Fifth grade was when C.J. Wilcox began refining his jump shot with his father, Craig.
Dad, who played two seasons at BYU, informed his son he had a gift. The younger Wilcox presented it to Long Beach State on Tuesday night.
The redshirt freshman scored 20 points, hitting six of the eight 3-pointers he attempted during a 102-75 rush past the 49ers in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
This is a different breed of shooter for Washington. Wilcox has length, athleticism, to compliment the shooting. Though he put up 1,000 shots a day throughout high school, he never worked much on his footwork or drifting to an open area. Those skills just came.
Wilcox worked on form shooting. Prior to practice now, he starts off at a side basket. Standing near the hoop, he makes 10 on one side of the lane, 10 in the middle, 10 on the other side. Then he steps back and repeats. Back further, to midrange now, and repeat.
That takes care of his hands, his wrist flick pounded into muscle memory. But one of the separators for Wilcox is being fleet. He’s able to rapidly veer off screens and crisply set his feet. Once the toes are down, so is the shot.
Wilcox’s first precise display came during the rampage over Virginia in Maui. He scored 17 points, splashing four of six 3-pointers. Add it up, Wilcox is 17-for-29 from behind the line, 58.6 percent.
One of those 12 misses was different. Down three points with eight seconds left against Michigan State, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar turned to the bench and yelled “C.J.!” Wilcox was sent into the game for his third minute of play on the day. He air-balled a potential game-tying 3-pointer, Washington was forced to foul, and it lost its second consecutive game.
Wilcox admitted he mentally left the game, anticipating not being inserted back onto the floor. Romar apologized afterward for putting Wilcox in such a difficult position.
Tuesday night’s conversation revolved around Wilcox’s success. “He was exceptional,” Romar said.
As was most of the team. Washington shot a proficient 75 percent in the second half. It also made 14 3-pointers. Seven players were in double figures, plus the Huskies held the rebounding advantage on the night they changed the starting lineup by sitting Matthew Bryan-Amaning and starting Aziz N’Diaye.
Wilcox still talks technique with his dad. They touch base every other day after his father puruses game tape. His teammates are becoming equally familiar. Tendencies were learned by teammates during practice last season. Washington guard Isaiah Thomas said during the preseason he learned to find Wilcox to bail him out. On Tuesday night, Thomas expressed his envy.
“I don’t think he understands how good of a shooter he is,” Thomas said. “If I could shoot like that, I would shoot every time.”
He’ll have to watch Wilcox do it for now.