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November 11, 2005

UF transfer hopes to impact UW

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SEATTLE - Ryan Appleby is tired of practicing with the Washington Huskies. He wants to play for real.

"It's been so long," the transfer from Florida said Thursday. "It's been almost a year and a half."

Because he transferred from Gainesville, Fla., to Washington after playing for the Gators as a freshman in the 2003-2004 season, the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard was ineligible to play for the Huskies last season.

The rules said Appleby couldn't travel with his new team last season. So he had to be content with practicing and watching the away games on television if the games were on TV.

"It was hard," he said. "It would have been fun to be there, especially when they were winning like that."

Last Sunday, Appleby got to play in Washington's exhibition game at the campus Bank of America Arena, scoring 20 points and connecting on six 3-pointers in 20 minutes in a 114-48 victory over outmatched Simon Fraser of British Columbia.

This Sunday, he'll play in the Huskies' regular-season opener against Morgan State, a first-round game in the Black Coaches Association Classic.

Washington is coming off a 29-6 season.

"It felt weird being out there in the exhibition game," he said. "Just being in there with refs. Everybody had their jerseys on and there was a crowd there. It was like I hadn't had this feeling so long I didn't know what it felt like."

Appleby, 21, actually returned home to play for the Huskies. He grew up in Stanwood in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, and was a star guard at Stanwood High School, where he had 1,709 points and 763 assists in his prep career.

When he replaced Bob Bender as Washington's coach, Lorenzo Romar tried to recruit Appleby for Washington when he first arrived.

But Appleby accepted a scholarship offer from Florida coach Billy Donovan because he liked Donovan's run-and-gun style.

"We kind of understood that he wasn't just going to stay around," Romar said Thursday.

Appleby didn't like how things went during his season in Gainesville, though. He said Donovan went to a slow-down, half-court offense that didn't suit his game because of the Gators' personnel. It also didn't help that Appleby made only one start and averaged just eight minutes in 23 games. He wound up scoring 24 points and making 27 assists.

"Florida's a long way," Romar said. "I was surprised he didn't play more because he's a pretty good player."

Donovan asked Appleby to stay, but wound up giving him his release and he had it sent to Washington, where he planned to enroll. Appleby made up his mind to play for Romar this time. Ironically, the Huskies are running the way Appleby thought Florida was going to run.

Sitting out last season made Appleby a much better player, he believes, because he had to learn how to defend the Huskies guard tandem of Nate Robinson, now with the New York Knicks, and Will Conroy.

It also helped him offensively.

"I've gotten better at changing speeds," said Appleby, who has been a point guard most of his career, but may be used as a shooting guard off the bench by Romar. "You're never going to just run by Nate. So you have to change speeds on him and stuff like that."

The Huskies have told Appleby they want him to shoot a lot of outside shots, and he's ready for that role. He's expected to provide instant offense for Washington off the bench.

"Since we don't have a ton of shooters on the team, they've asked me to take more of a role really making sure I take open shots," he said. "Otherwise, guys would be playing a zone and helping down on guys who are trying to post up."

The Huskies' best shooter last season was Tre Simmons, a guard now playing in France. The Huskies hope Appleby will be able to step in for him.

"We think he can replace Tre's shooting and hopefully he'll get more and more confident," senior swingman Brandon Roy said. "He's a really good player."

Senior forward Bobby Jones said Appleby will be invaluable to the Huskies if he can hit his open shots.

"As long as he keeps hitting 3s, he's going to be playing a lot of minutes," Jones said. "He's probably the best 3-point shooter on our team."

For more coverage of the Washington Huskies, check out HuskyDigest.com.

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