Explaining how his 14-12 Huskies are still worthy of attention from sentinent beings, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar likes to use the analogy of dormant seeds.
“The seeds are in the soil, but you drive by every day and all you see is dirt,” he said Tuesday. “Underneath, something is growing. All of a sudden, there it is. It’s very late in the year, but I see some things growing.”
Romar picked a bad time to execute on his agrarian vision, playing at 8 p.m. Wednesday against 12th-ranked Arizona in Tucson, an environment notoriously harsh on tender shoots, not to mention tender shooters, the Huskies being tied for last in the Pac-12 Conference in threes (30.5 percent).
But with five regular-season games left before the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, the Huskies pretty much have no choice but to go oak or go home.
Speaking of wood, Romar decided to take out his virtual paddle in response to the heavy criticism delivered upon Abdul Gaddy for his mediocre senior season. Romar acted neither strident not perturbed, but his monologue was as close as the publicly placid coach gets to taking a shot in the media.
“When kids are in high school and college, I think it’s crazy to viciously attack someone if they have a bad month or bad season,” he said. “They’re not getting paid. There probably would be a lot who would disagree with that.
“That’s what you get for buying a ticket to be a fan, I guess. As an athlete, that’s what you sign up for. People will be critical.”
Romar delivered a long list of top players in his 11 years at UW who faced similar criticism from fans — Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter, Tony Wroten. Answering a later question, he jumped back to add in Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas.
He grew animated when speaking of Thomas, who is now a steady contributor to the Sacramento Kings, who may become Seattle residents this fall.
“What is (Romar) doing? (Thomas) is too small,” said Romar, mimicking the fan critics. “He’s out of control. He’s a 5-foot-8 three-man. He’s awful. He’s terrible. Not a D-I player.”
Gaddy is the No. 3 assist man in UW history, and the active conference career leader. He’s averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists over the past eight games. But he’s made a number of turnovers late in games that were egregious for a senior captain.
Particularly notorious was the first meeting against Arizona Jan. 31 at Hec Ed, which the Huskies lost 57-53, blowing a winnable game in part because Gaddy threw the ball away on a late possession, then on the next possession inbounded the ball to startled center Aziz N’Diaye, who heaved his first three-pointer of the season that looked weirder than Sen. Marco Rubio lunging for a bottle of water.
Gaddy had six of Washington’s 17 turnovers, which led 20 Wildcats points, a huge amount when Arizona scored only 57.
Gaddy came from Tacoma’s Bellarmine High School four years ago as one of the nation’s more highly recruited players. He’s had his moments and his streaks, but hasn’t lived up to the hype. That’s hardly unusual in college ball, but it’s standing out in Montlake because the Huskies were counting heavily on Gaddy and fellow senior Scott Suggs, following the departures of Wroten and Terrence Ross to the NBA.
Romar is more aware than anyone of Gaddy’s blunders, but has always been loyal, perhaps to a fault, to his senior leaders. He wasn’t about to listen to the hecklers.
“They’ve been wrong every time,” Romar said of the critics. “When all said and done, they were wrong every time (about previous Huskies). Totally off. Not even close. The majority of guys I named played in NBA. But people are very very critical.
“A lot of times the general public is like the barber shop — everybody has an opinion, everyone believes their opinion.”
Gaddy still has five games to help salvage a season and perhaps a game or two in the Pac-12 tourney. Their chances improved slightly Sunday when C.J. Wilcox recovered from his scoring slump with 24 points in a 72-62 home win against Oregon State. As important, 6-10 redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau came off the bench for career highs of eight points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes against OSU.
Jarreau started the season’s first seven games before Romar realized his mistake and benched Jarreau until he gained more practice experience.
In hindsight, even Jarreau admitted he wasn’t ready in November.
“It was unexpected,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going to start the first game. I was amped about it. But as the games went on, I was sort of, ‘Wow. This is serious. I got to bring more to table.'”
Wednesday would be a good time for him, and Gaddy, to bring whatever they have. It’s almost spring, and the last thing the Huskies need is six feet of dirt over the seeds.