Imagine a Washington backcourt with Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach LaVine, two of the most dynamic freshmen in the Pac-12.
The Huskies began recruiting LaVine, the former Bothell High standout, about 2-3 years before they got wind of Williams-Goss in Portland. Both were highly touted, four-star point guards recruits, which made it unlikely they’d land on the same team.
But for awhile, it looked as if coach Lorenzo Romar had secured a phenomenal talent in LaVine, an explosive athlete and a gifted shooter.
“He had been coming to our camps for the longest, I think when he was like in the sixth grade,” Romar said. “At a real young age. He was really small then, but continued to grow. Continued to improve. We definitely recruited. And we definitely wanted him. We found out a little bit later though that it was kind of a dream of his to go to UCLA. We didn’t know that at first. But we found out that was the school he wanted to go to and targeted. They offered him and there he was.”
LaVine jumped on the NBA almost unexpectedly in the nonconference season. He drained three three-pointers in the season opener. He had four threes in consecutive games against Nevada and Northwestern while scoring 21 and 18 points respectively.
Then came the dunks. And not just your garden-variety dunks, but the kind of jams that get you on ESPN’s top plays and gets reviewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube.
And like most freshman, LaVine ran into the proverbial freshman wall. During a seven-game stretch that began in late January, he was 9 for 40 from the field (22.5 percent) while failing to score more than nine points in any game.
Recently, LaVine has shown signs of emerging from his slump. He scored 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting against Stanford and tallied 18 points and eight rebounds against Oregon last week.
“I thought Zach was phenomenal early,” Romar said. “He was shooting over like over 55 percent from the three-point line or something like that. He was playing really good basketball. His numbers kind of dipped a little bit. But then what had happened is, it’s almost like a rebuilt engine. They come back fixed, new and improved. When they come back from that, (it’s) a less-is-more kind of a situation. They become more efficient. More productive. They don’t necessarily score a whole lot more points, but what they do on that floor is more impactful than it probably was early and I think that’s what we’re probably seeing from Zach.”
Take a good look when LaVine and the UCLA Bruins visit Washington on Thursday because he may not return next season.
WEDNESDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Bud Withers thinks Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is stretching the boundaries of credibility when he said Washington, which won the Pac-10 regular-season title, would have received a NCAA tournament at-large berth if the conference’s current TV deal had been in place at the time of the snub.
— Despite winning the outright Pac-12 regular-season title and the No. 1 seed to next week’s conference tournament, there’s still plenty for No. 3 Arizona to play for in the final week of the season. The Wildcats can also play the spoiler and potentially pop the bubble for teams who are hoping for a NCAA tourney at-larger berth.
— Make it six in a row for Oregon. Mike Moser had 22 points, including 11 at the free throw line, and 17 rebounds for the Ducks who ran past Arizona State 85-78 in the first Tuesday night game at Matthew Knight Arena. Jascon Calliste scored scored 16, Damyean Dotson 15 and Joseph Young 13 for Oregon.
— Arizona State trailed 15-0 at the start of the game and never really got back into it. Jahii Carson led Arizona State (21-9, 10-7) with 28 points, including four 3-pointers. Jermaine Marshall added 16 points and Jordan Bachynski had 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
— Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak played for California coach Mike Montgomery when they were at Montana and the bond between them still remains strong.
— The Utes are just 1-7 road record, which doesn’t bode well considering the rest of their games are away from home.
— This week in Corvallis, Ore. it’s all about Oregon State’s three seniors (Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier) who helped change the culture of losing surrounding the program.
TODAY’S PAC-12 SCHEDULE:
Colorado (20-9, 9-7) at Stanford (18-10, 9-7), 6 p.m. PT …………….. ESPN2
No. 3 Arizona (27-2, 14-2) at Oregon State (15-13, 7-9), 8 p.m. …….. Fox Sports 1
Utah (19-9, 8-8) at California (18-11, 9-7), 8 p.m. ……………………… ESPNU
Picks: Stanford, Arizona and Cal
Pac-12 tally: 72-25
Season tally: 171-48