Practice pays off for Bainbridge High School alum

Rudy Sharar (center) and the UW men
Rudy Sharar (center) and the UW men's basketball team celebrate with the Pac-10 tournament trophy after the Huskies' 79-75 win over California last weekend.
— image credit: Getty Images

From the second row of the Staples Center, Rudy Sharar watched as the University of Washington Huskies won the Pac-10 Championship last Saturday.

As the players celebrated, a UW team manager invited Sharar to join the team on the court for the trophy ceremony and to cut down a piece of the championship net.

While Sharar’s name can’t be found on the team roster and his jump shot doesn’t appear on any highlight reels, the UW junior has been a fixture of the men’s basketball program throughout the season.

Sharar, a 2007 Bainbridge High School alum, is a practice player for the Huskies.

“I love the UW and I love the program,” Sharar said. “I’ve always followed UW basketball. I would do anything the coaches asked me to do.”

Sharar was a member of the 2006-2007 Bainbridge squad that finished second in the 3A state championship, and sought competitive basketball at the UW.

“I found myself missing it a lot,” he said. “Luckily it’s such a big school here (that) a bunch of people are always playing pick-up games. I was playing four days a week – it wasn’t that competitive.”

But last October, Sharar found an opportunity to be a part of a team again.

Several UW players were out with the flu, Sharar said, and the Huskies needed practice players.

“They were practicing with like six guys, so they announced that they would be holding an open tryout in a couple of days for any UW undergrad who was interested,” he said.

While only eight students tried out, Sharar was invited to meet with head coach Lorenzo Romar the next day.

“He just asked me, and another guy, Brendan Sherrer, if we’d like to be practice players for now,” Sharar said. “He said: ‘Just come to practice every day and see where it takes us. It could end at any time.’

“He’d never really done this before. He didn’t really know how it would unfold and what our role would be necessarily.”

Hard work, no promises

As practice players, Sharar and Sherrer began lifting weights at 8 a.m. and attended team practices every day.

“That’s been another adaptation,” said Sharar, a biochemistry major. “Coming into college is one thing. You take a year to get adjusted, and then adding all the time spent in the gym on top of that, going to weights for an hour, and going to a three-hour practice in the afternoon – that’s been another challenge.”

Sharar’s participation in team practices varies daily.

“That’s another cool thing about my role – I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do every day,” he said. “Some days I could be in every drill, sometimes I might not be doing as much. You have to adapt.”

The gains he made in the weight room have made a difference during team practices, he said.

“I’ve been able to be less fatigued when I’m going up against guys who are way more physical, way more athletic than I am – that gives me a mental edge,” said Sharar, who has gained 15 pounds since October. “When you play with guys who are really good and really skilled, you get better. You almost absorb it.”

Sherrer was added to the team roster as a walk-on in November.

“As the year progressed it was clear that I was going to be a practice player for the rest of the year,” Sharar said. “When he added Brendan to the roster, (Coach Romar) said, ‘Right now I’d still like you to be a practice player. I don’t know what your role will be next year. We’ll see what it comes to at the end of year.’”

While Sharar didn’t attend away games during the regular season, he made his first trip with the team to the Pac-10 tournament.

“I didn’t go to any other games on the road,” he said. “The whole atmosphere there was a buzzing everywhere. The hotel was 50 yards from the Staples Center. There was a constant buzz and just really cool.”

Student of the game

As a senior, Sharar was the Spartans’ sixth man during their run to the state final in 2007.

“I’ve always had the mentality that I was never a huge star, necessarily, athletically, and I always had the mentality where I’m just going to go out and work as hard as I can every day to make myself better and make the people I’m playing with better,” Sharar said. “I think that was a great characteristic a lot of people had my senior year, which is why we did so well.”

Former BHS basketball coach Scott Orness wasn’t surprised when he found out Sharar joined the Huskies as a practice player.

“He’s always been a guy just trying to get the most out of whatever experience,” he said. “His great positive attitude, his competitive edge, really all the qualities you want in an athlete.”

Sharar has never sought the spotlight.

“It wasn’t too much of a transition mentally in terms of knowing that I wouldn’t be playing at all and that there wouldn’t necessarily be any fame associated,” Sharar said. “I wasn’t doing it for those reasons in the first place.

To Orness, who served as head boys basketball coach from 2001-2008, Sharar’s work ethic stands out as his strongest quality.

“He’s just always been one of the hardest working players and a real student of the game,” Orness said.

Sharar was the team’s “spark plug” off the bench as a senior, Orness said.

“He represented everything that I wanted my program to be,” Orness said. “He never had to work at it. He was always respectful to other people and he worked his tail off. He is the type of kid who would commit to every single drill.”

Since 2001, Orness has held summer basketball camps on the island, and has recruited former players like Sharar and Steven Gray to participate as coaches. Sharar has worked at the camp since high school, and hopes to return this year.

“I just love that those little kids look up to you,” he said. “I remember when I was a little kid, the counselors were so cool. People look up to you and you want to do your best and help them out. There’s no downside.”

“He’s just a great friend to people when he works at the camp and he’s always one of our best coaches,” Orness said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all when I heard he was trying out and he was going to be one of those top two guys. It’s easy for the coach to see the type of person he is.”

Sharar traveled with the team to San Jose, Calif., for the Huskies’ first-round NCAA tournament match-up against Marquette Thursday.

“I didn’t really except to travel at all,” Sharar said. “That was kind of a nice bonus. To see the team play so well just added even more to it.”

While Sharar’s future with the team is uncertain, he remains focused on savoring the March Madness experience and helping the team advance in the tournament.

“I haven’t had any expectations,” he said. “Every aspect about it has been really rewarding.”

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