University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, scheduled to spend his final press conference of the season summarizing the events of 2011-12, predictably focused instead on the headlines generated over three days by his two leading scorers, sophomore Terrence Ross (16.4 ppg) and freshman Tony Wroten (16.0 ppg), now ex-Huskies.
Ross, a Portland native, announced Sunday that he would make himself available for the NBA draft rather than return to Washington for what would have been his junior season. Wroten, a freshman from Seattle’s Garfield High School, followed suit Tuesday afternoon.
Both had, according to Romar, received sufficient positive information to make them believe they would become first-round NBA picks, Ross probably as a middle-rounder, Wroten as a late-rounder.
Washington has never had two players selected in the first round of the draft, but “came close” in 2005. Martell Webster, who starred at Seattle Prep, committed to Washington, but then opted go directly from high school to the NBA. The Phoenix Suns selected Nate Robinson in the first round and immediately traded him to the New York Knicks.
“Terrence and Tony are two exceptional talents that we’ve lost,” Romar said. “They both accomplished quit a bit while they were here and, while they both are young, they certainly made their presences felt. Obviously, we wish them well.”
Ross made first-team All-Pac-12, became a strong candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year, and led the Huskies in scoring (23.6 ppg) during Washington’s run through the National Invitation Tournament. He was one of two Pac-12 player to rank among the league’s top 10 in scoring and rebounding. Ross scored a season-high 32 points against Northwestern during the NIT.
Wroten also made first-team All-Pac-12, won the league’s Freshman of the Year award and set UW freshman records for points, steals and assists. Wroten scored 20 or more points 12 times, with a high of 29 against Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament. Wroten also missed four free throws in the final 18 seconds of that game, helping Oregon State win. UW’s loss factored heavily in the Huskies’ failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
Asked how he felt his two evacuees would fare in the NBA, Romar said, “We won’t know the end result for another three years.”
While it became a foregone conclusion that Ross would bail after two years in the Husky program, Wroten played only one under Romar and exhibited what Romar described as enough “holes in his game” to make many suspect Wroten might return. Wroten made just 16.1 percent of his 3-pointers and 58.3 percent of his free throws.
“As a young player, Tony struggled in some areas,” said Romar. “You are talking about someone leaving as a freshman and your name is not Kevin Durant. With almost every young player, you are going to find holes in their game. In Tony’s case, I rarely hear people talk about what he does. It’s always about his holes.
“But if the NBA drafts you, it feels that you are ready enough to mold into the player they think you can be. People look at Tony and expect a finished product. He’s not a finished product. Are there areas he needs to improve at? Absolutely. But when he improves in those areas, wow. And while he was here, he got a lot done.”
Asked about the one-and-done trend, Romar said, “Most kids, if they could be one and done, they’d do it. One of the keys to doing well in college basketball is that when you have guys who play for year or two, you surround them with older players, I’m fine with that.”
In the wake of the bolts by Ross and Wroten, Romar emphasized what he has left in the cupboard.
“This will give other guys an opportunity to step up,” said Romar. “We’ve had several guys red shirting and I think they will be able to come in and do a good job for us.”
Ross mentioned two specific returnees, senior guard Scott Suggs, who ranked third in the then-Pac-10 two years ago in 3-point percentage (45.0), and freshman guard Andrew Andrews, both of whom redshirted last season, Suggs because of injury.
“Suggs was a strong candidate to be a starter (in 2011-12), and Andrews (2011 Oregon 5A State Player of the Year) has gained a lot of respect from his teammates. I think we have some pieces there and will continue to go forward.”
If Romar could offer a one-word re-cap of 2011-12, that word would be “inconsistent.” Part of the reason was that his perimeter players averaged too many minutes, which affected UW’s ability to sustain good defensive play, which in turn impacted the Husky offense.
“We must, and will, get back to guarding the way we are capable of,” said Romar. “We will have more of a presence inside in terms of scoring the ball. We will make it more difficult to get the ball in the paint. We were an inconsistent team this year. When we were dialed in and right we were pretty good. But we didn’t force a lot of turnovers, and teams were able to get into rhythm a against us. We will get back to playing the type of defense we have been accustomed to playing.”
Washington allowed 70.1 ppg in its 24-11 season, 11th in the Pac-12 Conference.