Pride factor: New arena a place that will impress Husky recruits

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Monday, November 20, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — Their lavishly remodeled home court is almost ready for occupancy.

Now it’s time for the Washington Huskies to take advantage of it.

Nineteen months of work and $40 million have transformed creaky Hec Edmundson Pavilion into a college basketball showplace, now known as Bank of America Arena, that will host its first games this weekend.

The UW women will play defending national champion Connecticut at 9 p.m. Friday and the men will face New Mexico State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

After a year playing off campus at KeyArena, where the atmosphere often was as cold as it was quiet, the Huskies are eager to experience a raucous home advantage again.

"KeyArena was a home away from home," senior guard Bryan Brown said. "It was a trip down there and not all our students would come. We weren’t packing it up, so it wasn’t very loud. I know this place will be rocking and hopefully we can intimidate the other teams. Force them into turnovers and bad shots, and into not knowing when the shot clock is running down."

Besides the 40 minutes of hell for opponents, there’s a long-term benefit to a new facility.

UW men’s coach Bob Bender said the arena also will become a bragging point in his recruiting efforts. He didn’t exactly hide them from Hec Ed, but he also didn’t go out of his way to point out the dingy hallways and cramped facilities of the 73-year-old building.

"You would probably spend a minimal amount of time walking through Hec-Ed," he said.

Now, it may be the first place he takes a recruit.

"We’ve added another part of the recruiting puzzle that can be positive," he said. "This is something that shows, one, a commitment and, two, that we’ve taken a huge step up in one of the areas of that is a big part of recruiting, and that is facilities."

What recruits want, Bender said, is a pledge that the university is serious about the sport, and facilities often are the most obvious examples. The Huskies’ new arena, the modern locker rooms and expanded weight room should be a huge selling point, Bender said.

"When you look at it from a recruit’s standpoint, you say, ‘What is going to help me get to where I want to go? I need support, I need all these things.’ If they’re in place, then … it always comes together easier. We didn’t always have something to accentuate in that area."

And when the talent is in place, it’s just a matter of turning up the noise and heat on opponents.

"It should have an immediate impact on this team," Bender said. "There’s a pride factor. It’s like, ‘This is our home court. Look at what it has become. Now I want to protect this home court.’

"It’s what we do with it. That’s what we’ve got to capture."

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