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Originally published February 12, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 13, 2007 at 11:27 AM

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Steve Kelley

Hawes back just in time to show up the critics

The blogs have been beating on him for weeks. The e-mailers have questioned every missed jump hook, every rebound they thought Spencer Hawes...

Seattle Times staff columnist

The blogs have been beating on him for weeks.

The e-mailers have questioned every missed jump hook, every rebound they thought Spencer Hawes should have grabbed and didn't.

The talk-show callers have found ways to hang every Washington loss on his broad shoulders.

All of it has been grossly unfair.

The real Spencer Hawes is just emerging.

Hawes is good. NBA draft good. No 7-footer in Huskies history has possessed anything close to the array of jump hooks and slip passes Hawes has. No big man on this huge campus has ever had game like Hawes has game.

Yo, bloggers, you've got it all wrong.

Wednesday

WSU at UW, Edmundson Pavilion, 7 p.m., FSN

Think about the 20-plus pounds he lost during an illness that struck in the second week of the Pac-10 season and lingered like an unwanted party guest.

Look at the numbers. Hawes is Washington's leading scorer, averaging 14.8 points a game, and is second in rebounds at 5.8

"It was a battle. I was pretty sick," Hawes said of his illness. "I couldn't really sleep that well. I was always trying to catch up. But the toughest part was not eating anything. When you don't eat, you don't sleep, you don't have any energy. But still, I don't think being sick is an excuse or anything like that."

Look at Sunday's 64-52 victory over Stanford. Check the numbers — 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one timely block. It tells you where Hawes is and where he's heading.

"Today he made a name for himself," point guard Justin Dentmon said.

What we saw against Stanford is the next big step in the maturation of Spencer Hawes.

During a late second-half flurry, his first shot was blocked by Brook Lopez. Hawes grabbed the rebound, switched hands and missed a contested left-hander, got another rebound and scored.

"I probably would have missed the shot [a month ago in the first meeting against Stanford]. Then dribbled the ball off my foot," Hawes said. "And then gotten a technical [foul] for being mad about it."

That was then. This is now. This is Hawes finally almost healthy. This is Hawes back in the starting lineup for the first time since the overtime loss to California seven games ago on Jan. 13. Back on his game.

"During the game I wasn't thinking, 'Wow, Spence is playing really good tonight,' " said forward Jon Brockman. "I was just thinking, 'This is Spence.' That was him, right there."

This is what has NBA scouts lining up for a second and third look. This, not the stuff you read from the misguided bloggers, is the truth.

With Hawes slowly getting back to playing and feeling like himself, Washington has won five of its past six games. It has gone from RIP to a much-improved RPI.

Hawes has been the difference.

"Whenever you have perceived greatness, there are a lot of expectations," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "That kind of comes with the territory. I think it's unfortunate that people were criticizing Spencer when he wasn't able to play at full strength. But that's just life in the big city when you play sports at a high level. You don't get to take a seminar to prepare for it."

Against Stanford's highly regarded Lopez twins, Hawes played as angry as a jealous astronaut.

In his best half of the season and his best game since the December win over Louisiana State, he scored eight of Washington's first nine points in the second half.

He worked the right baseline, took a pass from Ryan Appleby and scored. He spun on the baseline, went into the air, switched the ball to his left hand and converted. He hit a jumper off the glass and made two free throws.

"You don't see many guys in this league go one-on-one with those guys [the Lopez twins] and come out on top," Romar said.

Several times this season, Hawes has admitted being frustrated with the inconsistency of his play. He played summers against all of his game's wunderkindren. He played against Texas' Kevin Durant and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright, against Brook and Robin Lopez. And he was as good as they were.

But summers are fantasy rides. This is the real world, a brave, new world, where every missed shot, every bad pass, every shrug and scream are analyzed by bloggers from Biloxi to Blaine.

And while Durant et al have been praised on every Internet service and on every ESPN show, Hawes, unfairly, has either been skewered or forgotten.

"It's like everybody watches your every move," Hawes said. "If you make one bad play, somebody's writing about it. That's been a tough adjustment, but you just can't buy into what everybody says. I felt a lot better tonight and, hopefully, I can get back into form."

Pay attention. These next five or six weeks you'll get the best of Spencer Hawes. The best is yet to come.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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