It’s time to start paying attention to the UW basketball team

Feb 4, 2016, 2:40 PM
Freshman Dejounte Murray is one of the primary reasons for excitement about the UW basketball team. (AP)

Freshman Dejounte Murray is one of the primary reasons for excitement about the UW basketball team. (AP)

The flow of the Washington men’s basketball game Wednesday night was sluggish. Officials called 60 fouls and play was halted for multiple lengthy reviews. From Brock Huard’s and Mike Salk’s perspectives, that appears to be the only thing thinks can slow these high-flying Huskies down.

“If you haven’t started watching this team by now, you seriously are missing out,” Salk said. “They are incredibly fun to watch. They’re a great story in the making.”

Related: Huskies’ Chris Petersen: ‘A lot of stress’ put on players through the recruiting process

There’s plenty to be excited about with the fresh-faced Husky squad, which, after Wednesday’s win, is 15-7 overall and 7-3 in conference play heading into a rematch with No. 23 Arizona. Head coach Lorenzo Romar is starting a senior point guard and four freshmen, including Dejounte Murray.

Huard called the Huskies must-see TV, saying the games feel like they used to when Washington was led by stars like Nate Robinson, Will Conroy and Isaiah Thomas, guys who you were never sure of what they might be capable of next.

“They can play any style of game, they are so athletic, and there truly is a fun factor when you’ve got seven freshmen that are thrown in there with varying skill-sets, varying levels of maturity, about all the same fundamental challenges in their brief moments,” he said.

Murray, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, is averaging 15.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He recorded a double-double against Arizona State Wednesday with a career-high 34 points and 11 rebounds.

Salk – who is wishing Murray does well “but not too, too well” for fears of him skipping off to the NBA – said he loves how well the 19-year-old seems to glide to the rim.

“He plays in the flow of the game, and all of the things you’d want him to do, until you need him to go one-on-five,” Salk said. “And last night, when they got down nearly 20 points, he went one-on-five for about 10 minutes and he was unbelievable to watch.”

Scouts are projecting Murray and his 6-foot-10 wingspan as an early second- or late first-round pick. Huard hopes he isn’t a one-and-done so that he can develop his thin frame and his overall game.

“That ball, even though he’s (6 feet 5) and he’s so long, it is on a string. It is a yo-yo,” he said. “His crossovers and his moves honestly are of a 5-foot-10 point guard.”

Salk said the best description of Murray is “slippery” as he keeps moving toward the basket, similar to a smaller, quicker version of long-time Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

“This is what I like about both of them – Paul Pierce just kept going to the basket,” said Salk, a Boston native. “I probably watched more Pierce than most people around here did, but he’s never that fast, he’s not that strong, but the next thing you know he’d just be at the rim. And I think Murray’s kind of the same way.”

Murray and his teammates can struggle shooting at times, but Salk said his favorite part of the team is that even when its shots aren’t falling, the Huskies are still fantastic offensive rebounders and they block a lot of shots.

“They get to the rim, they rebound offensively and they can play defense,” Salk said. “Those three things make this team, I think, as inconsistent as they are, dangerous in an NCAA tournament.”

Prior to Wednesday’s win, ESPN’s Joe Lundardi projected Washington as a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. That number will be lower if the Huskies can manage a win in front of their home crowd Saturday against the Wildcats.

“If you’re not paying attention, you’re missing out on this opportunity,” Huard said.

You can hear the entire conversation during the first hour of Thursday’s edition of “Brock and Salk.”

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It’s time to start paying attention to the UW basketball team