SEATTLE (AP) -After one exhibition game, Isaiah Thomas is already getting star treatment.
Yet Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was restrained when talking about Thomas after the former Washington state high school phenom scored 27 points in just 19 minutes of his debut last week.
The performance showed why former Huskies' star Nate Robinson, a member of the New York Knicks, recently encouraged the teenager to wear his No. 2 Washington jersey.
``He did a nice job,'' Romar said blandly of his flashy guard after the win over Western Washington last week, their only exhibition before Saturday's season opener at Portland.
No exclamations. No awe like that from Western Washington coach Brad Jackson, who watched Thomas drive past his Vikings in a 9-for-12 shooting debut.
``It is like guarding air,'' Jackson said. ``He is there - and then he's not there.''
Romar just showed a small, wry grin and a slight nod of his head.
so subdued, when everyone else is dreaming of how Thomas joining senior inside force Jon Brockman could have the Huskies back in the NCAA tournament in March after a two-year absence?
``I've always felt that players who have the ability to score like that, you don't say a whole lot to him. You let him play,'' Romar said. ``The worst thing you can do to a scorer is coach him too much.
``You've got to live with the mistakes - and there will be mistakes. But I think the good will outweigh the bad.''
Romar waited two years to give Thomas this hands-off treatment. Thomas spent that time at South Kent School in Connecticut, to get his grades higher than those at Curtis High School so he could enroll at the UW. The 19-year-old said the time there matured him.
At first glance, it didn't diminish the skills that sent him ripping through the Washington state high school tournament a few years ago averaging 41.5 points. He scored 51 points in one game.
Against Division II WWU, Thomas consistently took the ball at the top of the key in half-court sets and sped past four defenders. When the fifth leaped at him near the rim, Thomas floated around or beside him and flipped in smooth shots. He made all eight of his 2-point attempts while going 1-for-3 from 3-point range in the 105-85 win on Thursday.
``Another day at the office,'' Thomas said, displaying what his new teammates call his ``swagger.''
``I really don't drive as much as I did, but my shot wasn't falling,'' he said.
Romar said Thomas won't be driving so easily once the competition gets tougher, beginning this weekend.
``As the season progresses, just about every time he drives it will be contested,'' said Romar of games against defending national-champion Kansas on Nov. 24 in Kansas City, Mo., and the rugged Pac-10 schedule that begins in January.
But that doesn't mean Romar thinks Thomas will be stymied. He said his guard will get to display another, more overlooked skill.
``When we play against teams with bigger size (than WWU), he will dish that out,'' the coach said. ``He will pass.''
Romar wants his players to eliminate the lapses of defense and ball handling that he felt marred the Huskies win over Western. Washington allowed 58 points in the second half and had 20 turnovers, many unforced.
Washington opens play Saturday, on the road for the first time in Romar's six seasons, against the young Pilots. They were 10-23 overall and 3-11 in the West Coast Conference last season.
Portland is returning five players who started at least 13 games last season, and seven of its top eight scorers are back. But the team has no seniors. The Pilots are picked to finish sixth in the eight-team WCC by conference media members.
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