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Originally published February 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 13, 2007 at 9:02 PM

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Dentmon says added weight thwarted him

Justin Dentmon's understandably not paying much attention these days to what is said and written about the Washington men's basketball team...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Justin Dentmon's understandably not paying much attention these days to what is said and written about the Washington men's basketball team.

So Tuesday afternoon, the sophomore guard insisted he hadn't yet heard the news of the day — that the Huskies had gotten a surprise commitment from Franklin High School point guard Venoy Overton, who had been previously thought headed to USC.

Overton, some suspect, could have a chance at immediate playing time next season, beefing up a UW backcourt that has been a disappointment this season. None has struggled more than Dentmon, who admitted again Tuesday that "it's been a rough year," precipitated when he bulked up too much in offseason workouts.

Many wondered what the Overton commitment indicated about Dentmon's future role at Washington.

That's a question UW coach Lorenzo Romar can't directly address as he can't speak about the commitment of Overton until he signs a letter of intent in April. But Romar said the Huskies coaching staff has not lost faith in Dentmon.

"It would shock me more than this season shocked me if Justin Dentmon doesn't come back next year with fire in his eyes," Romar said.

Dentmon, likewise, predicted a bright future for himself at UW.

"I have no doubts I will work past this," he said.

His problems this season, Dentmon said, have been a mixture of issues with conditioning, confidence and fitting into a new role.

After a freshman season in which he was voted to the All-Pac-10 freshman team and capped off by keying the comeback that beat Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Dentmon spent the offseason dreaming big.

He admits he had thoughts of turning pro as quickly as he could, and thus thought he needed to add a little bulk. After spending a few days in July as a counselor at a Nike basketball camp, he returned to Seattle and hit the weights, gaining about 10 pounds, up to about 195.

"So I could just bully people around [on the court]," he said. "But I had a hard time adjusting to that weight. I wasn't used to carrying that kind of weight around."

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He also, admittedly, got out of optimum basketball shape in the process, and said he wouldn't repeat the same regimen in the next offseason.

"I really didn't take it as seriously as I should have," said Dentmon, who has his weight down to 188.

Said Romar: "Early on [his problem] was conditioning. Then he went through that phase where he had a lot of high expectations for himself and he went through a period where his expectations weren't being met and he started pressing. And when that doesn't work, you lose a little confidence."

That led to Dentmon's benching in January after the Huskies began Pac-10 play 0-2, with Romar saying Dentmon simply wasn't playing hard enough.

Dentmon said that was a wake-up call to improve his effort, and Romar says "his effort has been better than it had been earlier. I think sometimes when he struggled, it affected his effort. Now, it's not affecting his effort as much. As long as he puts forth the effort, he can break through."

Romar holds hope that can still happen this season. He was reluctant to answer questions about the future, pointing out that UW still has some season left.

"I think he's just a couple of made shots away from playing like he can play," Romar said.

So far, though, those shots just haven't come. Dentmon took heat for attempting five shots — missing them all — in the final 3 ½ minutes of the 65-61 loss to Washington State on Feb. 14 instead of getting the ball inside to Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman.

Dentmon admits he has struggled with being a point guard expected to score — something the Huskies coaches ask of their point guards — while also making sure the ball goes to the right place.

"We've never really had a post presence like this and we are struggling with it," Dentmon said. "We're still trying to work it through."

Throughout, Dentmon has struggled with turnovers; he has 90 overall, the most of any point guard in the conference except Arizona's Mustafa Shakur (92).

"It's more mental," Dentmon says of the turnovers. "Being lackadaisical."

Dentmon knows he won't have time for that next season with Overton in the fold, Stanford transfer Tim Morris becoming eligible, and Joel Smith coming off an injury redshirt year to add competition for playing time in the backcourt.

What he also doesn't have time for, he says, is listening to critics of his play.

"What they say doesn't define me as a player," he said. "I play for myself and my team. What they say doesn't affect me."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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