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Originally published Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 6:56 PM

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Huskies hope to add an inside player

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies would like to add a player to the frontcourt during the offseason.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Washington Huskies struck gold last year, plucking 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye from the College of Southern Idaho late in the recruiting season.

Lorenzo Romar hopes to do it again.

"We're looking to add to our front line," the Washington coach said Tuesday in the final news conference of the 2010-11 men's basketball season. "I wouldn't say we're close, nor is it something that's a wish list.

"We have a chance to upgrade there, and it's something we're exploring."

Romar acknowledged it will be "a challenge" to replace departing senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning with his players that are expected to return.

But challenging doesn't mean impossible.

In his first season with the Huskies, N'Diaye appeared in every game and started 25. He immediately improved UW's defense while blocking 39 shots and averaging 5.7 rebounds.

Still, N'Diaye is limited offensively. He tallied a season-high 15 points but broke double digits in scoring just three times. Romar said N'Diaye can improve as a low-post scoring threat.

The coaching staff is looking to get N'Diaye into summer basketball camps, and he's also expected to work out with former UW stars Detlef Schrempf, Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes.

"I really anticipate Aziz being better on the block," Romar said. "Him and Darnell Gant need to treat this summer like it's a season."

Gant, a 6-8 junior forward, has been a role player the past three seasons, averaging 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds. He's the most experienced Husky, and Romar expects he'll be one of the team leaders next season.

"This will be the first time in Darnell's career where he comes in with a great, great chance to make a big impact early," Romar said. "In other years ... he was just trying to get on the floor.

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"This year he made more strides, and next year will be the first time in his career where he's coming in and we're going to ask him to make sure you're prepared to take on a bigger role."

Romar expressed confidence in N'Diaye and Gant, while stressing the importance of adding a big man to the roster.

"Someone who can make a basket around the rim and rebound, we can use that," he said.

Should the Huskies fail to bolster the front line, 6-6 guard Terrence Ross might have to help inside.

Washington is loaded in the backcourt, and Romar is not averse to playing a four-guard lineup.

"You win if you score points in the paint — dribble penetration, post up your bigger wings and offensive rebounding," he said. "All of those are points in the paint. And the objective is to try to do that.

"There's some guys that can emerge and be functional down there on the block. They haven't necessarily shown it yet."

While some Huskies will be asked to take on new responsibilities, Isaiah Thomas will return to shooting guard on a part-time basis.

The 5-9 junior assumed point-guard duties when Abdul Gaddy suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 4. Thomas led the Pac-10 with 213 assists, six shy of the Washington season record.

Romar said Thomas excelled as a playmaker, but believes Thomas will split time at point guard with Gaddy and incoming freshman Tony Wroten Jr.

"Those are all guys that can make plays for themselves and for others," Romar said. "They're all dangerous, with Abdul probably being the guy that really is just looking to run the team. But all three can run a team.

"But in our situation with Ross and (Scott) Suggs and (C.J.) Wilcox, you have some wings that all three are really good. Any of those combination of guys can go out and make us pretty effective."

Note

Justin Holiday accepted an invitation to play in the Portsmouth Invitational, joining Bryan-Amaning.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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