TUCSON, Ariz. – They were going to be stars for the Huskies.
At least that was the plan hashed out when Nigel Williams-Goss, Darin Johnson and Aaron Gordon visited Washington together on a recruiting trip last September.
Williams-Goss, the prototypical floor general, was going to zip passes to Johnson, the sweet-shooting wing, on the perimeter for three-pointers. And Williams-Goss was supposed to flip alley-oop lobs to Gordon, the crazy athletic forward, for highlight jams.
“That’s what you do on those trips,” Williams-Goss said. “You do kind of look into the future and say maybe we can do this or do that.
“But we all know we each have to make the best individual decision for ourselves.”
They hit it off fabulously. Johnson and Gordon, both Bay Area standouts, were teammates two years prior on the AAU Oakland Solidiers.
Williams-Goss and Gordon would eventually pair together in the McDonald’s All-American game where Gordon won MVP honors.
They also teamed up for the USA national team that won a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
“That (Washington recruiting visit) was actually my first time meting Nigel, but I knew Aaron before with the Soldiers,” Johnson said. “It was a good trip with. We had a lot in common.
“We were talking playing together. That’s what we thought the move was going to be. But we went our separate ways so it is, what it is.”
Williams-Goss verbally committed to Washington on April 29, 2012 and Johnson announced his decision to play at UW via Twitter on Oct. 29.
After a prolonged wait, Gordon chose Arizona over Washington and Oregon on April 2, 2013.
“I knew it was between us and Arizona and Arizona had a little bit of an edge all the way through,” Williams-Goss said. “I wouldn’t say it was a surprise.”
Johnson added: “I wasn’t surprised because I guess he’s one of the top players and I guess he saw Arizona as the best choice for him.”
Gordon’s decision sets the stage for an anticipated if not somewhat awkward reunion 11 a.m. PT Saturday when Washington (9-5, 1-0 Pac-12) faces the No. 1 Wildcats (14-0, 1-0).
“For a long time, he was coming to Washington,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Down the stretch and I think he would tell you that, for a long time, he was going to come.
“But he came to Arizona and he was very impressed with what was going on. He felt here he could have a chance to win a national championship.”
So just how close did Washington get to landing the five-star recuit?
“It was close, but down the stretch he kind of made up his mind what he wanted,” Romar said. “We didn’t have the best year last year and that may have hurt our chances as well.”
While his statistics (12.0 points per game and 7.8 rebounding) aren’t as eye-popping as other high-profile freshmen, it’s difficult to argue Gordon made the wrong choice considering Arizona looks as if it’s going to vie for a NCAA tournament title.
“People don’t understand, Aaron can get 10 assists and eight points and be tickled pink because he had 10 assists,” Romar said. “He’s an unselfish player. He’s one of the few, high-profile, elite basketball players that has a motor and really gets after it. I think that sets him apart from a lot of people. He can play on any team, anywhere.”
Johnson said Gordon hasn’t changed much since they played together for the Soldiers.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger,” Johnson said. “He competes so that’s the most important thing with him. He really rebounds. He’s always been a good competitor.”
ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID
Washington has been the runner-up in several prominent recruiting battles over the years. Here’s a look back at some of the major prospects who got away.
Name Year School
Aaron Gordon 2013 Arizona
Mike Moser 2013 Oregon
God’s Gift Achiuwa 2011 St. John’s
Angelo Chol 2011 Arizona
Norvel Pelle 2011 St. John’s
Terrence Jones 2010 Kentucky
Enes Kanter 2010 Kentucky
Josh Smith 2010 UCLA
Tyler Honeycutt 2009 UCLA
DeMarcus Cousins 2009 Kentucky
Drew Gordon 2008 UCLA