Huskies set for secret scrimmage at Portland


Psst.

The Washington men’s basketball team’s season unofficially begins today, but don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

The Huskies will scrimmage at Portland, but NCAA rules prohibit fans or media from attending.

So pay no attention to the big charter bus parked outside Chiles Center or the tall men wearing purple warm-ups walking into the building.

Don’t ask UW coaches or players what they did this weekend because the NCAA doesn’t allow them to talk specifically about Saturday’s game.

And the score? What score? It’s as if it the scrimmage never happened.

But it will.

In fact, the Huskies are placing a great deal of importance on Saturday’s performance at Portland.

Coach Lorenzo Romar likens it as an early exam for a team that’s picked to finish eighth in a Pac-12 preseason media poll.

After a month of practice, Romar hopes to learn a lot about his team, which is integrating eight newcomers — three freshmen, four transfers and a walk-on — with seven returners.

“The players are probably tired of playing and practicing against each other and they’re anxious to go against someone else,” Romar said. “I’m more curious than anything else.

“As a coach, we want to see how much all of these review sessions have helped for the final. We just want to see where we’re at. This is going to give us a great opportunity to see.”

Specifically, the Huskies want to confirm if co-captains C.J. Wilcox and Perris Blackwell, two fifth-year seniors, will indeed be the leaders of a team that lost three of its top four scorers to graduation.

Wilcox, who underwent offseason foot surgery and returned to practice two weeks ago, is looking for positive signs on his road to recovery.

“I think it (the scrimmage) will help me see where I’m at,” he said.

Romar has settled on a lineup — he declines to announce the starters — and wants to see players respond under game-like situations. He also wants to take a look at the player rotation and plans to experiment with pairings Saturday.

After a foul-fest intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday, Romar said the Huskies need to show a better understanding of the new defensive rules, which prohibit hand-checking and limit charge calls.

The teams will likely play a 20-minute half and 10-minute periods working on zone defense, press defense and late-game situations.

Portland, which was picked to finish ninth in the 10-team West Coast Conference by league coaches, is a familiar opponent. Washington has beaten the Pilots in eight of the past nine meetings. Five years ago the Huskies opened the 2008-09 season at Portland and suffered an embarrassing 80-74 loss that spoiled Isaiah Thomas’ college debut. The game proved to be an early wake-up call for a UW team that finished 26-9 and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

In past years, the Huskies have had their secret scrimmages at Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara.

“We get a dose of what it’s like to go away when we go to Olympia (for training camp), but we’ll treat this trip like we do a regular road game,” Romar said. “You never want to put too much on any one outing, but this is important for us.”

Fans get their first glimpse of the Huskies on Wednesday when they host Central Washington in a 7 p.m. exhibition at Alaska Airlines Arena. The regular season begins Nov. 10 against Seattle University.