Off Season is Off and Running

Mar 31, 2010, 11:50 AM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Next year is a long time from now for Husky Hoops fans, but if last year’s off-season which included the scandal with USC, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Renardo Sidney, the early entries to the draft that strongly affected the Pac-10, the coaching hires at three different conference schools and the loss of Charles Garcia and Cameron Dollar to Seattle U, the current fabric of college basketball would indicate that we are in for a wild ride between now and October.

For Washington, the recruiting cycle that includes the Spring Signing Period (which starts on April 14th) and the big summer AAU tournaments and the recruiting that goes on around them that will determine the 2011 class and beyond are a huge turn in the road. Can Lorenzo Romar find the right guys to take this now veteran UW team to the next level? The Dawgs were ranked in the top-15 early, but underachieved early.

They picked themselves up to realize that potential and make a strong argument by their participation in the Sweet-16, that they belonged at that level. To reach the next level, say Elite-8, Top-10, whatever you want to call it, Washington must add something to make up for the loss of Quincy Pondexter, or somehow make adjustments and improvements that allow the Dawgs to manufacture points in other ways.

Could it be that Washington becomes a much different team, know for shooting the ball from distance with the continued improvements of Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, Elston Turner, Venoy Overton, Abdul Gaddy, Justin Holiday and of course the highly anticipated debut of C.J. Wilcox?

Could Washington become a dominant inside scoring team and build on what was a promising shot blocking game with Matthew and/or others having a break through year, plus the possible addition of seven-foot-one Aziz N’Diaye (who we are hearing is now being courted by Butler, as well as OU, Oregon State, Kansas and UW)? I think it will take a little bit of both, plus the addition of a wing scorer.

Can the possible signing of Terrence Jones and/or Terrence Ross bring UW a player who can take the reins left by a 4-year guy like Quincy seamlessly or at least close to it? I doubt that either of those things will happen, but I feel that a little bit of all three will have to happen for Washington to make that jump up the ladder.

The Pac-10 will improve and on the national scene there will once again be the great teams that come out of no where like Butler, Northern Iowa, St. Mary’s and the like, as well as all of the usual subjects like UNC, KU, UK, Duke, Louisville and UCLA. Romar did his best to answer the questions for the UW team going into this off-season.

One thing Lorenzo did not discuss at that time was Clarence Trent going off scholarship to play football. Steve Sarkisian confirmed it that same day in which “Sark” previewed Spring Football, but Lorenzo gave a statement, prefacing that he is on the road recruiting.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times detailed the move to football by Clarence, how it works with the scholarship numbers for both teams and a photo of Trent in his new Husky Football jersey.

This move definitely paves the way for the Huskies to bring in two more players. Terrence Jones has adamantly denied that he is going to choose or is even leaning to Washington, as we have heard from numerous sources. Instead he has chosen to comment that the Oregon coaching search is a huge part of his decision, while rumors have been swirling about him leaning to Kentucky. Whatever happens, Jones was selected as the Oregon 5A Player of the Year, as reported by the Oregonian.

Oklahoma is another one of Terrence’s final five schools, but the Sooners have had a tumultuous off-season thus far and with the scandal brewing behind allegations of a $3,000 wire transfer from a booster to freshman post “Tiny” Gallon and the departure to the NBA of fellow McDonald’s All-American guard Tommy Mason-Griffin and the likely loss to the draft of sophomore star guard Willie Warren, the only reason Jones would go to Norman is if he likes to be in the eye of a good old fashioned Oklahoma dust storm.

Of course the argument can be made that there will be plenty of playing time there and it is likely one that Sooner Coach Jeff Capel is making to Husky 2010 post recruit Aziz N’Diaye, but $3K is three times what Tim Floyd was nabbed with in giving out to a player and USC stayed home for March. How can Jones feel more comfortable with a coach that he will have at the most 6 weeks to get to know at Oregon?

The argument from a lot of anonymous message board experts is “Nike”, who would like to buy the best coach they can get for the largest contract in NCAA Basketball history from numerous reports and at best offer Terrence a way to get in to the shoe sponsorship culture early, at worst actually provide illegal benefits right now. What about UCLA, another school that Jones has on that top-5?

Most folks doubt that he is that serious about the Bruins. Jones’ friend Mike Moser had a troubled year on pine sitting and is considering a transfer to a Mountain West school, according to good source. I guess the best reason that you could find for Terrence to pick UCLA would be the same as Oregon, just substitute adidas for Nike and add to the mix the close proximity of major agents that reside close by. UCLA is a bad fit for Jones on the court as well.

I don’t have any proof that Terrence is looking for the sleaze factor, but the inclusion of Kentucky, Oklahoma, UCLA and Oregon, raise some interesting questions. Is he just really attracted to the recruiting “red-carpet” game and the notoriety that it attracts? Perhaps he likes to live vicariously, but in the end make wise decisions. I think that may be more like it. In the end I think that Jones picks UW, but it could be a bumpy road for UW fans along the way to his signing a letter of intent.

Another kid that likes to attract attention using recruiting as a vehicle is Tony Wroten Jr., who is sidelined still, but could play AAU ball this summer. According to an update in Rivals, Tony Sr., a former Rose Bowl tight end at Washington, the Huskies and Villanova stand out.

