March 25, 2013
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Before dissecting what happened to the Huskies this up-and-down season, let's outline what hasn't happened. At least not yet.
C.J. Wilcox hasn't decided whether to return to Washington as a fifth-year senior this fall or enter the NBA as an underclassman. Coach Lorenzo Romar said Monday that UW's leading scorer this season has submitted the required paperwork to the NBA's draft advisory committee and will wait until he gets an estimate from it on his stock for this summer's pro draft. Wilcox has until April 16 to withdraw his name from the NBA draft pool and retain his college eligibility.
He said two weeks ago at the Pac-12 tournament that it was "50-50" on whether he'd be back. He reiterated that last Tuesday night following the Huskies' season-ending loss at Brigham Young in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Romar says unlike some of his recent early entrants who were set on leaving no matter what word they got from the NBA advisers - Isaiah Thomas, for example - Wilcox will base his decision almost entirely on whether he likes the projections he gets in the coming weeks.
No, UCLA hasn't, at least as of Monday afternoon, contacted Romar.
The longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 is a native of Compton, just south of downtown Los Angeles. He began his coaching career as a Bruins assistant, and won an NCAA title under former UCLA coach Jim Harrick in 1995. So Romar said it is no surprise his name is being linked to the opening the Bruins created Sunday when they fired Ben Howland after 10 years.
And, `tis the season.
Romar was mentioned as a possible candidate at Illinois last spring. In the spring of 2011 word from Minneapolis linked him with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. And so on.
"If I sat here and told you the number of -- I'm not boasting at all, I'm just telling you the situations that have come up that I didn't entertain that even if I had conversations with them it didn't materialize into anything, there's been a lot. And it hasn't happened," the 54-year-old Romar said, six days after he finished his 11th season at UW leading a team that finished 18-16.
His latest Huskies lacked consistency on defense, rebounding, shooting and intensity, then didn't win a conference regular-season or tournament title for the first time in five years.
"So when the UCLA situation comes up, and last year it came up, the fact that I am from there and I worked there it's natural for it to come up. Anyone that's worked for them, it usually comes up," Romar said.
Asked about potentially getting a call from UCLA about replacing Howland, Romar said, "I wouldn't say it would be odd. I just don't think they'll do it."
The Bruins are reportedly seeking 35-year-old Shaka Smart, who led Virginia Commonwealth to the 2011 Final Four.
"So, how many jobs are open out there, let's just bring them all out on the table. Let's go one by one, `If they offered you the job would you take it?'" Romar asked, hypothetically. "To me, that's just senseless.
"I've said I don't know how many times: Washington wants me. I'm here at Washington.
"I've said that a bunch of times. And I say it again."
The feeling is mutual. Last week, UW athletic director Scott Woodward said as much: Unleashed: Huskies' AD On Romar.
Most of all, Romar hasn't thrown up his hands at what just happened to his Huskies. He doesn't see the future as anything but bright.
The coach Monday boiled down Washington's maddening season - hanging with eventual NCAA 2-seed Ohio State in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament final in Connecticut in November and starting 4-0 in the league for just the fourth time in 35 years, yet losing at home to Albany and dropping seven of eight league games - to two factors.
Inconsistent shooting and, thus, scoring. And a lack of depth that had a domino effect on Romar's preferred style of play.
"We never could put it all together on one night, on a consistent basis. And that was the story of our season," Romar said.
"There's something as a head coach I did not do. ... It points back to me."
That's what a leader is supposed to do, take responsibility. But these numbers go beyond the coach:
Despite many open looks in and around the lane and from outside, these Huskies shot just 43.6 percent from the field. That was the lowest since Romar's first season at UW in 2003. Washington's 67.9 points per game were its lowest since the season ending in 2001, the next-to-last one under Bob Bender before Romar took over.
Those two numbers wiped out any advantage the Huskies got from holding teams to 67.2 points per game, UW's lowest mark since 1985.
"We'll have more basket makers," Romar said of next season. "Sometimes, it's that simple."
Next season, Perris Blackwell makes his Washington debut. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Blackwell sat out this past season per NCAA transfer rules. He was an all-West Coast Conference scorer and rebounder at 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in the 2011-12 season for San Francisco. He has one season of college eligibility remaining, and in it will replace graduating 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye as the Huskies' inside enforcer.
Blackwell wowed coaches and his new teammates in practices this season with quick, dominant moves at the rim, a mid-range shooting touch and tenacity down low.
"Perris Blackwell can make baskets," Romar said. "If Perris was on our team this year (playing), we would have won more games."
And Romar says he expects to sign "a couple" more recruits in the later, "regular" signing period that runs April 17-May 15.
This past season, Mark McLaughlin exited suddenly in the preseason weeks after he arrived from junior college to bolster the offense. Inside force Shawn Kemp Jr. tore a patella tendon and missed most of the first two months of the season. Senior shooter Scott Suggs battled through injuries into late November. Then Wilcox played through a sore foot that he is just now getting to rest.
That kept Romar from fully employing the pressing, harrowing, full-court defense from waves of Dawgs. That approach had resulted in easy, fast-break points for the Huskies for most of the last decade.
In effect, the lack of depth meant UW was playing without one-third of its usual offensive approach: steals to quick scores. Washington's 5.3 steals per game this past season was its lowest since the school began tracking that stat in yearly totals for the 1976-77 season.
"We will not have a depth issue next year," Romar said, "which will allow us to pressure and run for longer periods of time."
Make no mistake, even as he stays with the high-post offense in the half court next season Romar wants, expects and demands to get away from the slower fewer-possession games in which his Huskies were mired for much of this season. Starting with spring and summer conditioning, he intends to get back to attacking relentlessly with a team that, if Wilcox stays, will return eight players including its leading scorer when preseason practice begins in mid-October.
"We just weren't as relentless on defense as we have been. We haven't been able to do that the last two years," he said. "We not only have guys returning but we have guys coming in.
One of those will not be Martin Breunig.
Romar said the sophomore forward from Germany, who played little after November, has chosen to transfer.