Thursday, January 9, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sanford, Huskies' Leading Scorer, Adds Talk To His Walk

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

`IT USED TO BE he didn't say a word,' says teammate Jamie Booker, but now Mark Sanford chats up a storm, filling teammates' ears with encouragement and advice.

An hour before game time, Mark Sanford is chatting with center Todd MacCulloch. Minutes later, he pulls guard Donald Watts close. Watts has been struggling, and Sanford fills his ear with encouragement and advice.

And even when no one is near, Sanford is gabbing.

No one inside Washington's cramped locker room bats an eye. The Huskies have gotten used to this routine.

A few lockers away, however, Jamie Booker, Washington's captain and lone senior, smiles.

"It used to be he didn't say a word," Booker said. "It used to be Mark would come in before games, get dressed, go out and play and afterward go home, and the whole time not say anything. Not during the games and not off the court, either."

Back then Sanford was satisfied to let his game do his talking. He averaged 14.5 points as a freshman and raised his average two points last season.

Now Sanford is piling up as many words as points.

"He's much more vocal," Booker said. "Sometimes I have to get in guys' faces to motivate them and get them going. Sometimes you don't know how they'll take that. . . .

"Now Mark is doing some of that. He'll get in a guy's face and take charge. He's taken it on himself to be more vocal, and that takes some pressure off me."

Washington's do-everything forward leads the Huskies in scoring, rebounding, minutes played and another category.

"The most `Let's-get-it-going,' " guard Jan Wooten said.

With his next two points, Sanford will join 23 other Huskies who have scored 1,000 career points. Statistics, however, are the last thing on his mind.

"We've got to win," he said of Washington's game tonight against Oregon State at Edmundson Pavilion. "It's only the 11th game, but it's critical."

Critical because Washington is 0-2 in Pac-10 games. Critical because the Huskies have their first losing streak of the season. And critical because 17th-ranked Oregon visits Saturday and back-to-back home losses could harm Washington's NCAA Tournament hopes.

"You can't fall 0-3 in the league and hope to be up there at the end of the season," Sanford said. "That's an uphill struggle nobody wants to start out with. We're going to find out what we're made of."

The Beavers (0-1, 4-6) are winless in three road games, and Washington (0-2, 7-3) is 5-0 at home. Washington also should get a favorable matchup against Sanford. The Beavers will counter the Huskies' top scorer with junior forward Sonny Benjamin, who struggles on the perimeter and in transition.

Sanford started the season slowly, averaging 11 points and 6.8 rebounds in the first five games. In the past five, his scoring average was 20.6 and rebounding 8.0.

Sanford offers two possible reasons for his lack of early productivity - wristbands and underwear.

"I know that may sound hard to believe, but it's true," he said. "I didn't think I was the superstitious type, but I like some things exactly the same.

"Earlier in the year I wore a wristband on my right arm because I'd had some pain in my wrist and thought it would help to keep it warm and loose. . . . But during games, I'd sweat and it would get heavy and bothersome."

During Washington's two-week layoff in December, Sanford strengthened his wrist and discarded the wristband.

And the underwear?

"Well, let's just say I'd read somewhere that Spandex kept your legs warmer and you'd be able to jump longer. . . . But they weren't doing it for me, so I had go back to the Hanes."

The change in wardrobe worked. Sanford has had three double-doubles and is one of two players to rank among the top 10 in the conference in scoring and rebounding.

No teammate is matching Sanford's scoring. Booker is the only other Husky to score more than 20 points in any of the past five games.

"He's been carrying us right now," Wooten said of Sanford, "but he can't do that forever."

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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