NBA draft: Washington's loss of Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten inspires conflicting emotions
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar says there's an upside to losing Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross too soon.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Lorenzo Romar is too even-keeled to consider this week bittersweet. He's also too even-keeled to blow his whistle in your ear if you disagree.
As the NBA draft approaches, the Washington men's basketball coach seems resigned. No sadness, no anger, no regret. He will do nothing but learn from the conflicting situation the Huskies will be in Thursday.
In a fitting conclusion to a wild 2011-2012 season, the Huskies could have multiple first-round draft picks for the first time in Romar's decade leading his alma mater. Shooting guard Terrence Ross seems a lock to be one of the first 30 picks and receive a guaranteed contract. Point guard Tony Wroten Jr. might have to sweat a little more, but he's a likely first-rounder, too. It's an unprecedented success story for Romar's Huskies. While Romar has had multiple NBA draft picks on many of his teams, he's never been able to celebrate a draft class quite like this one.
But this feels like a party with stale cake and deflated balloons.
Despite the potent combination of Ross and Wroten, the Huskies didn't make the NCAA tournament. They won 24 games, but the Huskies will be considered an infamous bunch — the strange, novel Pac-12 regular-season champion that didn't make the Big Dance. This draft will emphasize who the Huskies were and weren't. They were spectacular, yet flawed. Skilled, yet inexperienced. Intriguing, yet frustrating.
Ask Romar about the significance of having two first rounders, and he frankly starts his remarks, "I don't know." He's happy for Wroten, who left after a productive freshman season, and for Ross, who grew tremendously as a sophomore. But if only they had come along at a better time, or stretched the talent more, or stayed a little longer, or played on a more veteran and balanced team.
"I think it's a positive for everybody involved," Romar said. "One player is a one and done, the other is a two and out. If they had been with us a little longer, it would really be exciting times. But they were able to do well enough for the league to recognize them and possibly draft them in the first round. There's nothing wrong with that, but of course, we wish we could've done a little more while we had them."
Though Ross and Wroten weren't around long enough to create a lasting legacy, Romar says the program benefited from having them. They were all-conference players on the court, and without them, the Huskies probably wouldn't have even gotten to the brink of the NCAA tournament. And it never hurts to be able to tell recruits that two of your players were high NBA draft picks.
"Being at the University of Washington doesn't prevent you from being an NBA draft pick," Romar said. "For sure, that's an important reminder to be able to use."
Still, the Huskies missed an incredible opportunity. Ross might be the best raw talent of a Romar era that has included Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter. And Wroten's ability is just as enviable: a 6-foot-5 point guard who passes with flair and lives in the lane. But the Huskies could have used another low-post threat (if only Terrence Jones had honored his verbal commitment), or an all-conference upperclassman (if only Thomas had stayed), or a little luck (if only C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs had been healthy).
Yes, Romar, who was the conference's coach of the year after the Huskies recovered from a mediocre nonconference showing and finished 14-4 in the Pac-12, could have been better, too. But he's not the first to underachieve with youth.
In a year in which Kentucky won the national championship with four freshmen and two sophomores among its top seven players, the Huskies' struggles with a young squad were easy to mock. Yet that's not exactly fair. Kentucky coach John Calipari is riding the anomaly of having the nation's best recruiting class for three straight years.
"I think people should quit saying, 'What about Kentucky?' " Romar said. "Only one team does it like that."
The rest of college basketball is full of stories like Washington's. Even mighty North Carolina failed to make the NCAA tournament two years ago despite having 2010 lottery pick Ed Davis, as well as Tyler Zeller and John Henson, who are surefire first-rounders in this draft.
The NBA covets potential. And despite all the hype surrounding one-and-done freshmen, most of the best college basketball teams develop over multiple seasons. Freshman Carmelo Anthony leading Syracuse to the 2003 national title is an aberration, not the norm.
So, at times, there will be partly cloudy days like the Huskies will experience Thursday. It's better than the alternative — failing to get elite talent.
"I've learned you have to be patient, yet firm," Romar said when asked how he'll guide a young team better next time.
Patient? Well, Romar is better equipped for that than the rest of us.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JerryBrewer.
|Terrence Ross||15, Philadelphia||17, Dallas||20, Denver||7, Golden State||14, Houston||13, Phoenix||16, Houston|
|Tony Wroten||23, Atlanta||24, Cleveland||30, Golden State||34, Cleveland||26, Indiana|
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