Originally published December 4, 2011 at 8:04 PM | Page modified December 4, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Washington is taking a big bite of the Big Apple

In addition to playing a pair of games on basketball's biggest stage, the Huskies will slip behind the Broadway curtains of a Tony Award-winning musical, watch the filming of a television drama and visit the Sept. 11 memorial.

Seattle Times staff reporter


UW vs. Marquette

@ New York, 6 p.m., ESPN

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With six days to spend in New York, the Washington men's basketball team crammed everything it could into its schedule.

In addition to playing a pair of games on basketball's biggest stage, the Huskies will slip behind the Broadway curtains of a Tony Award-winning musical, watch the filming of a television drama and visit the Sept. 11 memorial.

"For us to spend a week in New York will be a great experience on and off the court," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "For some of these guys, it's their first time in the city.

"As we were putting the trip together, we had a chance to add some activities that I hope will really make this trip memorable."

If Washington (4-2) upsets No. 16 Marquette (7-0) on Tuesday and No. 3 Duke (7-1) on Saturday at famed Madison Square Garden, then UW fans will never forget the trip.

The task appears daunting considering the Huskies lost their previous road games this season to a pair of mid-majors — Saint Louis and Nevada.

"These games are very important and we got to handle things on the court," said senior co-captain Darnell Gant. "We're also looking to have some fun off the court."

The men's basketball squad is the first Washington team to include an academic component to a regular-season domestic trip.

Kim Durand, Washington's associate athletic director for student development, and Sarah Nash Gates, the executive director of the UW drama department, organized the curriculum.

Players took a three-class course from Nash Gates on the musicals "Memphis" and "The Lion King." They'll attend both productions this week and meet backstage with the cast and director of "Memphis."

The Huskies are required to write a paper before receiving two credits for the course.

"While they have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play basketball at Madison Square Garden, there are other things educationally that makes sense while they are there," Durand said. "Obviously, Broadway was a no-brainer. It's enhanced because Darnell is a drama major."

Durand worked closely with Romar and Lance LaVetter, director of basketball operations, to make sure the trip was approved by the NCAA.

The Huskies cleared several scheduling and logistical conflicts, including unforeseen hurdles.

Because NCAA rules require visiting teams to arrive at a nontournament-game site no more than 48 hours before a game and leave within 24 hours after, Washington had to petition for an exemption. Because the trip had an academic component, the NCAA allowed the team to stay in New York.

Walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Alex Wegner needed to pay for their Broadway tickets or else return to Seattle midway through the trip.

The school also needed to find seating at the Shubert Theater and the Minskoff Theater to accommodate 12 players on the roster who are 6 feet 5 or taller.

"A lot of the venues there are old theaters for people that are much smaller," Durand said. "It's been a little trial and error thinking through things you wouldn't normally think of. Some neat things have fallen into place, but it has been a lot of people working together for a long period of time to put it all together."

Taking a trip to the Sept. 11 memorial was Romar's idea.

The Huskies visited Ground Zero in 2008 when they played in the Preseason NIT, and it was important for the coach to return.

"Coach wanted to go, so we're going," LaVetter said. "A lot of these kids were 8, 9 or 10 years old when it happened. I don't know what they remember or how it affects them. For everyone, it's very personal."

The Huskies were also invited by actor and Mount Vernon native Jim Caviezel, whose brother Tim is a former Husky basketball player, to watch the filming of his TV show "Person of Interest."

In addition to the games and off-court activities, players are preparing for next week's finals.

"Every day is a load," said LaVetter, who arranged the schedule for UW's 32-person official traveling party. "Just finding a place to eat in Manhattan during the holiday season can be impossible.

"You look at our itinerary and it's jampacked. It's good, though. It's worth the trouble."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or On Twitter @percyallen.

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