Photo credit: Seattle Times – Mark Harrison
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies are losing a great player in Isaiah Thomas, the junior guard who decided to forgo a year of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft.
Romar expects soon-to-be seniors Darnell Gant and Scott Suggs as well as guard Abdul Gaddy, a junior next season, to assume the leadership roles.
Without Thomas, there’s plenty of minutes next season and Romar said incoming freshman Tony Wroten Jr. is a leading candidate to take some of those minutes.
There’s a greater chance that Andrew Andrews, the Portland-area recruit who signed with UW but was headed to a prep school this season, will join the team in the fall.
Romar said he didn’t try to talk Thomas out of his decision and believes he’ll be taken in the draft.
Here’s most of the interview with Romar.
(Is this biggest chunk of that you’ve lost since you’ve been at UW?) “Brandon Roy, Jamaal Williams, Mike Jensen and Bobby Jones was the biggest chunk we’ve lost at once since we’ve been here. Now in terms of numbers there four there. Brandon Roy was the sixth player picked in the draft. Bobby Jones played in the NBA. Jamaal Williams was a heckuva scorer. Mike Jensen was a four-year starter. So you compare that with these guys here, it’s pretty close. The year before that we lost Tre Simmons, Will Conroy, Nate Robinson and Hakeem Rollins. That was a pretty big loss too.”
(Is it a curious decision considering Thomas isn’t mentioned in the mock drafts?) “When Nate Robinson came out, I don’t know if he was on any of those drafts. Now he was the 21st pick in the draft. So you never know. So when he (Thomas) said what he said a week ago that was right after his season as over. He’s been able to talk to a lot of people since then. I can’t condemn him for changing his mind that way. He made a decision based on the information he had at the time. Today as he spoke, he had different information.”
(What if he changes his mind again? Would you welcome him back?) “Absolutely. Why wouldn’t we? I don’t see this as a slap in the face either way. No. 1 they made the rule for you to do this very thing. To go and test the waters. That’s a rule. That’s what you’re allowed to do. That’s not anything he’s doing behind our backs. He’s talked to me the entire time. This isn’t anything I feel is underhanded and hey man you betrayed us. Nothing like that at all. He can go and attain his dream and play in the NBA. I believe he’ll come back and get his degree. I’m excited for him. If he goes down the road and has cold feet or has even more information and something changes and all of sudden wants to come back, we’ll welcome him back. Isaiah has given us everything. He’s been a hard worker. He’s been a leader. He’s been great. There is no way in the world we would like at him as we’d be sour if he were to change his mind either way.”
(Did you try and talk him out of it?) “No. When I talk to guys I kind of have a feel for where they are headed with it. I’ve just kind of learned when guys have their mind made up all I can do is be honest with them and tell them what’s out there and then they make their decision.
“If we back up when Brandon Roy was going to do this after his junior year we talked about it and he said nope. You know what I’m going to, I don’t need to try. I don’t need to find out where I’m going to be drafted. I’m going to just come back. And Jon Brockman he was invited to the pre-draft camp in Orlando at the time. We asked a lot of questions and the feedback we got was that he was not a first-round draft choice and he may not even be drafted. And he said well if that’s the case, I don’t need to go to Orlando because I don’t want to do that. I’ll just come back my senior year. Quincy Pondexter said I’ve decided I don’t even need to look at the information where I’m going to be drafted. Nate Robinson said I’m looking. His sophomore year he went to the pre-draft camp and almost came out his sophomore year but then came out his junior year. His mind was made up. I think each individual is different in each individual case.
“Some guys think well coach just wants – and Isaiah wasn’t like this – but coach just wants me to come back because he wants his team to be better. He’s only thinking about himself. So sometimes you’re in a tough situation that way also. Our guys have been pretty good and been pretty realistic over the years with this stuff.”
(What do you think about next year’s team?) “Our perimeter is potentially really good. Potential means you haven’t done anything yet. But with Abdul Gaddy coming back. And then those three wings – Scott Suggs, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox. I think those are three pretty potent wings with size. And then coming in with Hikeem Stewart and Tony Wroten, I like the potential of that group. I really do in spite of Isaiah leaving. I still like what those can potentially do on the perimeter. I think we have great size and great range in the back court next year.”
(Is Gaddy going to be ready to go when the season starts?) “I don’t think there’s any question he comes back. Now come in September and October he may not be able to go all out in terms of the drills. We may have to pick our spots with him. I think by the time we start playing games, he’ll be ready to go. He’ll be fine.”
(Do you have a sense when you recruit guys if they might leave early and if so is there a contingency plan in place if it happens?) “Absolutely. No question about it. When someone signs with us, we have a pretty good idea if they have the potential of being able to leave prematurely before their four years are up. You try to recruit that way. That’s what we try to do. So we’re cognizant of that and if that’s the case, we try to make sure that we have some following up behind them.”
(Have you talked to the team?) “Those guys and Isaiah talk all the time. So this isn’t something that came as total shock to our team.”
