Junkyard Dawg shines in debut with Huskies

SEATTLE — For many University of Washington men’s basketball fans, the most beautiful moment of an ugly first half Saturday afternoon came two seconds after freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins checked into the game for the first time this season to a large ovation.

The 260-pound football player turned and set a screen so jolting that Jarrett Mann, Stanford’s 195-pound guard, was shaken like a tree in a winter storm.

Just like that, a UW team that had been manhandled in St. Louis, got pounded by Duke and was bullied by Seattle University, proved that it had a physical inside presence to go along with its flashy wingmen.

“He gives us physicality,” teammate Abdul Gaddy said of Seferian-Jenkins, a scholarship football player and star tight end who joined the UW basketball team earlier this month but hadn’t played a second until Saturday. “He gives us an identity.”

While Seferian-Jenkins didn’t make a single field goal in his Saturday debut — he missed badly on his only shot, a 12-foot jumper from the wing — he scored points with his coach and teammates in 16 minutes of work. He grabbed seven rebounds, matching the team high, and helped defend Stanford’s massive frontline while 7-footer Aziz N’Diaye sat out due to foul trouble.

It all started with the hard screen, for which Seferian-Jenkins was unapologetic afterward.

“Every screen,” he said, “I intend to hit someone really hard.”

The 6-foot-6 power forward didn’t surprise anyone with his physicality. Teammates have felt his stone-like presence in practices since Seferian-Jenkins officially joined the team two weeks ago today. And coach Lorenzo Romar knew very quickly that his new project would have an immediate impact — both figuratively and literally.

“The first day out there (at practice), you said: ‘OK, that’s a little bit different than what we’ve had here,’” Romar said after Saturday’s game.

As for why it took 12 days before Seferian-Jenkins got into a game, Romar said: “He just didn’t know what we were doing. He knew enough to come in and play (Saturday).”

A terse-but-good-natured Seferian-Jenkins was asked after the Stanford game how much of UW’s system he knew.

“I know enough to play,” he said.

As for what it was like to finally get on the basketball court, the former two-sport star at Gig Harbor High School said: “I was having fun.”

Seferian-Jenkins has made such an impact on his coaches — in a figurative sense, thankfully for Romar and his staff — that he’s already moved ahead of freshman teammates Shawn Kemp Jr. and Martin Breunig on the proverbial frontcourt depth chart.

After seeing him in game action for the first time, Romar was glad to have the football player aboard.

“He didn’t score a point, but with what he does, I think he can be effective in most games,” Romar said. “He’s an energy guy that affects what we do.”

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