Young Washington roster ready for challenges ahead

SEATTLE (AP) Midway through Lorenzo Romar’s news conference on Thursday the Washington coach was asked if he could assess each of his new players.

”All nine of them?” Romar asked incredulously, half-joking.

While it may have been a time-consuming answer – one that Romar completed without complaint – it also holds the key to the Huskies’ season: Will the new players be able to contribute and how quickly will they be ready to do so?

Washington, which has missed the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons, will need to fill the holes left by eight departed players who left by way of graduation, transfer and dismissal. Most notably, former McDonald’s All-American Nigel Williams-Goss left the program for Gonzaga, where he will have two more years of eligibility.

In their place are seven highly touted freshmen. The recruiting class is regarded by pundits as Romar’s best as he enters his 14th season at the helm of the Huskies.

There is one injury concern as the Huskies begin full practices. Freshman forward Marquese Chriss suffered a fractured wrist and is expected to be sidelined for a few weeks, but should be ready for the start of the regular season in November.

Along with Chriss, all of Washington’s freshmen have the potential to contribute immediately, beginning with the Huskies’ unique season opener on Nov. 14 in Shanghai against Texas. What the players are talking about even more than the ability to contribute right away, though, is how they have meshed as teammates.

”These guys are like all of my best friends, I love all the guys,” said freshman Matisse Thybulle.

Thybulle is one of four incoming freshmen from the Seattle area. Dejounte Murray and David Crisp were teammates at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle and Dominic Green made a name for himself at Hazen High School in nearby Renton.

While the team will be young and inexperienced, Romar said the personnel will allow the Huskies to return to a playing style they haven’t been able to sustain the past few years.

”I think we have the ability to pressure the basketball more than we have in the last two, three years,” Romar said. ”I think we have a group, collectively, that’s better at making plays – making plays for themselves or making plays for others.”

Whether that translates to wins is yet to be seen. Murray, a five-star recruit who is expected to be a big contributor early, won’t promise wins. That doesn’t mean he lacks confidence.

”Each year is a new year,” he said. ”What they expect from this team this year is just a bunch of dudes, freshmen or transfers … we’re just going to play hard. We can’t set no expectations like we’re going to win every game or we’re going to lose every game. I just know we’re going to play hard every single game, both ends of the floor. We all trust each other and enjoy having each other, being brothers.”