October 2, 2013 at 8:18 AM
Can Lorenzo Romar, C.J. Wilcox return UW to prominence?
Washington opens fall camp today with lots of uncertainty surrounding a team that’s missed the NCAA tournament the past two years.
Here’s a look at seven questions the Huskies will need to answer this season.
1 Lorenzo Romar
Can he turn things around?
Washington missed the NCAA tournament the past two years, which has caused a considerable amount of angst among Husky fans. Romar is arguably the most successful coach in UW history, but another NIT finish and his seat will likely get warm. He fired long-time 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.
2 C.J. Wilox
Is the jump-shooting guard healthy enough to carry the Huskies?
The fifth-year senior, who turns 23 in December, debated entering the NBA draft in the offseason, but returned 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, then the Huskies are in big trouble.
3 Perris Blackwell
Is the San Francisco transfer ready for the Pac-12?
The Huskies will only have the services of Blackwell for one year and his resume says he should give them a scoring presence in the middle that UW hasn’t had in years. The 6-9, 280-pound big man will likely start in the post. He’ll remind Husky fans of UW great Jon Brockman because 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.
4 Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews
Can the young point guards play together?
Williams-Goss, a 6-3 and 180-pound freshman, 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. Andrews, a 6-2 and 195-pound third-year sophomore, was the backup point guard last season and the second leading returning scorer who averaged 7.8 points. Romar has used two point guards in recent years (Abdul Gaddy/Tony Wroten Jr.; Isaiah Thomas/Gaddy and Justin Dentmon/Thomas). Williams-Goss is a prototype point guard, but Andrews is not an ideal candidate for shooting. He shot 27 percent on three-pointers last season.
5 The Chemistry
Will it bond the players or tear them apart?
Romar hopes to establish a rotation early in the non-conference season, but that coule be difficult because Washington lost three senior starters to graduation. However, 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 lineups. 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. NBA scouts are Jarreau intrigued by the 6-10 Jarreau, who is seemingly an ideal fit for UW’s high-post offense. However, Kemp starred late last season and has a game that pairs nicely with Blackwell. And Simmons hopes to transition to a wing player.
6 The Role Players
Will anyone 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 going to contend for a Pac-12 title and a NCAA tourney berth. Romar believes Andrews, Kemp or Jarreau are ready to take a big step forward in terms of their production. Incoming freshman Darin Johnson has been impressive during summer workouts and junior-college transfer Mike Anderson is touted scorer. This is a make-or-break year for veteran guard Hikeem Stewart. And is their a role for newcomer Gilles Dierickx?
7 The Intangibles
How does UW jump start a sagging offense?
The Huskies retain the high-post offense that averaged just 67.9 points last season. Romar admits the players should be more comfortable with the schemes in year two. However, the offense wasn’t UW’s 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.