By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It could be said that Quincy Pondexter has been waiting for this day for four years.
For Alicia Miller and Nate Taggart, it’s been just about 45 hours in the making. Forty-five long, cold hours.
Miller, a 23-year-old graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, and Taggart, a 21-year-old Stanwood High School grad, are University of Washington seniors and diehard fans of the Huskies’ men’s basketball team. So when they heard that ESPN GameDay was coming to town for a live broadcast that begins at 8 a.m. today, Miller and Taggart made sure to get there early.
How early? Try 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
“We’re kind of isolated out here in the Northwest — not a lot of people know about us — so it’s our chance to be on the national stage and show everyone what we’re all about,” Miller said when asked why it was so important for her to be part of this morning’s GameDay experience. “We really do think we’re one of the best student sections in the nation.”
Miller and Taggart were among the first group of people to set up tents outside of Hec Edmundson Pavilion on both Thursday and Friday nights. Taggart said he wanted to assure that his group of about a dozen people would get to sit in their usual seats for both this morning’s telecast and tonight’s game against UCLA, which begins at 6 p.m.
GameDay picks a different college campus for its Saturday morning telecasts, and months ago today’s UW-UCLA game looked like a prime ticket. Even though both teams have struggled, the ESPN show will go on, as will tonight’s nationally-televised game.
Even Thursday’s home loss to USC, which all but assured that the Huskies (17-9 overall, 7-7 in the Pac-10) will need to win the Pac-10 tournament to get into the NCAA tourney, didn’t dampen the spirits of UW’s hardcore fans.
“If we would’ve won (against USC), it would have been a little bit bigger deal,” said Taggart, whose Thursday night sleepover included a few minutes of cramming for a Friday mid-term in his Human Sexuality class. “But people have been looking forward to this for a long time.”
Of course, the most emotional man in the building later tonight may well be Pondexter. The UW senior is playing his final home game at Hec Ed, and he knows that it’s a game he will never forget.
“I haven’t been trying to think about it too much,” Pondexter said Friday afternoon. “It’s crazy to think that four years here have come to a close at Hec Ed. I’m going to truly miss it. I love the University of Washington. I’m truly a Husky. I’ve adopted the city of Seattle. I’m going to really miss this place.”
Pondexter is the last remaining member of a celebrated recruiting class that also included Spencer Hawes (now with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings), Adrian Oliver (now at San Jose State) and Phil Nelson (now at Portland State).
Head coach Lorenzo Romar said it will be hard to see Pondexter in his final regular-season home game.
“You get attached to your guys,” he said. “The times that you’re on them, the times you have to discipline them — when you see them in that tunnel for the last time, you realize that will never happen again.”
For Pondexter, his senior year hasn’t turned out quite like he’d hoped. While he is a candidate for Pac-10 player of the year, Pondexter is part of a UW team that has failed to live up to expectations. The Huskies have gone from a nationally-ranked team to a Pac-10 contender to an NCAA bubble team. And after Thursday night’s loss to USC, that bubble burst.
“We still have the same goals,” Pondexter said. “There is no guarantee that if we won that we’d still get into the NCAA tournament.
“We still have to come out and play as hard as we possibly can in front of (a national television) audience that’s watching. We’ve got to do everything the right way and let everything else take care of itself.”
Pondexter was hoping that today’s game would be significant for more reasons than Senior Night and ESPN GameDay. But seeing as how this could be his final game at Hec Ed — there is a chance the Huskies could get a home game in the NIT — Pondexter will be ready.
“I was telling my friend on the way here: ‘Man, for the last game, I might stay outside in one of those tents,’” he said of the 20 or so tents that were set up outside the arena before he arrived for a Friday afternoon practice. “But he said that wouldn’t be a good idea.”