Feb. 16, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Good thing for the Huskies that Scott Suggs can let go of a first impression.
Washington's junior wing is starter and second among Pac-10 players in 3-point shooting, at 45.5 percent. But Suggs hasn't always hit his shots in front of UW coach Lorenzo Romar.
Suggs was a 10-year-old in Washington, Mo., about an hour west of St. Louis, the summer his father Ron hosted a friend and co-worker at Ralston Purina over the Fourth of July. Ron Suggs' best bud, Herbert Anderson, used to play Little League baseball with Romar, who was the coach at Saint Louis University when Anderson visited the Suggs family that summer more than 10 years ago.
Anderson, who had stayed in touch with Romar, called the coach before he was to visit him for a holiday hangout in St. Louis and asked if he could bring Suggs' family over with him.
"I said, `Sure,'" Romar recalled recently.
"At the end of the day when they were leaving, we had a little hoop in our driveway, and they were talking about how Scott ran track but he was also a pretty good basketball player," Romar said. "So I get a ball out as they're leaving and said, 'Before you go, let me see what you've got. Come on, let's go!'"
Romar said this Suggs kid "had some nifty moves." Yet the former UW guard who played five seasons in the NBA during the 1980s won.
"I'm not bragging because I beat a 10-year-old guy," Romar says. "But I did beat him."
Suggs immediately ran into his family's van for the drive home - and sobbed.
"I didn't know he was a college basketball coach. I just thought he was some old dude, one of my dad's friends," the now-grownup Suggs said. "I just remember thinking, `Oh, I just let an old man beat me in basketball!' I was upset.
"Looking back on it, I'm sure he let me score some points."
About a half-dozen years passed until Romar - who moved from Saint Louis to Washington in 2002 -made the trip from Seattle to Washington High School to watch his former driveway opponent in a workout before Suggs' junior year. That was in the summer of 2006. By then Suggs was a tall sharpshooter, a nightmare matchup for his opponents on his way to breaking his high school's scoring record and being named Missouri's Mr. Show-Me as the state's top prep basketball player
"Remember me?" Romar asked Suggs at that '06 workout.
Suggs did. At the time he said he was "wide open" to where he wanted to play collegiately. Missouri and Illinois were high on his list. Washington was by then rolling as a top seed in the NCAA tournament and producer of NBA stars such as Nate Robinson and another soon-to-be-one in Brandon Roy. The Huskies joined Suggs' final list after Romar's visit.
Suggs eventually signed with Romar, proving that, no, he didn't hold a grudge against that "old guy" who made him cry from one-on-one in the coach's driveway.
The Huskies are happy for that.
Suggs has moved up Romar's rotation this season because of his long-range shooting, his long arms, his 6-foot-6 body outside and his ability to handle the ball. He made his first career start last month at California, after Isaiah Thomas had moved to point guard because of the loss of Abdul Gaddy for the season to a knee injury.
Suggs starting worked wonders. Cal's bigger defenders guarded Suggs to counter his deep shooting threat. That left Thomas to exploit smaller Bears off the dribble en route to 27 points and career-high 13 assists in a Huskies win.
Suggs, who had come off the bench in all 68 his UW games until Cal, has stayed in the starting lineup through February as Thomas continues to play the best ball of his career against smaller defenders. Suggs is averaging a career-best of nearly 8 points per game . Romar has even had him take over some point-guard duties to rest Thomas for stretches of some games.
A 6-6 ball-handler and 3-point shooter could become even more valuable during the tournaments of March.
Indeed, Romar thinks the latter half of the Pac-10 season is a prime chance for Suggs to step into his biggest prominence of his UW career, as defenses increase their focus on UW leading scorers Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning inside.
"I still feel like there's time to step up," Romar said when talking about Suggs' role this season.
Suggs was trying to do that on a Fourth of July more than 10 years ago, as that overmatched 10-year-old in Romar's driveway.
By the way, there will never be a rematch.
"We laugh about it now," Romar said. "I haven't played him since. I'll just leave it at that.
"I won't play him again."