UW Men's Basketball | Huskies' Justin Dentmon is thriving in role of shooter
After tough times at the point-guard position, Washington senior guard Justin Dentmon is making the most of his new role as a scorer.
Seattle Times staff reporter
USC @ Washington,
8 p.m., FSN
His recent success, Washington guard Justin Dentmon says, is due to his newfound ability "to get lost in the game."
But when it comes to basketball, and life, the senior appears to have found himself.
On the floor, Dentmon is flourishing in a new role as a shooting guard after spending most of the past three years manning the point.
Instead of attempting to navigate the dual roles of scorer and distributor, he can concentrate almost solely on the former. And with less responsibility to set up others, he has become UW's best perimeter shooter, hitting 41.7 percent on three-pointers in Pac-10 play and averaging 17 points in five conference games, second on the team. In the process, he's helped fill the outside-shooting void created by the graduation of Ryan Appleby.
"I love this role," said Dentmon, who will lead UW into action against USC tonight at Edmundson Pavilion at 8 p.m. "I love it. I tell [Isaiah Thomas] if he's tired, let me bring it up. But he wants the ball all the time. So I'm cool with it."
Off the court, Dentmon is one spring class away from graduating with a degree in art, having won the team's 101 Club Scholar/Athlete award last season.
Dentmon was honored not only for the progress he made on his degree but for persevering in the classroom despite having been diagnosed with a learning disability — a form of dyslexia — as a sophomore in high school. Dentmon, a native of Carbondale, Ill., says he sometimes gets numbers and letters mixed up.
"I fought through it," Dentmon said. "I just told myself I can do it and it paid off with all the hard work and tutoring I was getting."
It helped that he found a major that he says unearthed "some hidden talents."
Dentmon, who liked to dabble in poetry when he came to UW, now has turned more toward drawing, specifically with chalk. He says he'd like to go into graphic design, maybe becoming a sketch artist.
"I really want to work for the FBI or something like that," he says.
Dentmon admits he was once more fixated on a career with a different three-letter organization — the NBA. After earning a starting job as a freshman in the UW backcourt alongside Brandon Roy and helping lead UW to the Sweet 16, he acknowledged to reporters he'd leave early for the pros if he could.
Dentmon doesn't really regret those statements, saying, "Every player always has those thoughts in the back of their head." But some wondered if he maybe wasn't thinking a bit too much about his future when his sophomore season turned into a struggle punctuated by untimely turnovers. After starting the first seven games of last season, he was then turned into the sixth man, his days as a starting point guard over.
Along the way, he became a convenient scapegoat for the team's two-year NCAA hiatus, something he admits he let bother him.
"I got down because everybody blamed it on me," he said.
That led to some loud rumors that he was considering transferring. Says UW coach Lorenzo Romar: "He's not from here, so it would have been easy for him to go back home. But he hung in there."
In fact, Dentmon says he never really considered leaving and that he no longer worries about his critics.
"I'm over that now," he says. "I'm just looking for a new beginning, and that's this [year's] team."
When Thomas arrived, some figured Dentmon to be the odd man out in the backcourt, the senior whose time had passed.
Instead, he sensed an opportunity in his changing role and threw himself into it. He often shot three times a day, sometimes getting up as many as 2,000 shots in a three-day span.
"Sometimes my shoulders would be in so much pain I almost couldn't lift them to get something to drink," he said.
Romar, remembering Dentmon's high-school days as a scoring guard, encouraged the transformation, even though he knew some would doubt if Dentmon could fill that role, recalling his 30.7 percent three-point shooting average of his first three seasons.
"When all of you asked about our outside shooting, I said, 'Justin Dentmon, you watch, he's going to be an OK shooter,' " Romar said. "He worked his butt off this summer."
And while much of the offseason buzz was about the addition of Thomas, observers also came back singing the praises of Dentmon. He quickly regained a starting job in fall camp and hasn't given it up — he's averaging a team-high 32.8 minutes — and has provided senior leadership Romar hoped for. Dentmon's 4-for-4 shooting on three-pointers keyed the pivotal win at Washington State.
"I think he likes this a lot better," Romar said. "It just frees his mind to go play."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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