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Originally published November 12, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 12, 2006 at 12:29 AM

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UW Men's Basketball | Huskies open in a fast way against Waves

The regular season for the Washington men's basketball team will finally get off and running tonight. With a big emphasis on the running...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The regular season for the Washington men's basketball team will finally get off and running tonight.

With a big emphasis on the running part.

The Huskies will open their highly-anticipated 2006-07 campaign at 7:30 p.m. against Pepperdine in the first round of the Basketball Travelers Classic at Edmundson Pavilion.

They'll meet a Pepperdine team that brings in a new coach in Vance Walberg, who replaced the fired Paul Westphal, as well as a new high-octane offense.

The Waves averaged 106.5 points a game in their two exhibition contests.

"They just trap everywhere and really spread it out," said UW center Spencer Hawes. "It's really a run-and-gun mentality, so that's always fun to play against and it will present a unique challenge for us."

Finally, Hawes will get to accept a challenge as a Husky as he will make his first appearance in a UW uniform after missing Washington's exhibition game last week while recovering from the arthroscopic knee surgery he endured last month.

Basketball Travelers Classic


Today through Tuesday at Edmundson Pavilion

TV/Radio: All Huskies games live on FSN, KJR (950 AM)

Tickets: Some available through UW ticket office or gohuskies.com

Schedule

Today: Nicholls State vs. Northern Iowa, 4:30 p.m., Washington vs. Pepperdine, 7:30 p.m.

Monday: Pepperdine vs. Northern Iowa, 4:30 p.m., Washington vs. Nicholls State, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Nicholls State vs. Pepperdine, 4:30 p.m., Washington vs. Northern Iowa, 7:30 p.m.

About the opponents

Pepperdine: Pepperdine, of the West Coast Conference, averaged only 66 points last season, but first-year coach Vance Walberg is bringing in a new uptempo game and points figure to be plentiful this season on both ends. Senior guard Melvin Lea has been Pepperdine's leader, averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds in two exhibition games.

Nicholls State: Members of the Southland Conference, the Colonels are coming off a season in which they went 9-18 overall and 5-11 in conference play. They are in the midst of a hectic schedule. They lost 90-55 at Mississippi State on Saturday before traveling to Seattle for the BTC. Stefan Blaszczynski, a senior guard, is an all-conference candidate.

Northern Iowa: The Panthers are members of the Missouri Valley Conference and one of 23 teams (including UW) that has participated in each of the past three NCAA tournaments. The Panthers have a new coach as Ben Jacobson replaces Greg McDermott, who is now at Iowa State. The Panthers return three starters from the 23-10 team of last year, led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Grant Stout, an all-conference candidate. UNI was seventh in the nation in scoring defense last season, allowing 57.8 points a game.

Bob Condotta

Hawes, a 7-foot center from Seattle Prep who might be the most highly touted recruit in school history, returned to practice this week, increasing his minutes of activity each day, and said Thursday he should be able to play as many minutes as he wants tonight without restriction.

He won't be in the starting lineup, however, as the Huskies will go with the same unit that tipped off the exhibition opener against Saint Martin's last week — Justin Dentmon and Ryan Appleby in the backcourt and Quincy Pondexter, Jon Brockman and Artem Wallace up front.

Along with Hawes, fellow freshmen Pondexter, Adrian Oliver and Phil Nelson will all make their official Huskies debuts tonight.

For Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, it is his first meeting against the school that gave him his initial job as a head coach in 1996.

Romar was 42-44 in three seasons there, taking a team that had fallen to the bottom of the West Coast Conference and guiding it to second-place finishes his final two seasons.

"I was proud of the fact that I was the coach at Pepperdine," Romar said this week. "It's a great school with a great basketball tradition."

Though one that's been lagging in recent seasons. Westphal became the Pepperdine coach in 2001, a year after being fired by the Sonics.

But after some initial success, his program began to fall apart, and the Waves finished 7-20 last season.

In came Walberg, who had been the coach at Fresno City College the past four years, going 133-11 with teams that annually averaged more than 100 points a game.

The easy comparison is to the old Loyola Marymount style when Paul Westhead was the coach.

"It's going to look like that right now, but I really don't want it to look that way," he said.

"LMU was more about trying to beat you with three. We are not really trying to do that, even though it does look like that this year. It's going to be a work in progress."

Indeed, Pepperdine is generally picked to finish last in the WCC this year, with most of the players from last year returning, meaning Walberg is a year or so away from recruiting the types of athletes who will best fit his system.

So it could be a chance for the Huskies to ease into the season, which begins with three games in three nights in the Basketball Travelers Classic.

Unlike the Black Coaches Association Classic that kicked off UW's season a year ago, the BTC is a round-robin.

UW will play Nicholls State of the Southland Conference on Monday and Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Conference on Tuesday.

Of the three teams, NIU likely poses the most danger. NIU has made the NCAA tournament the past three seasons and has three starters returning from the squad that went 23-10 last season and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Georgetown.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies

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