Washington men's basketball team long on confidence
No. 15 Huskies, the defending Pac-10 champions, optimistic at media day Wednesday, two days before first practice.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Venoy Overton is mixing metaphors and talking like a carpenter.
The Washington junior guard is explaining how Huskies men's basketball has built a foundation and taken steps to get to this lofty point in the program's history.
Baby steps in the beginning, he says. And now?
"Now we're off and running," Overton said during Wednesday's media day. "But first, you just build and build and build until you're at the point where you can take off like we have."
On the eve of training camp Friday, the 15th-ranked Washington Huskies aren't looking back. They aren't thinking about who graduated (Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Artem Wallace), who transferred (Joe Wolfinger) and which recruit didn't qualify (Charles Garcia).
They're more concerned with who has arrived (prized freshman Abdul Gaddy), who's healthy (redshirt freshman Tyreese Breshers) and who's expected to lead (Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas and Overton).
That optimism isn't surprising. The Huskies won the school's first outright Pac-10 men's basketball championship last season and are favored, along with California, to claim another conference title.
"Our goal, if we do what we're expected to do, is to go farther than we did last year," Thomas said. "In my mind, we can make it to the Final Four. We're that good. That's our goal. And everybody on this team should be thinking we're that good because we are."
Maybe in past years the Huskies held lofty expectations, but rarely have they been so forthcoming in sharing them.
They say "Final Four" with such ease and you wait for a "Yeah but" qualifier that never follows.
They know it has been 56 years since Washington last made the Final Four in 1953, but they also intend to advance further in the NCAA tournament than last season. The Huskies lost 76-74 to Purdue in the second round and finished with a 26-9 record.
"It's great that our team has a high self-esteem at this point," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "I don't think we're an arrogant or cocky team. But if we're willing to go out and bust our tails like we expect to do something special, then I'm not going to tell our guys that they're crazy. If you're willing to put the time in and come together as a team, well, then we'll see."
For most Huskies fans, the lasting image of last season came March 7. Washington clinched the conference title against cross-state rival Washington State and turned Edmundson Pavilion into a mosh pit.
Pondexter also remembers the tears that flowed freely inside Portland's Rose Garden locker room after a disappointing defeat to the Boilermakers.
"The losses stick with you a lot more than the wins," he said. "That loss to Purdue sticks out even more [than the conference title]. We don't want to finish like that. We want to get to that next weekend in the NCAA tournament, and we want to build on that.
"We have a lot of work to do in these next couple of months to get to the Final Four. Champions aren't made overnight. I think we have the talent and the uniqueness of the team to do it. But you know what? We're not there yet."
• F Justin Holiday is recovering from offseason hernia surgery.
• Midnight Madness is expected to begin at 7:15 p.m. Friday after UW's 6 p.m. volleyball match at Edmundson Pavilion. The first practice will include a dunk contest.
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies
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