Washington coach Lorenzo Romar had been 0-3 the past two years on players contemplating leaving school early for the NBA.
Unlike Terence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. last year and Isaiah Thomas in 2011, junior C.J. Wilcox submitted his name for evaluation by the NBA before choosing to return to school.
Here’s a transcript of most of the interview with Romar who said Wilcox is a potential All-American candidate.
(How much of a surprise was the news if it was a surprise at all?) “I couldn’t say either was a surprise. I think he was really torn. I really do. He was really torn.”
(How much input did you have?) “My approach every year unless I think they’re making a horrible mistake is to gather the information for them, help them with the pros and cons and then let them decide.”
(Does Wilcox staying affect recruiting?) “I think really good players want to play with really good players. If you look around when a team has an addition, I think guys are excited.”
(How much does Wilcox returning elevate the team?) “When you have returners – he’s a second-team all-league choice – you can have just return and have experience, but maybe they’ve not done anything at a high level. Well, C.J. has. C.J. returns as an all-conference performer and anytime you have someone like that who is coachable and team-oriented as C.J. is it’s definitely going to make you better than if you didn’t have them.”
(How is Wilcox’s foot?) “It will eventually be fine. But like Scott Suggs’ foot was, Scott eventually had to have surgery with his. Whether you have surgery or whether you wait, eventually his foot is going to be fine. He’s still not at a point right now where he can just go 100 percent day in and day out. But that day will come.”
(Do you anticipate him having surgery?) “No.”
(How do you envision UW next season with Wilcox?) “You know for sure you have a go-to guy. For sure. You start and that question gets asked from the beginning of the year. Well, we know from the outset C.J. is a guy that’s going to provide scoring for us. There’s no doubt about that. You come into the year knowing you have that. I think the best offensive teams have a minimum of a triangle that can score points. We have that with C.J. and Perris Blackwell and whoever that third guy is of the triangle will emerge. From there you have guys that can put the ball in the basket and kind of play off of those guys. He’s the cornerstone of that right now. You have a guy that can come in and is a potential All-American. When you have that it definitely, definitely helps your team coming into the year.”
(What type of role will Wilcox have?) “I think we will see his being a role of being an all-around basketball player that won’t just be the guy that is receiving the ball to make shots, but also a guy that’s distributing the ball to make shots. I don’t mean he’s going to become the point guard, but he’ll be out on the floor making more decisions with that basketball in his hands. As well as maybe guarding the opposition’s best player. Just coming up with the big plays. We’ll be dependent on him a lot.”
(What’s it say about Wilcox to return to school?) “It not only speaks well for C.J., but his parents. His dad has been unbelievable in this process just making sure this decision was calculated and thought out. They worked together on it. I think C.J. was realistic about what he wanted to get accomplished. C.J. said they had a plan from Day 1. I think they are sticking with that plan for C.J. to become the best that he can possibly be before he goes on to the next level. That’s what they’ve tried to do. At times it was questioned. But as people began to see what kind of player C.J. was his sophomore year. (They asked) why would you let him redshirt when occasionally you could have used him here and there? My answer then was occasionally here and there is not going to be worth the impact he’ll have that last year. Next year we’ll see that impact. They stuck with that decision and you just don’t see that very much in this day and age.”
(How does next season’s personnel affect Wilcox?) “It will be less is more. I think there were times when C.J. was just worn out. In some programs you can play that many minutes and be fine because maybe you’re playing a little more zone and you’re sitting back defensively letting the team come to you and you’re not trying to push the ball. But the way we play is pretty demanding. And if you’re trying to do the right thing it can wear you down over a period of time. And understand his 34 minutes wasn’t a normal 34 minutes. You’re talking about him having to run around the entire game to get open. It was a lot asked of C.J. Next year with more depth, with more of a presence scoring in some other areas, I think he’ll have much more of a consistent year and do a lot more things. I want to say this too, there’s no doubt in my mind if C.J. would have made a decision to leave that he would have played in the NBA this year. There could have been a possibility that he could have worked his way up in the workouts into the first round. That could have happened. But C.J. and his family they didn’t want to go in through the backdoor sort of speak. They wanted to come in through the front door. I think this will allow him to do that.”
(What’s on Wilcox’s offseason to-do list?) “With C.J. being a senior, coming back next year, just having the ball in his hand and making the right plays. Different opportunities. Defensively being stronger. Being able to lead. Just being more aggressive. I think his athleticism is going to naturally show. He made a play against Cal I believe it was this year – maybe it was last year – where Allen Crabbe tried to drive to the basket. C.J. just went up there and blocked a dunk out of nowhere. If you didn’t know him, you’d go whoa I had no idea he could do that. I think he’s going to show more of those things next year because he’s very athletic. He’s very fast. He’s very quick. He can get up to about (11 feet 6 inches) on the top of the backboard. He can really jump.”
(In what areas did the NBA people say Wilcox needs to improve?) “Getting to the foul line. Making plays for others. I think that would help his cause. When he drives to the lane and gets double teammed, kicking it out. Just recognizing that his decision making. Getting stronger. Using a two-man game, the ball screen and all of those things. Those are things I think C.J. is able to do, but I think he’ll be more confident next year.”
(Does he need to come back stronger or heavier?) “I don’t know if the weight is as important as the strength. I think sometimes finishing through contact that might be where the strength comes in. Going to basket with the ball in traffic. Not getting it knocked away. But in terms of endurance, you go out to play the way that we want 35 minutes a game and it’s going to be hard for you to keep that up for an entire season. I don’t care how strong you are.”