Conversation with Percy Allen


by: Griffin Bennett

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I just wanted to thank every one of our readers here for making this one of the best communities out there. The last few years have been incredibly fulfilling and knowing that there are other passionate (read: crazy) Husky hoops fans out there makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. To those of you who have chatted with us, tweeted us, messaged us, yelled at us, agreed with us, or even only read us, thank you so much from all of us here at Montlake Madness. Mighty are the men.

With that said, I had the chance to chat with Percy Allen of the Seattle Times. If you read this blog but don’t know who Percy is then there is something wrong with you.

Percy does a great job covering the Husky basketball beat and I wanted to sit down with him and discuss what’s happened in the first few weeks of the season. Here’s the transcript:

Montlake Madness: Who do you think will lose minutes when Scott Suggs returns?

Percy Allen: I think everyone will, and I don’t mean to cop out on the question. He’s just so talented that hes gonna take from everybody and Romar has to see that. Obviously you look at Wilcox because they have similar attributes. I think he pulls from Terrence’s minutes, Wroten’s minutes and Gaddy’s as well. If you can take 4 or 5 minutes from each of them that gives Suggs a solid 20 minutes.

MM: What situations would Suggs help this team out with?

PA: Just experience and providing another scorer. He brings a dynamic out there that can stretch the defense. He will tell you that he’s more than just a jump shooter now so I’m excited to see that but is he really going to put the ball on the floor, drive to the rim, finish with contact and create opportunites for others? We’re waiting to see that. If he can do that then he can bring so much to this squad.

MM: Is the attitude on the team different this year?

PA: I don’t think it’s different but I think Romar has brought a family attitude to this team. I think everyone on the team is very close but just like with any family, there are still some cliques. I do get the sense that they really like each other and that’s got to help.

MM: UCLA and Arizona have struggled early while Cal and Oregon State have surprised. Who do you think is real and who is pretending?

PA: I have said from the beginning that I really like Cal and if I had any guts I would have picked them first instead of second in my preseason poll. More than anything, I like experience at the college basketball level. I think too much is made of the one and done guys. You gotta like what Cal has with that strong nucleus. I don’t know about Oregon State yet. I like what Craig Robinson is building there, though. He’s got athletes. It’s more than just Jared Cunningham. I don’t know if their point guard, Ahmad Starks, is a championship caliber player. He’ll make big shots for them but he can be a defensive weakness.

I think UCLA and Arizona are going to figure things out. The one thing about UCLA I really wonder about is that I don’t think they have fun. Everyone knows that they want to throw it down to Josh (Smith) and it’s a struggle. I don’t think it’s fun for Josh and I don’t think they have fun playing together. They need more perimeter scoring to open things up inside and Reeves Nelson is just a headache right now. He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand how special of a place he is in right now. He is at UCLA. I can’t imagine what guys like Marques Johnson and the other all-time greats are thinking right now. They must be scratching their heads. This kid just doesn’t get it.

As for Arizona, they’re just way too talented. Sean Miller is too good of a coach. Don’t forget about Oregon and Stanford. We are forgetting about Stanford. They are undefeated and while they haven’t played anybody, they won’t play anybody coming up either. They are going to gain a lot of confidence and probably will come into league play with only one loss.

Until I hear from Jabari Brown, I don’t think that situations closed. It’s strange and we’re going to have to see how that plays out.

MM: In terms of the blog, do you have any changes planned or a new structure?

PA: There is no structure at all to the blog. I just wake up in the morning and see what’s next. In my third year with the blog and I feel more connected to west coast basketball and it helps to have some of the coach’s phone numbers and being able to reach them. I’m getting more into the recruiting aspect of it which I never really liked before. If anybody has any ideas or suggestions please help me out. People always say that they want “more” but people need to realize that the blog is basically free. It’s just time donated. There’s only so much that we can do there.

MM: What is one thing that you want to do for the blog that you don’t have the time or resources to accomplish?

PA: Build a database. At some point the Times will invest in one but a database to be able to log past entries and UW scores and have more resources. It’s coming and it’s on the horizon.

MM: Who is the most fun player to interview?

PA: They’re all fine. I like Tony Wroten’s energy. He reminds me of Isaiah or Nate because of his way of looking at life and basketball that are intertwined. Gaddy is good and explains everything well like a senior would. He seems connected to the team in a certain way. Darnell Gant is good because he’s so emotionally connected to the squad as well. Desmond Simmons, too, because he makes statements. He’s not wishy-washy about anything. For a lot of them it’s their first time getting in front of the media and so you have to be patient with them. They are growing into how they want to be presented publicly. With that being said, with social media student athletes are better trained than they ever have been.

MM: Who do you think has to play up to their potential in order for this team to have the most success?

PA: There’s nobody that does what Aziz does. They are going to need him to do that and maybe even a little bit more. The young bigs are freshmen and it’s not fair to expect them to play at a greater level than they are playing at right now. Aziz is an amazing athlete that ran a 5.16 mile. He is so important and vital to their success. Gaddy is important as well, but you kind of saw some things on Sunday that… I don’t know. We’ll see. He just needs to do more. That was the kind of game that you expected to see great things from him. You knew it was going to be a half-court game which he thrives in yet you didn’t see him takeover. I don’t expect him to take over the way Isaiah did but he needs to take over on more possessions. He needs to make his teammates better which is the key role of a point guard.

What you saw in that second half was that Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten took that team on their back and said “If it’s not going to come from us than it’s not going to happen”. I think that was very interesting.

MM: What are your thoughts on Tony Wroten through the first 4 games?

