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Washington Husky Huddle for Tuesday February 28th 2012 (Part Two)

Lorenzo is the best, among UW coaches in the modern era, at putting guys in pro basketball as well and it’s not even close. Every kid that is good enough to play at a Pac-12 level believes when they are in high school that they can play pro and Romar’s track record does nothing if not to make it easier to convince the guys he wants to come to or stay in Seattle. On Thursday listed Lorenzo 6th overall in recruiting and player development (4th in development and 19th in recruiting). What is more impressive than the ballooning number of pros that he has turned out (or is about to), is that Romar has now this season more than any other learned to teach young guys to gut it out on the road. Having potential NBA talent like Wroten, Ross and Wilcox helps, but not one is an upperclassman and usually it is next to impossible to win championships with youth, unless you are (without naming names) dealing with agents to load up on ready for prime time pros.

On Tuesday Keegan Hamilton of the Seattle Weekly asked the question, “Could This Season Be Lorenzo Romar’s Best Performance as UW Basketball Coach?”. I’ll venture my opinion and say that it definitely has, if UW gets a sweep this weekend in LA. On Wednesday Romar appeared on 710-ESPN Seattle and talked to Bob and Groz about his team. I’ve been watching Husky Hoops since the mid-60’s, but seriously since 1969-70. I’ve seen too many teams and coaches that didn’t come close to the level of commitment, talent and character of Romar’s guys. Even in the best of times, like Tex Winter and Marv Harshman’s better moments or a 2-3 year run by Bob Bender, I feel that in general Romar has run a better general program.

That is saying something, considering the pedigree of Winter and Harshman. I will not comment on what the entirety of Andy Russo, Lynn Nance and the last years of Bender were like, as they worse than fell short of Lorenzo’s low moments. Tad Boyle took a Colorado team that was picked 10th (wrongly) and have put them into the top end of the Pac-12. Ryan Divish of made a good case for Romar getting the award on Tuesday, with cases also made for Boyle and Oregon’s Dana Altman. Boyle will likely get that COY award, but if Romar can get a sweep in LA, I will make a lot of noise to the contrary. The Dawgs still must get past the LA schools, not to mention the NCAA committee next Sunday March 11th. Dana O”Neill of ESPN said that “Odds are the Huskies are in but the margin for error is slim” in a chat on Wednesday.

That is a widely held opinion, not only about UW, but the Pac-12 in general this season. On Thursday ESPN’s Myron Metcalf said that the Dawgs are “making a legitimate push for an at-large berth”. Still no shoe-in status, despite the huge win
over ‘Zona the weekend before. Yahoo’s Pat Forde went as far as to say on Friday that the Pac-12 was so dismal that it should be a one bid league, though Greg Anthony countered with three bids as a prediction. On Monday UW moved up again with ESPN’s Bracketology to a 10 seed, with Cal and Arizona also getting in and Oregon in the “Last Four Out”. Husky Haul also weighed into the Pac-12 Bubble discussion on Tuesday, giving Cal a 90% chance of getting in, with UW at 70%, ‘Zona 70’% and Oregon 45%, despite UW’s hold on first place and sweep of the ‘Cats. On Tuesday (along with a list of some of the toughest recent NCAA snubs) made a good point that, “Washington likely would have an RPI north of 50 and an at-large profile much more representative of the mid-major and quasi-high major teams excluded above”.

It’s way too early for UW to be thinking about Selection Sunday, though the win at WSU makes it much more likely than not in my opinion that the Dawgs will have their name called. Even more premature is talk of Ross and Wroten in or out of June’s NBA Draft, but that will definitely not stop Husky arm chair career advisers. Ross and Wroten were the subject of a column by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times last Monday in which Brewer made the case that both would do best to stay and work their way up to the high end of the first round while sharpening skills.
Brewer also kept it real and stating that taking the money now is also nothing to scoff at.

“Don’t frown on them if they make the jump now. But if they defer the money and stick around, it’s a decision that could be both pleasing to the masses and lucrative in the long run.”

I agree with this logic, but it is hard to walk away from millions. I think that Tony could work himself into the the top three picks, with his unique abilities, if he were also able to become a 75-80% FT shooter and a three point threat in even the mid-30% range. Terrence is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard/wing and though he is an incredible player, that is not as much of a unique commodity at the NBA level. It used to be pretty unique, but now it even considered average to smallish. The 2nd round, D-League and Europe are littered with guys who were thought to be NBA can’t miss players with stats and vitals like Ross.

I do think that Ross has that special something that will make it in the NBA, but I am not signing any NBA checks. Ross, more than Wroten, needs to stay to prepare for the level of competition in the NBA. If I had to pick one from the standpoint of UW fans to go pro though, I would go with Terrence. Scott Suggs will be back, along with a healthy Wilcox and more than likely a new face at the SG/SF position, where Tony’s ability to play PG, provide firepower on defense and get to the foul line are not going to be replaced by anyone close to that level. Wroten also needs more work on his all around game than Ross, but who knows what will happen. I think that anything from both going to both staying, to either one splitting is equally likely. I talk to people that I consider local insiders on the hoops beat of all stripes and a lot of people say they know what is going to happen and almost all of them differ.

Last Tuesday Percy Allen of the Seattle Times printed the transcript of a segment of an on air interview for IMG Sports with Lorenzo by Husky play by play guy Bob Rondeau. Romar talked about the various factors which weigh in to the decision
and started off by saying that “There’s no secret both of those guys would have an opportunity if they choose to go on and play at the next level this year”. I agree and I feel it is down to what is the best way to work the system. Both guys are good students, so I don’t think that getting a degree should be a huge consideration. My feeling is that either guy could get their degree around the
schedule of a pro career, like Hawes, Thomas, Brandon Roy and other current and past Husky pros do.