On ‘Nova Wroten Sr. said, “He’s friends with all those guys (at Villanova) and he really likes the way Jay Wright plays the guards” and added “It’s a style that works for him”.

On his alma mater Tony Sr. said that it was more about style than proximity, which could mean that UW has a hard to overcome advantage with the Wrotens.

“Washington with coach Romar they are way up top, too. Getting up and down the floor and doing a lot of creative stuff. That’s his strength, being able to use his creativity and getting players involved. That’s certainly something we’re looking at.”

Cougar Corner

WSU’s Reggie Moore was named to the College Insider All-American Freshman team. Also on that list are Gonzaga’s Elias Harris, Texas’ Avery Bradley from Tacoma WA and ‘Zona’s Derrick Williams.

Sophomore reserve guard Mike Harthun will transfer, along with promising freshman guards Xavier Thames and Anthony Brown and promising walk-on John Allen from Mountlake Terrace WA. In the Mail Tribune from Medford OR, Harthun spoke about his reasons for leaving Pullman.

From the sounds of things to me Harthun’s biggest beef is playing time, Allen is probably looking to get a scholarship somewhere, Thames is feeling the heat from JC transfer Faisal Aiden as well as rethinking his decision to pick Pullman over other possible destinations and I really have no idea about Brown other than to note that he may feel trapped on the bench. Anthony really never got much burn this year.

Zags Replace Rice with UCLA’s Donny Daniels

Gonzaga lost Leon Rice to Boise State, but replaced him with UCLA assistant Donny Daniels, a veteran of all three of Coach Ben Howland’s Final Four runs. Daniels should make a strong addition, both as a bench coach and on the recruiting trail with his contacts. Mark Few is very unlikely to leave for the Oregon job, from all we’re hearing and this hire helps the Zags to continue to move forward.

Pac-10 Off Season Kicking In

UCLA meanwhile continues to clean house in the wake of a dismal year for their storied program. Not only will J’Mison “Bobo” Morgan transfer out, but he was shamed by Howland on top of the disappointment on the court that the former 5-star showed at Pauley Pavilion. Morgan was dismissed from the team, rather than being allowed to say he was transferring. This is very bad form by Howland, who known as having plenty of it from a number of accounts of former players that we have heard from.

Daniels and Morgan will almost certainly not be the end of the attrition, but almost certainly Ben will also find a number of highly ranked recruits who will be “honored” to join his crusade. Spring signing period and the mad recruiting dash that takes place between now and its finale on May 19th will definitely be interesting in Westwood.

Cross town at USC Kevin O’Neill will be bringing in a fine recruiting class and possibly even have some more recruiting tricks up his sleeve this spring. 2010 USC signee guard Maurice Jones won the Michigan State Class A Player of the Year Award, over highly regarded players like Trey Zeigler (who is being recruited by UCLA) and Keith Appling (A McDonald’s All-American signed to Michigan State).

Former Trojan Head Coach Tim Floyd has been hired by UTEP, in a surprising turn of events.

How a guy can go from being caught red-handed by the NCAA giving money to a player’s “handler” in a culture in which that player and numerous others have been caught with cars and property from boosters, to another head job in less than a year is beyond me. According to Andy Katz at ESPN, “Multiple sources told that UTEP was assured before hiring Floyd that he would not be individually penalized in connection with the USC allegations”.

How can that be, when he got caught red-handed? Has there already been a deal struck with USC by the NCAA and if so, who is going to pay? If this case does not result in severe and decisive action soon, nothing else can be deduced from the situation other than to say that it is hard to tell the crooks from the cops here.

A lot of the reason why it is so hard for the Pac-10 or the NCAA to do anything to USC is because of the money that their football program generates. Shoe money also plays a huge role in college sports. It allows teams much bigger budgets to expand facilities, recruit and hire top people.

So when shoe companies play outside of the rules in combining with boosters and sometimes agents to “Shepard” prospects in ways that benefit them and play favorites with schools that they choose to in regards to recruiting players that they have access to through the AAU system, it is hard for those who are getting so much money from them to complain. That leads us to the Oregon coaching search. Nike’s Chairman Phil Knight is a Duck and has taken it upon himself to give a fortune to the school to help it compete.

How much has been done by Nike that is beyond NCAA regulations is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure and that is that Knight, Nike and Oregon will likely pay near the highest amount ever for a coach to help them fill the new arena that is named for Phil’s tragically deceased son. According to the Minneapolis paper, “Tubby” Smith will not likely take the job, but the word is all over the place that he is being offered money in the range of $2 Million and I believe that he will probably be offered more if he asks for it.

Smith is a good person and a great coach with high marks in the area of morals and principles. Could Oregon be using him in an attempt to clean up the image of the hoops program after all the bad PR out there in regards to possible improprieties? Can Smith, who left Kentucky in the wake of too much interference from boosters (according to numerous unconfirmed reports), handle the meddlesome Knight?

One thing is for sure, from Kentucky to UCLA to Pitino (who reportedly is coming back next year, despite still being in the midst of the Karen Sypher court battles) to Oregon to Oklahoma, this could be one interesting off-season and one that could affect the future of the Huskies in many important ways.

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Off Season is Off and Running