PA: I think it’s going to be fun. He has so much talent. This is why I love this job. It’s to see young men come into their own like this. Anybody who knows basketball can see the talent, so now it’s about how he will develop within this system. Is he okay doing other things? Does he realize that he needs to slow down at times? When will the shooting improve? When will he slow down the turnovers? I think he is fascinating and he has a spirit about him that can be infectious but he has to learn how to win at this level. I like Tony Wroten the “tough guy” more than “Showtime” Tony Wroten. When he muscles to the rim is his greatest gift. He will be successful but it’s going to take some time.

MM: Do you think the Huskies are capable of winning the Pac-12 and beyond with the front court that they have this season?

PA: Oh yeah, and primarily because of what Romar asks of them. I think the talent is there but after Aziz and Gant, there’s a lot of youth. You haven’t seen a lot of Breunig yet. Kemp is slowly getting it. And Desmond Simmons is another guy on Sunday that I thought was tailor-made for his strengths and he didn’t do enough but you have to cut him some slack because it was his fourth game.

MM: Who is the true leader? Who commands the team’s attention when he speaks?

PA: Man, I don’t know. I don’t know. One thing I saw on Sunday was that Scott Suggs was up a lot walking up and down the sidelines getting into guys’ ears. That showed me a lot because Suggs hasn’t been a vocal guy publicly. Gaddy’s body language, I didn’t like it. He can do that at times. He did it as a freshman. He needs to improve that. I don’t know what that says or means but it gives off a bad vibe. I think they’ll need a couple more tough test like that to determine that.

MM: As UCLA and Arizona continue the recruiting arms race, where does that leave Washington?

PA: I wouldn’t panic. Now if the early signing period comes and goes, I would be concerned. You never know with these kids and who is going to come and go. To go into the late summer looking for guys doesn’t seem like a great way to become sustainable. Obviously, Romar and his staff know more than anyone else and they keep saying that they got a handle on all of this. Looking from the outside, you would say ‘wow, what’s going on here’. I think those questions are fair and they haven’t addressed that yet. There’s some thought that 2013 is going to be some sort of a bonanza year but maybe it will and maybe it won’t. Im not sure if it’s a good idea to put all of your eggs in that basket. I didn’t think Isaiah would leave and he left, so who knows what’s going to happen?

MM: Let’s say everything stands pat. No one comes in and no one leaves, other than the seniors. How would the team look to you?

PA: Great. Fantastic. You would have Jernard Jarreau coming in as well as Andrew Andrews and a lot of veterans. Can you tell me that’s going to happen, though? It’s just too unknown.

MM: Who has surprised you the most through the first 4 games?

CJ Wilcox. Those first three games were incredible. He was absolutely amazing. You could envision things for him after those first three. He has really taken steps forward. What happened Sunday hasn’t really changed things for me. For someone who is a shooter, I don’t think he cares if the ball goes in or not. He’s almost robotic that way and it’s almost scary or inhuman. He’s just been incredible and it’s just fantastic for him.

MM: What is the number one issue that could hold this Husky team back from success?

PA: The inexperience, the lack of a leader, “getting it”. And things like that. I think it’s more complicated than shooting, or post-presence, or free throws. It’s more about them coming together and figuring things out as a young team.

MM: Why do you think the Huskies looked so flat in the first half vs. Saint Louis?

PA: Saint Louis that day was better. They need to admit it. Better players, better coach, better plan. You can’t explain away a 29 point defecit. They were just flat out better. They need to grow from that. Lesson learned.

MM: Why do you think Romar is so hesitant to go into the full-court press?

PA: Now, I haven’t talked to him about this. My guess is that Romar would say this: Saint Louis had a mature ball handler and they were scoring down low as well as on the perimeter. Sometimes the press can hurt you just as often as it can help. They went to a ¾ press and you saw what happened to CJ. I think Romar’s answer was ‘let’s switch the defense some.” So they went to man, then zone, then man again. So I don’t think that pressing is the way to go all the time and I think it helps against some teams when you think they are weak in the back court. I didn’t have a problem with that.

MM: Romar is 0-9 in the first true road games of the season. Do you have any insight as to why that might be?

PA: Bad scheduling? You need to schedule some easier games. It could also be a coaching problem. He is the one common denominator there. He doesn’t have a 10 year player. His teams begin slowly that way and I don’t think he necessarily minds. There have been some ugly losses and they’ve gone on to win many games after that. It’s almost become an annual tradition in Seattle. They win early, then lose some road games, then win in conference, then they stumble again and every one panics, then they peak at the end of the season and lose in the sweet sixteen. I think they’ll be fine. As a coaching staff they may need to take a look at what they are doing.

MM: Wroten said that he was going to be off twitter. Over/under 1 month before he breaks his silence?

PA:  Haha. If they beat Duke I can guarantee that he’ll be back on. How about that?

MM: What’s your opinion on the Ben Howland and Reeves Nelson situation.

PA: I think it’s sad. I don’t think it’s funny. I don’t think Nelson understands the opportunity that he has. It is a privledge to put on that uniform. You have to respect those that played before you. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out. You have to wonder what’s going on down there. Howland is a fantastic coach but man, they’ve had some struggles and disciple problems.

MM: What do you think is Josh Smith’s problems?

PA: It’s a personal problem. There’s only so much that the coaches can do and then it’s on you. It’s on Josh Smith to get in shape and stay in shape and get in better shape. His potential is amazing and if he could just control that one aspect, getting in shape, I don’t see why he couldn’t be just like Jared Sullinger. I think he could be better but he’s not mentioned like that because of his weight.

Bow Down.