On Wednesday Seth Davis of stated that from his sources, Ross would be the higher pick at this stage. I agree that Ross is a more consistent all-around player perhaps (FT’s, threes, etc.), but a lot of his game has
been contingent on shooting. Tony finds a way to get the easy buckets. As a trio these two with “Mr. Lights Out” Wilcox are dynamite, but I think that for next year losing C.J. or Terrence is going to hurt less with Suggs and red-shirt frosh guard Andrew Andrews coming in than losing Wroten. The way that Tony gets to the rim and either makes a bucket and/or gets fouled or gets a put back and then makes it or gets fouled is one of a kind.

I keep searching my personal hard drive of saved information from watching 40+ years of hoops and it is hard to come up with much. Actually the guy that reminds me the most of Wroten is former 1979 champion Sonic PG and Celtic multi-year champ the late Dennis Johnson, but Tony is much better at this stage in his career and much faster and quicker. Wroten has immense potential. On Wednesday ran a piece on Tony’s abilities dubbing him, “master of the put-back”. On Thursday picked Wroten as the 7th best shooting guard in the nation, but first among freshman and sophomores. On Tuesday GoAzcats said that Tony has the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award “in the bag”. Big of them, as they railed on all through the off-season about how Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson (Dennis’ nephew), who Wroten vanquished and drubbed on the court were both superior. Everyone is impressed with Tony and his detractors are watching his dust in the distance.

Former Dawgs in the News

Thomas has overcome a number of critics to become a very possible major success story in the NBA. As I said, I still think he would have done best to stay one more year at UW, but perhaps taking the hard road and making it is more his style. I think he thrives in ‘me against the world’ scenarios and coming up behind Jimmer Freddette in Sacramento as the last pick of the draft is just about tailor made for that credo. Last Monday talked about not only Thomas being a better fit at the point than Freddette, but moving Tyreke Evans to combo guard because of “IT” running the team better, according to coach Keith Smart.

“He’s developing and doing a great job with his game. We’re moving the ball very well and the point of attack has been a little more secure with him playing there. I needed a director on the floor and he’s been that. Two games of doing this, we’ve been close in both games and so the progress for him is very, very well for him and I’m proud of what he’s doing. And he’s given me what I needed, a lead guy on the floor to kind of direct and put people in the right spots but also be a vocal guy.”

Last Tuesday Thomas scored 24 points against Miami in a loss, including a third quarter where he tied the team record for 3-pointers in a quarter with five and scored 20. Isaiah was more concerned about the loss in the post game interview on YouTube. On Thursday compared Thomas’ season favorably with NBA flavor the moment Jeremy Lin. Thomas led UW as a freshman, much like what Wroten has done this season, in 2008-09 with back court mate Justin Dentmon. Dentmon had a lesser but promising freshman year successfully playing a solid role alongside Roy and future pro Bobby Jones. The out right Pac-10 title in Dentmon’s senior year was according to Romar, the highlight of his tenure at UW, but Justin struggled in the two years in between.

“JD” has, like Isaiah, looked failure in the face and said, ‘is that all you got’, even to a greater degree than Thomas. Dentmon has not been able to make it to the NBA, as he is not as unique a talent as “IT”, but in the heart category there are a lot of similarities. Dentmon continues to out work the competition, a trait that Isaiah shares and as fate will have it, his dream of the NBA may be in the cards. After an unsuccessful try out with New Orleans in “fall” camp in December, Dentmon has set the D-League on fire once again and as the movie trailers for Charles Bronson “Death Wish” series of action movies in the 70’s stated in previews “This time it’s personal”. On Saturday Dentmon scored 15 points in the D-League all-star game, as he was an important facilitator in the West team’s win. Justin is averaging 23 points per game, five assists and four boards so far this NBDL season.

Things have not gone as well for former Husky signee Charles Garcia, who after being selected for the D-League All-Star team himself, failed a drug test. The word is though that Garcia is likely to make decent money in Europe, but it makes one wonder what two years at UW could have produced. Perhaps Romar could have succeeded, where others including former UW assistant Cameron Dollar have not in reaching “Chuck” and getting him to take the game of life seriously. What Romar has done with Wroten and Thomas, who many felt were potential out of control ego characters is a testament to Romar’s unique abilities.

Life is not full of second chances, but Lorenzo has been able to help guys get on the right track. He’s lost a few, like Doug Wrenn, who went from All Pac-10 to off the team in one season under Lorenzo (not to mention the tragedy of Venoy Overton’s senior season), but his successes have far surpassed the disappointments. The passing of former Dawg Greg Jack puts a lot of things in focus. Jack was the next great player from coach Ed Pepple’s elite Mercer Island program that had just sent Steve and Jeff (Spencer’s dad) Hawes to UW in the early 70’s. Jack was a solid role player on teams that featured much bigger names at UW like future 19 year NBA pro and 3-time ring winner with Detroit and Chicago James Edwards. Where Jack excelled at UW (and at MI where he logged a 4.0 GPA) was in the classroom.

In an obituary from the Seattle Times on Tuesday, Percy Allen talked about Greg’s 20-year battle in a wheel chair with MS. Somehow thoughts of whether Ross and Wroten stick around or not become pretty insignificant, when you think of the
legacy of Greg Jack. To live a life in a wheel chair and still raise a family and work as an ophthalmologist, makes the kind of challenges that any of the players that I have covered in this article (let alone ever) seem like a wide open layup.

(Jason McCleary of contributed to this post)