(Who is the face of the team now?) “We have a couple of seniors in Scott Suggs and Darnell Gant. I think Darnell Gant is a guy that is fiery and works really hard. He’s a guy that sets a great example. Even as a freshman, I thought Abdul Gaddy was a leader in his own right and now he’s going to be a junior. As we look towards the future, those guys will be guys that will step up and lead.”
(Isaiah mentioned returning to shooting guard played a factor in his decision. How much did you two talk about that?) “That’s something Isaiah and I talked about and I don’t know – matter of fact I do know – that did not play a big role in his decision. That’s something that as you weigh out all of the pros and cons, there may be 50 of them, that was one of 50. I don’t think that was the determining factor for him. We talked about that.
“You say shooting guard was this year when him and Abdul were in the starting lineup – again remember I talked about it before he had 17 points and nine assists against UCLA and Abdul was on the floor with him. When you say shooting guard, I take shooting guard as someone who never handles the ball. He’s off the ball. He’s coming off screens. That’s never how we played Isaiah. He’s never played that way. He’s always shared ball-handling responsibilities and I think he knows that.
“This year was a unique year in that it was the first year we’ve ever had where we had pretty much one guy handling the basketball like Isaiah did. I know that would be different next year with Abdul and Tony Wroten.”
(You have two scholarships now. What are you going to do with them?) “Obviously we’re still looking for a big guy out there. I’m sure we’ll fill those.”
(Do you bring in two big guys or do you have more options?) “We have a few more options and a little more flexibility now. Not trying to avoid your question, I don’t know what the answer will be at this point, but we have a little more flexibility.”
(Is Andrew Andrews’ future a little more clear?) “With Isaiah leaving there’s more of a probability or higher potential of him coming next year in the fall. We’ve talked about it a little bit, but we have not confirmed anything with Andrew.”
(Is is your job to prepare player to turn pro?) “Well first and foremost even with Spencer Hawes who was only with us for a year, if there’s a guy that potentially is going to leave early we try to front load them with academics in the summer before they even start school. So that if they do leave, they’re a little ahead of the curve in terms of getting closer to their degree. That’s one thing we try to be proactive on. Getting them as close as possible.
“But the other thing aside from the academics, you can’t put anyone’s professional aspirations ahead of the team. The team is bigger than me and anyone of the players. Now with that being said, hopefully you play such a way those players can be seen and show what they can do.
“For instance a 6-5 guy that’s playing under the basket the entire time, yet has perimeter skills. It’s one thing if he’s 6-5 and has no perimeter skills. Then that’s where he belongs is under the basket. But if he’s 6-5 and he never gets to play out on the perimeter, well then maybe that hurts him a little bit. The way we play with our structure, we have players who are versatile and they are all over the place. I think they get a chance to show everything. We try to put them in those positions to excel and be the best they can be.
“For the most part in our situation, a lot of guys are able to show what they can do so that they ‘re able to go on to the next level. We’ve had 7-8 guys play in the NBA since we’ve been here and Isaiah could be the next one.
“We talk to the NBA people even when kids are younger. I don’t always tell our guys, but when they are younger I talk to the NBA guys and say what does he need to do to get better? What does he need to do to develop? What can he do to get into the league? How do you see him right now? Where does he fall short? Those things. So we have a pretty good idea of where they are headed in terms of their potential NBA draft status or career or whatever opportunities they may have.”
(How does Thomas compare to Robinson?) “Totally different players. They go about their business in a totally different way. Nate Robinson I don’t see him leading the league in assists. But Nate Robinson was more of an energy guy. He would do things differently they way he would go about his business. They were both explosive scorers, but they scored in different ways. Nate is so much more of a better athlete, but he’s a better athlete than most. I just think they are different players. It’s hard to compare those two.”
(Would you encourage Roy and Pondexter to call Thomas and talk to him about the benefits of returning for your senior season?) “He’s talked to those guys. Those conversations have already taken place.”
(Is it fair to assume Wroten will likely to get more minutes?) “There certainly is some minutes to be taken. I happen to think Tony is a pretty gifted player. Guys like that if they come in and they work really hard, it’s hard not to play those guys.”
(Is there a players past or present that compares to Thomas?) “He’s a little different than a lot of guys out there. Kahlid El-Amin from UConn was small. He was a little truck. Isaiah is strong. He’s not as stocky as Amin was. Khalid was a point guard that could really score. Guys like Aaron Brooks and Earl Boykins that’s small, but they were so speedy. So fast. Isaiah is unique.”
(Could Thomas have had a senior season similar to UConn’s Kemba Walker?) “I think he could be brilliant like that. I don’t know if he would average 23 (points) a game like Kemba did. But I think he could be a National Player of the Year candidate.”
(If you can remove yourself from the role of UW coach, did Thomas make a good decision?) “I think he can come back to school. I think he can improve upon some things for sure. I think he can take his team to great heights. But I also think that what he was able to show this year was a lot. And I think that a NBA person or group that is going to evaluate him has enough of a sample to make a good evaluation. And as a senior he could come back and do some great things individually and he could help us win a lot of games. But in terms of that perception of him, I think they got a pretty good look this year.”