Huskies slowly easing Wilcox back to action
Seattle Times staff reporter
Lorenzo Romar stopped practice a few times at the start of Tuesday’s workout to instruct the Washington men’s basketball team on one of its signature high-post sets.
After a few attempts resulted in two turnovers and a missed jump shot, the coach stopped practice again.
“If we don’t get this right,” he yelled, “We can’t run our offense.”
Of course, things might have gone a lot smoother if C.J. Wilcox, UW’s fifth-year senior co-captain, was on the floor instead of watching from the sideline.
The Huskies began training camp last week without their leading returning scorer, who is resting his ailing left foot. It’s the same foot that bothered Wilcox during the second half of last season and required offseason surgery, in which a screw was inserted near his little toe to correct a bothersome stress fracture.
“He’s limited now just to make sure everything is OK from that surgery,” Romar said. “He’ll start to do more drills next week. From there he should be fine for the season.”
Considering the Nov. 10 season opener against Seattle University is still more than a month away, the Huskies aren’t overly concerned with Wilcox’s absence. On the other hand, five months after his May surgery the status of Wilcox’s foot is something that can make or break the season.
He was on crutches for 1½ months and in a walking boot for another four weeks. Doctors cleared him to play in mid-August, and Wilcox traveled to Los Angeles to work out with former Husky standouts Quincy Pondexer and Terrence Ross, who were taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
“That just re-affirmed to me that I can play with those guys,” Wilcox said. “I’m not that far away from all of that.”
While Romar seems confident Wilcox’s nagging injury has been resolved, Wilcox said the Huskies will monitor his workload in practice and his minutes during games all season.
Washington, which finished tied for sixth in the Pac-12 last season with a 9-9 league record and 18-16 overall mark, can’t afford to lose the 6-foot-5 guard who averaged 16.8 points and started all 34 games.
“I’m taking my time,” Wilcox said. “Just going light. Doing a little bit of shooting here and there. Just trying not to rush into it. There’s no rush. We’re ahead of schedule anyways.”
Romar must acclimate a team that returns two starters and five lettermen with eight newcomers. That includes big man Perris Blackwell, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Romar expects Blackwell, a 6-9, 275-pound senior forward who played three years at San Francisco, to be UW’s second-most consistent scorer behind Wilcox.
“Mark that one down,” Romar said. “We are counting on him to score points for us.”
Wilcox and Blackwell, both fifth-year seniors, were voted co-captains.
It’s a mystery who else will provide consistent production.
Candidates include: sophomore point guard Andrew Andrews, forwards Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau, as well as freshman guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Darin Johnson.
The overhaul didn’t stop with the roster. The Huskies added two assistants (Raphael Chillious and T.J. Otzelberger) and strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro.
“There’s a lot of newness here right now,” Romar said.
Wilcox, Washington’s lone holdover from its last NCAA tournament team in 2011, also noted the changes.
“It’s different,” he said. “When I first got here we were winning a lot of games. The last couple of years haven’t been the way we wanted it to be, but I think this year we have a good chance of getting back to the tournament.”
• Andrews (back) was held out of the early portion of Tuesday’s practice. Freshman guard Jahmel Taylor has been limited in practice with an unspecified injury.
• Washington added walk-on Conner Smith, a 6-8 senior.
• Romar picked Arizona as the Pac-12 favorite. “They’ve got about 75 pros on their team,” he said, jokingly.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen