Garfield High star Tony Wroten figures to be a big topic of conversation in Seattle sports in 2011. First, the No. 14 high school hoopster in the country will try to lead Garfield to their first state championship since the Brandon Roy years. Then, in November, he’ll bring his tremendous athleticism and four-star reputation to the Washington basketball team. I’ve been watching Wroten since his freshman year at Garfield. Our Todd Dybas saw Wroten for the second time at last week’s King Holiday Hoopfest. I asked for Todd’s impressions of Wroten.
Todd: He’s a teenager in the blown up conversational world with tirades and accolades coming at him from misguided young and old. At the King Holiday Hoopfest, he played zero defense and cheated through the entire game with his athleticism. During multiple attempts to show out, none more egregious than unnecessary backpedaling immediately following an unnecessary three-point attempt, he looked to blame someone else when it didn’t work. Inaccurate no-look passes flew out of bounds and the look on Wroten’s face is one recognized by anyone who plays basketball. It was a visage passing blame. We know he can score. But accountability, scrapping, consistent defense, boxing out, these are all staples of the Washington program. He didn’t show any of that that night.
Seth: Yowza! So, did you like his game, Todd? I agree with this: He has a lot to learn. But is that different than most high school stars that come to college? I remember Venoy Overton as a senior at Franklin putting up a three at the end of a half, raising his arm in celebration and backpedaling toward the locker room as the ball was still in the air. (It went in.) How about this — if you were a college coach, would you take Wroten? If so, what would you work on first?
Todd: You’re right. The caveat throughout is he is a high school kid. He’s young. And any college coach seeing his skill set and size would take him with that understanding. God knows I was an exceptional level of stupid at that age.
Was it indicative at the time that Overton was also a scrapper? A tough player who does little things when it gets difficult? Or did he learn that at Washington? According to Lorenzo Romar, Overton came in that way. Others had to learn it. Wroten is coming in with apparently little substance.
I would try to fix numerous things:
— First and foremost, convince him defense matters and that he could be very good at it.
— Like he learned against Rainier Beach, hard, straight drives to his power hand will not work against equal athleticism. Beach jumped his left hand twice and Wroten was called for pushing off with his opposite arm each time.
— A pull-up jumper off the dribble would do wonders for him.
Being cocky and raw is no eternal sin for an incoming freshman. He’s only going to get stronger and more skilled. He can fix all those things over three or four years at Washington. But does he, and the folks around him, believe that is necessary? Also, if Isaiah Thomas stays, where does Wroten fit? If he comes off the bench, can he handle that? When in foul trouble against Rainier Beach, Wroten showed a lot of support from the bench for his teammates. That was good to see.
Seth: I’m not so sure whether Wroten’s defense is that suspect. When he played for Team USA this summer, he was used primarily as a defensive stopper off the bench, and that team won the U17 World Championship. My feeling is: In Romar I Trust. Romar has been watching Wroten for four years, and if he though Wroten were unsalvageable, I’m sure he wouldn’t have offered him.
Todd: Look, we saw a beautiful spin move. Two athletic recovery blocks. Flashes. But what I had hoped to see at the King Holiday Hoopfest was a superior talent driven to rip up his opponent at every chance. We saw a lackadaisical superior talent that night. That’s something Romar has dealt with and fixed before. Hopefully for each party, he can again.
In other news…
I’ll be reporting live from the Sports Star of the Year awards tonight at Benaroya Hall. Follow my tweets at @SportsPressNW. If you’re going, or want to shout out, let’s use the hash tag #SportsStar. You can also watch live video of the event on the home page of this site.
Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik says Uncle Miltie will be back with the Mariners this spring.
The Mariners signed former Orioles closer Chris Ray to a minor league deal.
Former Michigan QB Tate Forcier is considering transferring to Washington.
Sounders had their first day of training camp yesterday. For up-to-the-minute reports, follow our Stanley Holmes on Twitter, @StanleyHolmes.
Here’s a review of Shawn Kemp’s new restaurant, Oskar’s Kitchen.
Get this — the Seahawks’ win over the Saints may have helped the Hornets meet their attendance goals. With the beloved Saints out of the playoffs and the headlines, the city’s sports community turned out for Hornets hoops, pushing them above an attendance minimum that would’ve permitted the team to break its lease with the city.
Seattle Sports Star of the Year Awards, live video available here beginning at 5 p.m.
GNAC Hoops: Western Washington @ Seattle Pacific, 7 p.m. (FSN)
I could not agree more with you, Todd. I’ve seen Wroten since he was a freshman at GHS as well. He is a great talent who is absolutely clueless about what it takes to be a great player. What he showed at the King Hoopfest was an absolute disgrace. I’ve never been more embarrassed for a young player; and I’ve seen a lot of young players show very little effort. The worst part is I’m not even sure he knows what he looks like out there. He was self-conscious, arrogant, lacked any effort whatsoever, and was disrespectful of his teammates, opponents, and the game.
All that said, I’m not particularly worried about him. Romar has a way with kids. He won’t tolerate any of that. And if he doesn’t play defense (and with great intensity), he simply won’t play at UW.
Seth: You could not be more wrong in your comparison with Overton. I watched Overton throughout his career at FHS, and he could not be more opposite Wroten in terms of his effort. He plays his butt off from the moment he steps on the floor, and always has. There’s a difference between playing hard and showboating (Overton), and showing no effort and showboating (Wroten). A huge, huge difference.
Love the discussion, dudes. Let’s hope Wroten figures it out. My guess is he will, or he’ll never amount to anything in basketball at all. Right now, he’s a disgrace to hoop. I’d love to say that’s hyperbole, but it’s really not.
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Sorry, one last thing for Todd:
You mentioned that Wroten showed support for his teammates on the bench. I saw that too. I saw him showing support for his teammates, and then looking around to see if everyone was seeing him showing support for his teammates. Kinda lost its genuineness at that point.
I know I’m coming off harsh, and I do feel bad about that. I’ve just seen a lot of talented high school ballers, and have never seen one so talented and so lost. I saw Xavier Henry (similarly hyped player) as a senior in OKC, and came away feeling completely different. He was young, but I could tell he had a grasp of what it takes to be great. … I honestly don’t think it’s Wroten’s fault. At his age, it’s more indicative of the people around him. I’d love to know what people are telling him when he comes home at night.
Thanks again for providing the forum. I love SPNW. You have a great group!