SEATTLE — Multiple byproducts come from a 22.3 points-per-game average in Pacific-12 Conference play.
It vaults a player’s name to the top of the opponent’s scouting report. Causes him to do more interviews. Increases expectations.
It also spurs talk about the next level. That is what’s beginning to happen around C.J. Wilcox.
Wilcox is off to a start that recent former Huskies now in the NBA would envy. His 19.4 overall points per game are higher than Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas or Terrence Ross averaged in their best seasons at Washington.
He has made 181 career 3-pointers, which places him third on Washington’s all-time list. He’s on pace to make 38 more 3-pointers before the regular season is over, which would move him into second place behind Ryan Appleby’s 231. It would also give him 83 3-pointers for the season – just short of Appleby’s school record of 84, set in 2007.
Wilcox said he didn’t play any defense in high school. That has changed in college. He is second on the team in blocked shots and has a side bet with 7-foot Aziz N’Diaye, who leads Wilcox by one block, about who will finish the season with the team lead.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Wilcox has evolved from a functional defender to a defensive “playmaker” this season. Wilcox’s rebounding has also increased from 2.1 per game his redshirt freshman season to 4.8 per game this year. Wilcox said earlier in the year a fair expectation for him is six rebounds a game.
All this work is being done with a low amount of flair and showmanship, an approach that often causes diminished publicity.
Washington’s use of the high-post offense is pragmatic as opposed to highlight-filled. Yet, the “will he stay?” question about Wilcox is beginning to percolate. As a redshirt junior, he has one quarter left before graduating. Draftexpress.com projects him as an early second-round pick should he declare for the draft this year.
Romar said he spoke to Wilcox prior to the season about the draft and there was no indication from Wilcox either way. This is old hat for Romar, who dealt with two players – Ross and Tony Wroten – who declared early last year, plus Isaiah Thomas, who came out after his junior year, the season before that. In addition, numerous other Huskies have thought about leaving early, including Pondexter, who anticipated leaving after his freshman season.
“Guys will say we’ll talk about it when the season’s over, but they’re thinking about it all the time even though they don’t talk about it until the season is over,” Romar said. “(Wilcox is) doing a good job of staying the course.”
Romar singled out Ross as someone who did well playing out the season without letting the NBA questions get in the way. Ross’s focus was buoyed by his mother, Marcine, who did much of the deflecting last season as it became clear Ross was NBA-bound.
Romar also said he has a simple and direct approach to dealing with players potentially leaving early.
“If you’re thinking of going, don’t tell me you’re not,” Romar said. “Here, we’ve never, ever tried to hold someone back. ‘You owe us!’ No. The only things we try to say is let’s make sure it makes sense.
“If it makes sense … not what the people in the streets or at the barbershop are telling you. What are the NBA people telling you? Not what your boys are telling you. Those that are going to be drafting on draft day tell you. That’s all that matters.”
At the moment, all that matters for Washington (12-5, 4-0 Pac-12) is beating Utah (8-9, 0-5) today to stay perfect in conference. But, looming is Wilcox’s decision at the end of the season, a topic that appears to be waiting until then.
Utah (8-9, 0-5 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) at Washington (12-5, 4-0)
8 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 7-5.
Desmond SimmonsF22.214.171.124 35.074.0
Aziz N’DiayeF11.09.40.2 62.847.3
Scouting report: Utah can stop opponents from scoring but has trouble scoring itself. The Utes like to slow things down and often work through 6-foot-10 Jason Washburn. Washburn is tall, but slight. He’s also not a physical player, and Washington has an enormous answer to him in Aziz N’Diaye. Utah is last in field-goal percentage during conference play, shooting 39.7 percent. The Utes use a variety of defenses – box-and-one, triangle-and-two, man-to-man – to slow teams down. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar also expects Utah to be as physical or more so than Colorado was. Washington is trying for its first 5-0 conference start since 1984.
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