Washington boxed out Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga in convincing the bruising Brockman to play closer to home.
SEATTLE AREA: Coach Lorenzo Romar is striking it rich in his backyard: Nate Robinson, UW's leading scorer the past three years; current starters Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman; and an '06 commitment from 6'11" Spencer Hawes.
Coach: Lorenzo Romar
2004-05 Record: 29-6 (14-4, 2nd in Pac-10)
2005 tournament: Lost in Sweet 16 to Louisville
*Returning starter **High school stats +Prep school stats
The Huskies look to a scrappy freshman for a much-needed dose of toughness
Many schools, including Duke, wanted to give Jon Brockman a scholarship. But you would never guess that by watching the freshman forward in practices and pickup games, boxing out and diving for loose balls as if he were a walk-on trying to catch somebody's eye. "He comes early, he stays late, he says, 'Yes, Coach,' he does every drill like it's his last," marvels Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. "He does whatever it takes to make an impression. But he also happens to be very talented."
The 6'7", 245-pound Brockman, out of Snohomish (Wash.) High, is, in fact, the biggest recruiting catch ever made by Washington. He brings a ferocious inside presence that the Huskies haven't had in more than 15 years. "I love to rebound," says the soft-spoken Brockman, whose role model for that part of his game is the Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace. "I love to mix it up inside." As evidence, Brockman has been wearing a plastic face mask to protect the nose he broke -- for the fifth time -- in a recent practice.
Brockman's relentlessness comes from playing against his three older siblings, two of whom went on to play in college -- brother Paul, a forward at Bellevue (Wash.) C.C., and sister Kirsten, a forward for Washington whose career was cut short by stress-fractured feet. "[Playing all-out] was the only way I had a chance to beat them," he says, "and beating them was my main focus when I was a little kid."
His main focus this year will be helping the Huskies get beyond the high-water marks they established last year, including the school's first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and first 29-win season since 1938. "We have to do a better job of scoring inside," says Romar. "Last year we scored inside primarily with our guards, offensive rebounding and transition."
Recruited along with Brockman for that purpose was Artem Wallace, a 6'8" post man from Toledo, Wash., who like his fellow freshman doesn't mind mixing it up inside. Mike Jensen, a 6'8" senior coming off shoulder surgery, is expected back in late December. "We still don't have any really big guys, but overall we will be bigger and more physical," says senior guard Brandon Roy. "We learned a lot losing to a physical Louisville team in the Sweet 16 last year."
No doubt Brockman will remind his teammates daily of one of those lessons: Play every game like it's your last.