Dec. 23, 2009
By Travis Sherer
Thankfully for the Dawgs, the chance meeting was not a recruiting visit, but instead, a family barbecue on the Fourth of July nine years ago.
Romar was introduced to the Suggs family during his three-year stint as the head coach of Saint Louis by a childhood friend, Herb Edwards, with whom he played in Little League. The relaxed outing led to a one-on-one basketball game between the 10-year-old Suggs and the former NBA player.
"We play and, um, I beat him," Romar said. "I'm not bragging -- he was 10 -- and we shake hands and go on. I didn't know, but he got in the car and he was crying."
Suggs, who was born nearly 10 years after Romar was playing professionally, naturally didn't understand the situation.
"I just thought he was old and I should beat him," Suggs said.
Suggs understands now what he had gotten into, but more than that, the sophomore is showing signs of recognition at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in just his second season with the Huskies. After a year under Romar, Suggs is beginning to flourish, setting career highs in both minutes played (20) and points (13) in a 89-54 blowout of previously ranked Portland Dec. 19 -- a performance that helped cement his position in the rotation. Now, he is left fighting for more minutes with fellow guards Justin Holiday and Elston Turner.
"Yeah there definitely is (a feeling of competition)," Suggs said. "I mean, everybody in practice is making sure they're working hard and everybody's trying to fight to play."
Suggs became the third Husky to connect from downtown three or more times in a game this season, along with Isaiah Thomas and Turner -- a good sign for a team in need of another long-range threat. Ironically, his 13 points came after missing his first two shots -- just one short of his season average in attempts.
"First the shot wasn't falling but coach had faith in me and kept running plays for me and they just kept rolling," Suggs said.
Romar's faith hasn't wavered on Suggs, who then made a pair of crucial treys to break Portland's zone and open the flood gates.
Suggs carried enough hype for many to expect immediate results, regardless of the Huskies' back court depth in 2009. Suggs was an ESPN Top 100 recruit and named Missouri's "Mr. Basketball" his senior year. His struggles, however, just didn't make sense to him or fans.
"You rarely hear people say, 'He just needs more time.' People are more inclined and quick to say, 'He's overrated.' Someone is not overrated because they aren't playing at a high-level yet, they need time. In school people have different ways of learning. Some are quick learners and some are slow learners. Scott is the type of guy that really needs to conceptualize in his mind what is going on. If not, it's harder for him," Romar said.
In scoring a previous career high of nine points in Washington's first game of 2009 against Wright State, Suggs quickly gained the confidence to know he can define the role he wants on the team.
"I'm a guy who comes in and makes shots, gets a couple of deflections and plays solid defense," said Suggs. "I'm definitely looking to come in and make shots if guys aren't out there making them."
Romar, who kept in touch with the Suggs family whether it be to invite them to games or more backyard gatherings, said this is only the beginning.
"There will come a day, hopefully, where Scott Suggs scores 13 and you say to me, 'Anything wrong with Scott tonight?'" Romar said.
And Romar should know, he got a firsthand look at Suggs' potential almost 10 years ago, but The Old Man still thinks that given a four-week training period, the outcome would stay the same if the two were to play one-on-one.
"I'll take him up on that," Suggs said.
Travis Sherer covers sports for the The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times and Udubsports.com.