Seven questions for UW men’s basketball
Huskies return C.J. Wilcox but need some others to take giant steps forward if UW is to contend for an NCAA tournament berth.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seven preseason questions about Washington men’s basketball:
Can Lorenzo Romar turn things around?
Washington missed the NCAA tournament the past two years, causing a considerable amount of angst among Husky fans. Coach Lorenzo Romar is arguably the most successful basketball coach in UW history, but another NIT finish and his seat will likely get warm. He fired longtime assistants Paul Fortier and Jim Shaw while returning Rapheal Chillious and bringing in T.J. Otzelberger. Both are noted recruiters, but it remains to be seen if they can make a big impact on the 2013-14 season.
Can C.J. Wilcox carry the Huskies?
Fifth-year senior C.J. Wilcox debated entering the NBA draft in the offseason, but will return to Washington for his final year. He averaged 16.8 points last season, which led UW and ranked sixth in the Pac-12. The sharp-shooting guard underwent foot surgery in May to correct a stress fracture that bothered him in the last dozen or so games last season. If Wilcox doesn’t play at an all-conference level, the Huskies are in big trouble.
Is Perris Blackwell ready for the Pac-12?
The Huskies will only have the services of Perris Blackwell for one year, but theoretically he should give them a scoring presence in the middle that UW hasn’t had in years. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound big man will likely start in the post. He’s strong and wide. He’s a tenacious rebounder, but not much of a shot-blocker or playmaker. In his last year at San Francisco, Blackwell averaged 12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.3 blocks.
Can Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews play together?
Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (6-3, 180) has impressive high-school credentials. He’s just the fifth Husky who was a McDonald’s All-American and he played in the Jordan Brand Classic. Sophomore Andrew Andrews (6-2, 195) was the backup point guard last season and the second-leading returning scorer (7.8 ppg). Williams-Goss is a more natural point guard, but Andrews was a 27 percent shooter on three-pointers last season and may not be an ideal candidate for shooting guard.
What about the chemistry?
Washington lost three senior starters to graduation, but those losses could be offset by a four-man incoming class ranked fourth in the Pac-12 by ESPN.com. Pencil Wilcox and Blackwell in the starting lineup. Everyone else will need to fight for a spot in the rotation. The most heated battle is once again at power forward. Last season, Jernard Jarreau started the first seven games, Desmond Simmons started the next 14 and Shawn Kemp Jr. started the final 14. Romar hopes to establish a rotation early in the nonconference season.
Will anyone else make a meaningful contribution?
Washington should have better depth than last season, but one or two of the role players will need to step into prominent roles if the Huskies are to contend for a Pac-12 title and NCAA tournament berth. Romar believes Andrews, Kemp and Jarreau are ready to take a big step forward in production. Incoming freshman Darin Johnson has been impressive during summer workouts, and junior-college transfer Mike Anderson is a touted scorer.
The Huskies retain the high-post offense that averaged just 67.9 points a game, but the offense wasn’t the biggest problem last season. The Huskies were unable to play their trademark harassing defense that forces turnovers and creates transition baskets. Williams-Goss and Andrews should improve a defense that failed to keep opposing guards out of the paint.