C.J. Wilcox maintains he never saw it coming.
Entering Washington’s final week of the regular season, the Huskies’ leading scorer ranks second in school history with 1,822 career points. He is the first player to make 250 3-pointers and score 1,700 points. During a stretch this season, the senior shooting guard scored at least 15 points in 17 consecutive games.
Oh, and at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, he’s leading the Huskies (16-13, 8-8 Pac-12) with 29 blocks, 11 of which came in the last 11 games.
“Last year me and Aziz (N’Diaye) had a contest. He ended up getting me, but once he left I knew I’d have a lot of room to take the title,” Wilcox said before Wednesday’s practice at Alaska Airlines Arena. “It’s not something I’ve ever worked on. It’s just something I’ve always been able to do. I just have a knack for it, I guess.”
The stat is a product of UW’s undersized starting lineup, which features four players 6-foot-5 and shorter. It also speaks to Wilcox’s quiet improvement in all phases since he committed to the Huskies out of Pleasant Grove, UT in 2009. By his own request, he redshirted his freshman season. Wilcox had a vision, UW coach Lorenzo Romar said, to be a complete basketball player capable of playing in the NBA.
“He’s never said ‘I’m going to come in here, set the world on fire and be gone in a year,'” Romar said of his senior, who might be playing his final games at Hec Ed when the Huskies host UCLA Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2) and USC Saturday (1:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Wilcox actually doesn’t say much of anything. During press conferences, he mutters into the microphone with the enthusiasm of Eeyore. On the court, he rarely smiles or shows much emotion. Despite routinely being guarded by the opponent’s best defender, he doesn’t get frustrated or force plays. In Friday’s 72-49 win over anemic Washington State, Wilcox played 30 minutes and shot just five times, making three buckets en route to eight points.
“I’ve never really seen C.J. pissed off. Maybe he was a couple years ago,” said senior forward Perris Blackwell. “I’ve only known him for these two years, but he’s pretty even-keeled.”
Wilcox said his father, Craig Wilcox, who played at BYU from 1993-95, then later became his shooting coach, taught him to stay calm.
“My dad a little while ago told me to treat every game the same whether it’s a good game or a bad game. Be the same,” Wilcox said. “Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. You can apply it to the game. If you miss a couple shots just stay the same as when you made a couple.”
Wilcox has done more of the latter. He’s fifth in the conference in scoring (18.2 points per game), shooting 46 percent from the field and 85.4 percent from the free-throw line (88 of 103).
Still, he disappears for long stretches when his jump shot isn’t falling. In February, Wilcox admitted the grind of the conference season was wearing him down. In three of the last four games, he failed to reach double-digits in scoring, except for a 23-point output Feb. 22 in a 86-62 win at Oregon State. Wilcox doesn’t necessarily seek the ball at as the clock winds down — that honor goes to sophomore guard Andrew Andrews — but he’s shooting 28 of 30 from the free-throw line (93 percent) in the last five minutes of games.
He’s received some criticism from a UW fan base eager to see the Huskies make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. Romar sees it differently.
“He just comes to practice every day and comes to the games, and there is not a whole lot of complaining,” he said. “He just does what he’s supposed to do. He ‘s really special that way.”
Experts vary on where Wilcox will be selected in June’s NBA draft. Some have him as a late first-round pick. Others think he’ll drop to the second round.
Romar believes Wilcox, 23, possesses the shooting stroke (40.1 percent from 3-point range) and attitude — he’s “very low maintenance,” the coach said — that translates well to the next level. He also thinks Wilcox, who played his junior season with a stress fracture in his foot before undergoing surgery last May, doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism.
Being a jump-shooter comes naturally.
“The majority of the NBA guys are spotting up somewhere, waiting for the ball to come and knocking the shot down,” Romar said. “There’s not too many better than him at that.”
There haven’t been many Huskies, at least statistically, better than Wilcox.