March 3, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins center Joshua Smith (34) fouls Washington Huskies guard Tony Wroten (14) in the first half of the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Brandon Roy, Justin Dentmon, Isaiah Thomas, Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross. Nigel Williams-Goss? Andrew Andrews? Who knows who the next star guard to be born from the hands of Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies will be.
What we do know is that there have been plenty before and there will be plenty after. Since Romar took the helm of the program in 2002, Washington has had the second-most guards drafted in the Pac-12. The Huskies have had six ball handlers picked, second only to UCLA’s seven.
Is this enough evidence to declare Washington the guard kings of the west coast? Probably not. But draft picks aren’t the only numbers that matter. In fact, actual production at the college level matters the most and that is where the Huskies shine.
Romar has been known for being able to find four-year players that can contribute their whole time at UW in addition to the occasional one-and-done players like Wroten and Spencer Hawes.
What is deceiving about just looking at draft picks is that four-year players like Conroy, Dentmon and Abdul Gaddy are lost in the dust. None of them was drafted, yet two of them sit atop the all-time assists leader board and the other started all four years he was here. Conroy and Dentmon have gotten their shots in the NBA already, while Gaddy could easily stick somewhere after this summer.
The Bruins and other elite programs have their share of undrafted guards who played key roles, but the Huskies rule that category across the board. I’ll take the Huskies’ undrafted players against any other Pac-12 team’s.
Who will continue the legacy that Romar has established at UW? Will Williams-Goss stay all four years or leave early? Jahmel Taylor or Darin Johnson could blossom into the next Brandon Roy.
That’s the beauty of Washington basketball. As one leaf blows away, another one turns over. Through the turmoil of the last two seasons, one thing has remained consistent: the guards. As Aziz N’Diaye and Shawn Kemp Jr. went through struggles down low, the backcourt was there.
Now, as Gaddy, Ross and Wroten leave, another group must take the reins. C.J. Wilcox moves on after this season, too, and one of the newcomers will be forced to step into his shoes.
April 1, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonald’s All American forward guards Kaela Davis (3) and Nigel Williams-Goss pose with a trophy after winning the three point shooting competition during the Powerade Jamfest at the Gerald Ratner Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Can Williams-Goss, Andrews, Johnson and Taylor lead the Huskies to greater heights than a group that had (likely) three NBA draft picks in it? This group, plus JUCO transfer Mike Anderson and 2014 wing Donaven Dorsey, has the potential to. They may produce more NBA players than Ross, Wroten and Wilcox.
If anything, it seems likely that there aren’t any one-and-done’s in the group – even Williams-Goss.
In order to still be in the discussion of “Guard U”, this group has to shine. It has to bring the program back to national prominence, something that the previous was unable to do. With a smart point guard and sharpshooting two, they have the chance to do things no team under Romar has been able to accomplish.
This is all banking on something that has been consistent under Romar, no matter how the team does: player development. He and his staff have been able to take under-the-radar recruits and turn them into All Pac-12 players. We’ve seen what Andrews can do after just his freshman year and people are already raving about Johnson and Taylor.
The future of Husky basketball doesn’t lay on the shoulders of Williams-Goss. He just has to live up expectations. It depends on what the lower-rated players do in their time on Montlake. At least one needs to break through in order for progress to be made, or else Romar’s job may be on the line.