Unleashed: Ross: I Don't Know What The Future Holds
March 28, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
NEW YORK - Wearing a gray Nike sweatshirt with an uncharacteristically brash message -- "Don't Sweat My Swag" -- Terrence Ross stepped away from the gaggle of Huskies that had just entered the Marriott Marquis 30 minutes past midnight Wednesday morning. He then began a private conversation with Lorenzo Romar.
The star shooter - and shooting star - talked briefly but intently with his coach, who was leaving in a few hours for New Orleans and the annual national coaches' convention at the Final Four. Romar was headed there after UW's schizophrenic season had ended with Tuesday's one-point, overtime loss to Minnesota in National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
Their chat was reminiscent of the one Romar had with another underclassman star 12 months ago. That one was near the team bus before it took Washington to the Charlotte, N.C., airport for the trip home following its third-round loss to North Carolina in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Now Isaiah Thomas is a candidate to become the NBA's rookie of the year with the Sacramento Kings.
Ross seems to now be heading down Thomas' path. But his decision may be tougher - and certainly more compressed - than I.T.'s.
I don't know if it's going to be my final game. I don't know what the future holds.
"I don't know if it's going to be my final game. I don't know what the future holds," Ross told me before he scored 12 of Washington's first 18 points and 21 overall on Tuesday night to help rally the Huskies from 15 down to an improbable overtime period.
"I'm just going to take it one day at a time. (I'm) going to take some time to think about it."
That time began with Romar at the bottom of the Marriott Marquis way early Wednesday.
The next conversations he will have will be with his most trusted confident.
When I asked him whom he will consult next on the biggest decision of his 21-year-old life, Ross said: "Probably just my mom."
Marcine Ross is back in their hometown of Vancouver, Wash. She has had a lot to do with her son, the 2008 Class 5A player of the year in Oregon as a sophomore, finding his way to UW - and now onto the cusp of this life-altering decision.
She worked across the Columbia River in Portland, Ore., and drove Terrence into that city to school in his freshman and senior years at Jefferson High School. She home-schooled Ross in the 2007-08 academic year while he played for Jefferson and won a state championship for the Democrats as a sophomore.
Ross' road from there to UW has been anything but straight up Interstate 5. It's included a stay in suburban Washington, D.C., for one year of high school there. It's included Ross considering a prep school in Phoenix, before he returned home to re-enroll at Jefferson.
Given all he's done and all the places he's been to get to this point - including the 100 extra jump shots and post moves he began doing with assistant Paul Fortier in the middle of this season before and after each practice, home and away, to gain more consistency - it's easy to see how tempting this NBA chance is for him right now.
Ross says he will also consult "personal friends that have been in my situation" of leaving college early for the NBA. They will undoubtedly include Terrence Jones.
Ross' teammate at Jefferson High is now a sophomore starring for Kentucky at this weekend's Final Four. He is considered a potential top-10 pick that almost everyone expects will declare for the draft in the next couple weeks.
Oh, Ross has one final person he wants to consult continuously over the next couple weeks.
"Romar," he said.
He's got a great advisor there.
Romar is among the most connected - and most respected - coaches in the country, in college or the NBA. He knows the people who make draft decisions in the NBA. Plus, he's gone through this with Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes and Thomas. All have left early for the league during Romar's 10 seasons leading the Huskies.
The consulting is going to be done in a flurry, because Ross' decision must come soon. College players that want an assessment from the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee have a deadline of April 3 to apply for one. The committee's deadline to provide a response to that player is April 6.
This year the NCAA has established a new early-entry "withdrawal" deadline of April 10, the day before the next signing period for college National Letters of Intent.
This year the NCAA has established a new early-entry "withdrawal" deadline of April 10, the day before the next signing period for college National Letters of Intent. The NCAA's approved proposal No. 2010-24 states "student-athletes interested in 'testing the waters' of the NBA draft (must) remove their names from consideration before the first day of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period."
So an underclassman that has received an assessment from the NBA's advisory can only remain eligible for college ball if he tells the pro league by April 10 "no thanks" on its draft.
The NBA's early entry eligibility deadline for this summer's draft is April 29. The league will release a list of the draft-eligible underclassmen May 3 or 4.
The new, accelerated NCAA deadline so soon after the college season helps programs and its recruits know far sooner where roster vacancies may be in the so-called "late" signing period that begins April 11. But it puts a crunch on players to make a quicker choice.
Ross' crunch began Wednesday. So did Tony Wroten's, for that matter. The freshman point guard with unique size (he's 6-5) and an uncanny ability to get to the rim is also contemplating whether to enter this summer's draft. He just became the Pac-12's freshman of the year and UW's all-time freshman leader in points, assists, steals and free-throw attempts - and turnovers.
"I don't know," Wroten said when asked about his future just before he got on the freight elevator that took the Huskies out of Madison Square Garden early Wednesday morning. "I'm going to sit down with my family and go from there." Later Wednesday, Wroten tweeted: "Now it's time to sit down with my bro @UWFlight31 (Ross) and see what our future holds. #ILoveUW"
"MAN, I LOVE THIS TEAM"
True to his quiet, understated persona, Ross has gone out of his way to keep it about the Huskies and not about him throughout this season, even while everyone around him gushed about his pro prospects.
"Man I love this team all these guys my brothers for life... #dawglife," Ross tweeted Wednesday as the Huskies' bus was pulling out of Times Square for Newark Airport. Ross and Wroten both made first-team All-Pac-12. Both averaged 16 points per game on UW's second outright regular-season league champion team since 1953. But Ross' game was more well-rounded and consistent on offense and defense this season as he emerged following Thomas' departure. Of course each would benefit by returning to school. Their shots would only get better. Romar would keep preaching and teaching his defensive principles that would make guards at their size even more valued. And each would mature exponentially, especially the 18-year-old Wroten. Remember how much you grew from age 18 to 20? If Ross returned he could be a first-team All-America and a top-five NBA pick in 2013. But he doesn't need to come back. His outside shot is so smooth and his post-up game so advanced for a guard, NBA people covet it him as-is.
Essentially, it comes down to this: Merely getting drafted and receiving one, initial NBA contract, with playing time far from guaranteed; or potentially becoming lottery picks on their ways to huge opportunities for second, mammoth free-agent contracts after those first ones end.
Their teammates, two keys to next season's Huskies team whether Ross and Wroten stay or go, just shrugged around midnight Wednesday morning inside the New York Knicks' posh locker room at The Garden when I asked them what they think they will do.
"I have no idea," sophomore sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox said. "Hopefully, they do (stay)."
"I don't know," Abdul Gaddy said, speaking for every Husky. "We'll have to wait and see."
About Gregg Bell Gregg Bell is an award-winning sports writer who joined the University of Washington's staff in September 2010 as the Director of Writing. Previously, Bell served as the senior national sports writer in Seattle for The Associated Press. The native of Steubenville, Ohio, is a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000.
Gregg Bell Unleashed can be found on GoHuskies.com each Wednesday.