatly early in the season.

"It's endless as to what we could do," he said. "And it's that close. It's just too complicated right now."

Here's a look at the other nine conference teams:

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Arizona State

The Sun Devils are picked ninth in Herb Sendek's second year in Tempe. But among the reasons for hope is a top-flight recruiting class that includes guard Jamelle McMillan of O'Dea High, the son of former Sonics coach and player Nate McMillan. Jamelle McMillan has battled a hamstring injury but otherwise "has really hit the floor running for us," Sendek said. "He has an excellent understanding of the game, and he really makes guys better."

Arizona

The Wildcats are hoping to escape the slight lull they've hit the past two seasons by luring former assistant Kevin O'Neill back to Tucson. O'Neill, a former head coach at three different colleges, will work primarily with Arizona's defense. "I was tired of holding the hammer myself, so now we both have the hammer," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "He's done a great job with the defense. It's the kind of thing now where that's his whole focus and my focus can be elsewhere."

California

The Bears have been hit by injuries and illness, the latest involving projected starting point guard Jerome Randle who had a biopsy on his kidney Monday. But coach Ben Braun said he is optimistic Randle will be back in three or four weeks. Staying healthy, though, has been 6-foot-11 center DeVon Hardin, who missed much of last season with a foot injury, and 7-footer Jordan Wilkes, who sat out last year with a knee injury. "We were one of the smallest teams last year, and this year we are one of the biggest," Braun said.

Oregon

Oregon returns four starters from the team that went to the Elite Eight — senior guards Malik Hairston and Bryce Taylor, senior forward Maarty Leunen and sophomore guard Tajuan Porter. But the loss is a big one — former Franklin High star Aaron Brooks, who led the league in scoring. But coach Ernie Kent said he thinks the Ducks can overcome Brooks' loss with an influx of new and improving talent, including sophomore forward Joevan Catron. Guard Chamberlain Oguchi transferred to Illinois State during the offseason.

Oregon State

The Beavers return just two starters from the 11-21 team, and coach Jay John — 66-85 in six years in Corvallis — is on the hot seat. But John opened his remarks saying, "I really like my team, and we will be much improved from a year ago." One reason for optimism is 6-11 center C.J. Giles, the former Rainier Beach star who transferred from Kansas. Giles won't be eligible until Dec. 8 and has missed some practices with illness and also while concentrating on academics. But John said Giles will have a big impact, calling him "a freak athlete."

Stanford

The Cardinal returns all five starters, though one — sophomore center Brook Lopez — is out until Dec. 19 because of academic problems. Also back is junior guard Mitch Johnson of O'Dea, who lost his starting point guard spot midway through last season as the Cardinal battled turnover problems. But Johnson said, "We're clearly a better team [handling the ball]."

UCLA

The Bruins return four starters from the Final Four team last season. But the focus when the team plays tonight in an exhibition against Azusa Pacific is freshman center Kevin Love, regarded as maybe the top recruit in the country. Coach Ben Howland said Love hasn't been disappointing. "He is a very good low-post scorer and really knows how to use his body, seal with his body," Howland said. "That's something it takes some kids a while to learn how to do, but he comes in already knowing how to do that."

USC

An injury to sophomore Daniel Hackett, who broke his jaw in practice, has the Trojans a little shy at point guard. That might possibly force a move of star recruit O.J. Mayo. One option could have been Venoy Overton, who was a commit to USC for a while last fall before deciding on Washington instead. USC coach Tim Floyd remains miffed Overton changed his mind, saying, "I wasn't thrilled with it, no."

Washington State

A wild card for the Cougars is guard Nikola Koprivica, who played just 15 games last season, starting four, before tearing the ACL in his right knee. Coach Tony Bennett said Koprivica "is going full blast," though occasionally needing to take a day off. "His knee has responded pretty well, and he's looked pretty good for being out that long," Bennett said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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