Resting C.J. Wilcox Gets The Brandon Roy Treatment
Feb. 1, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - C.J. Wilcox is reaching Brandon Roy-like status for the Huskies.
That's not to say Washington's sophomore sharpshooter, who is averaging 14.8 points per game, is on his way to being the conference's most valuable player, a sixth-overall draft choice and a three-time NBA All-Star.
No, it's that coach Lorenzo Romar is holding Wilcox out of practices this week to rest the stress fracture in his upper left leg but will play him Thursday when league co-leader UW (14-7, 7-2 Pac-12) hosts UCLA (12-9, 5-4) at 6 p.m. on ESPN, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive live game chat.
Romar says the closest comparison to Wilcox's no-practice-yes-play plan is Roy in the 2004-05 season, when he was rehabilitating a surgically repaired knee during his junior year at Washington. Romar didn't start Roy those months and often held him out of games in which the Huskies didn't need him.
"It's going to be something new. Not practicing and then playing full speed is definitely tough to do," Wilcox said before riding an exercise bike during practice and being limited to 50 jump shots on the side Tuesday. "I'd rather practice than sit out. I mean, it gets boring every day watching practice and my wind is not definitely where it should be.
"But other than that," he said, smiling, "it's not a bad gig."
Romar isn't concerned about the unique arrangement. Not with how pure Wilcox's shooting stroke is. He is second in the Pac-12 averaging 2.5 3-point makes per game while shooting 43 percent from deep, and his free-throw shooting of 89.4 percent is tied for the conference lead.
"You have a jumper like that, it's like riding a bike," Romar said. "Doesn't matter, you are always going to remember that one."
Wilcox played 10 minutes last Thursday, Jan. 26 at Arizona State. It was his first game since Jan. 10 when he scorched Seattle University for a career-high 25 points despite increasing pain his hip and leg. He admitted to some rust at ASU and to not having his usual leg strength for jumpers while going 0 for 3 from the field, yet went 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final minute to preserve Washington's 60-54 win.
Saturday at Arizona, Wilcox played 26 minutes - six more than the plan -- and made 6 of 10 field goals. Romar couldn't afford to keep Wilcox off the floor in the final minutes as the Huskies were holding off a frantic charge by the Wildcats. Sure enough, Wilcox's two free throws with 5 seconds left were the final points in a 69-67 victory that has Washington in a tie with California for the conference lead.
"He probably played a few more minutes than he should have," Romar said before adding with a chuckle, "but those free throws were huge."
Wilcox, seventh in the conference in scoring, said he was sore Sunday and during an off day Monday but that by Tuesday he was much better.
Now he's on the B-Roy plan, indefinitely.
His next test of not practicing then playing will be against a UCLA team that has won five of its last seven. The Bruins are rebounding from early season turmoil and double-digit home losses to Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee State and Texas.
The last time Wilcox saw UCLA, he obliterated the Bruins with 24 points in the second half. Romar still calls the performance perhaps the most lethal he's ever seen from a shooter.
"I think I can play (30 minutes). But it just depends on the game," Wilcox said. "If they don't need me they won't use me as much."
One thing UW will need Thursday is to defend the often immovable Joshua Smith inside. UCLA's 6-10 sophomore from the Seattle suburb of Kent - a summer ball teammate of Washington's Tony Wroten who is, um, conservatively listed by the Bruins at 305 pounds - had 12 points and 16 rebounds off the bench the last time these teams met. That was a 70-63 win for the Huskies at Alaska Airlines Arena last March 3.
"We've been on the same teams since fifth grade. We go way back," Wroten said. "Man, he's huge. I haven't seen him in about a year, and they say he's bigger."
Wroten is going to have his eyes on Smith - and his body on high alert - when he makes his many drives into the lane Thursday.
"You know going in you've got to protect yourself," he said. "He's not taking a charge. He's coming to block shots. It's crazy how athletic he is for him being as big as he is."
When UCLA has the ball, it will often fall to Aziz N'Diaye to combat Smith and his size.
"That's a big challenge," Washington's 7-foot center said, accenting "big."
He says Smith is the largest man he's ever defended. And N'Diaye has played from his native Senegal to Europe to prep school in Illinois to the College of Southern Idaho to UW.
"I remember last year playing him, a day later my back was hurting just from pushing on him," N'Diaye said. "If you are behind him deep in the paint, there's not much you can do. I have to front him sometimes and be really fast running the floor, using that to my advantage."
This time N'Diaye has help to go against Smith plus fellow inside Bruins David and Travis Wear, twins and sophomore transfers from North Carolina who each average double figures in scoring.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be playing his fourth game since joining the team off coach Steve Sarkisian's football squad. Banging is the 6-foot-6, 258-pound freshman's specialty - and his joy.
While at Gig Harbor, Wash., High School, UW's football tight end faced Smith and Kentwood High twice in basketball. Though Seferian-Jenkins lost both of those meetings, he says, "Yeah, I moved him in high school."
"But he's bigger now," said Seferian-Jenkins, the 19th Husky ever to appear in both a football and basketball game at UW, and first since Nate Robinson in 2002 and '03-05. "And I wasn't as strong as I am now. I've gotten a lot stronger and I'm in a lot better shape.
"The comparison is to a really big defensive end who can move."
Seferian-Jenkins said the toughest one he tried to move during this past football season was Nick Perry, USC's 6-foot-3, 250-pound force who is about to get drafted into the NFL.
Smith is seven inches taller and 60-plus pounds heavier than Perry. But, hey, at least Smith won't be wearing cleats to dig in Thursday.
"It's going to be fun," Seferian-Jenkins said.
QUICK SHOTS: The Huskies are commemorating Thursday as a return to the 1970's, so wear your bell bottoms and sideburns if you are coming to the game. There won't be any throw-back uniforms, and Romar said he regrets his guys won't be wearing the same, striped warm-ups he wore before UW games in 1979 and '80. "And no, I'm not wearing an Afro," Romar joked. ... It is also Romar's 500th game of his 17-year coaching career that began at Pepperdine and took him to Saint Louis before Washington. He joins UCLA coach Ben Howland (560), Arizona State's Herb Sendek (596), Oregon's Dana Altman (710) and Cal's Mike Montgomery (914) as Pac-12 coaches with at least 500 career games. ... Washington has won seven in a row over UCLA in Seattle, and three straight in the series overall. The Huskies haven't beaten the Bruins four straight times overall since 1952. ... Washington has started conference play 7-2 three other times under Romar. In 2005, in '09 and again last season, the Huskies went on to reach the NCAA tournament. The only time the Dawgs have been 8-2 in the conference under Romar they finished 14-4 and won the league in 2005.