Jones and Williams celebrate (Getty)
WASHINGTON D.C. - Lorenzo Romar was pretty sure he knew what he had in Bobby Jones when Bobby signed with Washington. Jones was Romar's first recruit, and with that came the usual questions. Who is he? What kind of a player is he? Who would you compare him to? Well, in his four years at Montlake, Jones has carved out a definite niche for himself, one his coach knew he was capable of creating for himself.
"When we first signed Bobby, no one really knew about him, so people kept asking, 'Who is he like, who is he like?', Romar said. "I kept saying, 'Right now, eventually I think he could be like a Michael Cooper'. If you remember Michael Cooper with the (LA) Lakers, he guarded three positions, sometimes four positions. He had the length, footspeed, quickness and tenacity to do that. He was like that, a Michael Cooper, a Stacey Augmon. Stacey Augmon was another that could guard multiple positions. I played with a guy with the Milwaukee Bucks named Paul Pressey. He's an assistant with the Boston Celtics. He's about Bobby's height with long arms who could guard multiple positions. It's a real luxury to have."
It's a luxury the Huskies will use to maximum advantage Friday when they take on No. 1 seed Connecticut Friday night in the third round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Washington D.C. The game will start at 6:57 p.m. PST.
The Huskies are on a big run the past two years, with back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances to show for their hard work. But the then No. 1 seed UW fell hard to Louisville, something this year's hoop dawgs hope to improve on.
"We have a lot of fight in us, that might be the only difference from last year," said senior guard Brandon Roy. "Last year we were a No. 1 seed, and maybe we got a little relaxed. This year we've got more fight. We're hungrier. Everybody wants more, so we're going for it."
Jones was a junior on that team, but as a senior he epitomizes that hunger and how it can translate on the basketball court.
"I would probably call myself an 'annoying defender'," he said, matter-of-factly. "I just want to make it as hard as possible for somebody, no matter if it's being physical, out-quicking them, out-smarting them or whatever. I just want to make it as difficult as possible by throwing different things at them and giving them hell. If I can do that for my team, we've got a great chance to win. At this time of year, defense wins championships, and if I don't do my job, we don't have a chance to win."
In the first round of this year's NCAA tournament, Jones was asked to stop Utah State point guard David Pak. The Aggies are known for running hundreds of sets with military-like precision, so Romar felt that if Jones could lock Pak down from the get-go, the Aggies would be disrupted, getting thrown out of their offensive game as a result.
It worked. It worked so well, in fact, that Jones wanted the next challenge - Illinois' Dee Brown. Romar wasn't sure guarding Brown was going to be the best utilization of Jones, but after scouting the Illini, Romar decided to once again have Jones stop the point.
Two for two. So that obviously begs the question - who does Jones want to guard against Connecticut?
"I want them all at once, but that's impossible," he said with a chuckle. "It's like picking what outfit you want to wear, you can't wear them all at once. I just hope that our teammates step up and follow my lead and play defense on everybody, but I'll probably start out on (Rudy) Gay. I want whoever is going to take the last shot. Whoever that is. (Marcus) Williams is the playmaker on that team, he's the head. He's real balanced. Whoever is the hot man at that time of the game, I'm going to try and slow them down. Whoever gets hot the next five minutes of the game, I'm going to try and slow him down. I'm just slowing whoever is hot at the moment.
"This is going to define my whole career at Washington. It's exciting. I'm just happy to be playing one more game, playing the best teams out there. I can't ask for anything else."
"To beat Connecticut, who I feel if they beat us will probably win the National Championship, that's saying a lot," added Roy. "I think it will mean a lot. I think we'll do an even better job of leaving it all on the floor just to beat them.
"It's something that's possible, we have the pieces to beat them. We feel like we match up good against them, but if we do beat them, I think it's definitely an upset."
"We've been battle-tested," said Jones. "We know what to expect and how to battle through adversity. Whatever happens, we're going to embrace it and battle through it, because no matter what - when those 40 minutes are up - we don't want to have any excuses for any kind of letup.
"We've got our hands full, but they are going to have their hands full too. We're going to come out there like some crazy, wild men, because that's the only way we know how to play. If we think we're going to win, we've got to come out crazy and deranged and leave it all out on the floor. It's going to be hard."