March 22, 2011
Tuesday Press Conferences: Romar
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The Huskies' present and future were working themselves out in the parking lot in front of a hotel, 2,800 miles from campus.
Isaiah Thomas and Lorenzo Romar stood alone Sunday afternoon on the edge of the driveway beyond the front doors of the Renaissance Charlotte Southpark. They were wearing matching gray, UW 2011 NCAA tournament sweat suits two hours after the Huskies' season ended, and the rest of the team was passing by onto a bus that was headed to the airport and a long flight home.
Thomas, the junior point guard, the Pac-10 tournament's Most Outstanding Player and a midseason candidate for national player of the year, was mostly listening. Soon after an excruciating, three-point loss to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament denied Washington its second consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16, Thomas' coach was dispensing advice on the NBA.
It's as much an annual rite of spring for Romar at Washington as getting into the Big Dance.
"I talked to him about (why) it's important - he owes it to himself for his future, his career - to take a look and see what the opinion of Isaiah Thomas is at the next level. The rule allows you to do that," Romar said Tuesday of the NBA allowing collegians to get draft projections from teams while retaining their college eligibility.
Thomas said at the arena immediately after the Huskies' loss in Charlotte Sunday then tweeted on the team's long trip home that he was returning to UW for his senior season.
He had said during the season the only way he would enter the draft was if an NBA team guaranteed him he would be selected in the first round this summer.
"It's great that he's coming back," Romar said. "But if someone is out there (in an NBA front office) willing to say, `No, no, no, you are going to be drafted at this spot and you are guaranteed, then you have to look at it and see what you think. But also, you think you are coming back, maybe they can confirm your decision as well.
"It's no different than what we've done with all our seniors-to-be who have had an option."
Indeed, Romar had the same talk with Jon Brockman following his junior season in 2008. NBA GMs told Brockman he would be drafted late in the second round or wouldn't be drafted at all. That was all Brockman needed to confirm his desire to return as a senior - and then dominate before ultimately being drafted 38th overall in 2009. Two years ago, a still largely unknown Quincy Pondexter told Romar he didn't even want to explore his NBA options coming out of his junior season.
Romar remembers Nate Robinson "wanted to know all of it, get all the feedback, because he did it as a sophomore" in the spring of 2004.
"He actually went to his pre-draft camp. I'll never forget, I got a call from my former boss, Jim Harrick, who was working for the Denver Nuggets at the time," Romar said of the head coach at UCLA when Romar was a Bruins assistant. "I got a call from him the first day of camp. I picked up the phone, `Hello.'
"'I'm your biggest nightmare,' that's what (Harrick) said with his West Virginia drawl. He said, `Your boy is killin' `em.' Nate was playing well, and a lot of people developed interest. But he decided to come back (for one more season).
"So all that depends on what type of feedback happens. We'll see."
Romar says he's yet to get any feedback from NBA GMs on where Thomas could be drafted, since UW's season ended only two days ago.
"We're in the process of getting all that information right now," the coach said.
Thomas' return for a fourth season could prompt the Huskies to start as many as four guards next season, with 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye returning for his junior season in the middle and 6-6 rising-sophomore guard Terrence Ross capable of posting up down low, as he did Sunday against North Carolina. Fellow senior-to-be Darnell Gant, a 6-8 forward who can shoot from outside but by season's end was the team's scrappy, blue-collar rebounder and loose-ball guy around the basket, also returns.
The Huskies do lose senior inside scorer Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who is graduating with a degree in sociology and headed to next month's Portsmouth Invitational in an attempt to improve his NBA draft stock. Classmate and co-captain Justin Holiday will also play in Portsmouth April 6-9.
The Huskies are still trying to sign one more big man with their remaining available scholarship for next season, during the late signing period next month. That was when they signed N'Diaye as a transfer from the College of Southern Idaho last spring.
Even if they get the addition inside, the Huskies' depth will be on the perimeter. Junior-to-be point-guard maestro Abdul Gaddy is due back from reconstructive knee surgery in time for fall practice. He will join returning wing shooter C.J. Wilcox and 6-6 guard Scott Suggs, who started Sunday against UNC. Plus, UW also has ballyhooed Seattle high school guard Tony Wroten Jr. signed for next season. Wroten, a ball-handling and passing whiz from Garfield High School, is 6-4.
So not only will the Dawgs have a lot of guards, they will have a lot of big guards -- besides the 5-9 Thomas, of course.
"We have the flexibility, I think, to go out and play four guards," Romar said of his 2011-12 Huskies. "Now, it's hard to play with four little guards. But we don't even have that anymore, four little guards. Our guards now have pretty good size."
They also have experience, some of it painful. The veterans returning to the 2011-12 Huskies will put to use lessons learned from this regular season, when inconsistency and lapses in defensive intensity led to 10 losses in a conference they were picked to win.
Even with the rebound to the thrilling Pac-10 tournament title - won on Thomas' last-second shot -- and then a second-round win over Georgia in the NCAAs Friday, the regular season's letdowns made Washington's road in the NCAA tournament was harder than it could have been. The Huskies were forced onto a 2,800-mile trip to North Carolina and then a second NCAA game against the home-state Tar Heels, the regular-season champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"Even though we were an older group, I think to a certain degree we felt like `Whenever we want this to be all right, it will be all right' - in spite of the many warning we gave our team the entire year," Romar said of this regular season. "Just deep down we felt like we were good enough that we could turn it on whenever we wanted to turn it on."
The coach then snapped his fingers symbolically.
"I don't know if that is why we dropped some games. But next year, I think our team will have learned from this," Romar said. "I think our guys will come in knowing from Day One you get what you earn. You get what you work for."