Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar says he likes the potential of next season's Huskies despite two-time all-conference guard Isaiah Thomas' decision to leave for the NBA.
Thomas, a junior from Tacoma and Curtis High School, announced Thursday that he will skip his senior season to pursue his lifelong goal of professional basketball.
“It is a goodbye,” Thomas said. “It’s sorry to say, but I feel like this is the right time for me to make this decision.”
Thomas hasn’t yet hired an agent and therefore retains his college eligibility. However, he stressed he isn’t merely testing the NBA waters, but instead is diving in.
“I don’t think it’s a real strong draft class with the point guards this year,” he said. “I’m just really confident in myself and I prayed on this decision, and I feel like it’s the right thing for me and my family.”
Thomas said he has been told that he is likely to be selected from the middle of the first round to the early second round. Romar said his investigation only showed a consensus Thomas would be drafted.
As a junior, Thomas was an All-America honorable mention, a first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference selection, and, for the second consecutive season, the outstanding player of the conference tournament.
He led UW and was fourth in the Pac-10 with 16.8 points per game and led the conference with 6.1 assists. He also ranked eight in steals and 3-pointers made per game. His 213 assists are second-most in UW single-season history.
Through three seasons, he ranks sixth in UW career points (1,721), third in assists (415), third in 3-point makes (164) and eighth in steals (122).
His departure – along with the losses of seniors Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton – means the Huskies will go into next season without their top three scorers, their top two assists providers, their top rebounder, and three top defenders from the 24-11 team that finished third in the Pac-10 and won one game in the NCAA tournament.
Romar admits the depletion ranks among the most severe of his nine seasons at UW. However, he expressed optimism about his returning team.
“I think our perimeter is potentially really good,” Romar said, citing players such as Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and incoming point guard Tony Wroten. He also said Thomas’ departure makes it probable that recruit Andrew Andrews, a guard from Portland, will enroll in the fall rather than go to prep school.
Romar said leadership can come from Gaddy and senior forward Darnell Gant; that more minutes and opportunities will be available for other players capable of stepping up; and that he hopes to sign two more scholarship players, including at least one big man.
“I like the potential of that group, I really do,” Romar said.
Still, Romar did not minimize the loss of Thomas, who he said could have been a candidate for national player of the year had he returned.
“What a career he has had up to this point,” Romar said. “I mean, three years of championships one way or another, a lot of scoring, a lot of passing, a lot of thrills, a lot of hard work. It’s been great.”
Thomas had similar praise for Romar and others who supported him over his three college seasons. He called his decision “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
“I couldn’t thank my teammates and the coaching staff enough, because they’ve done so many things for me and helped me; and also the fans and everybody who supports the University of Washington,” he said. “... I’m going to miss that and the Dawg Pack and everything ... at the University of Washington, because I’m born in Tacoma, Washington; and I grew up seeing guys like Donald Watts and Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy and guys like that, just cherishing that system, and I’m going to miss it.”
The NBA draft will be held June 23 in Newark, N.J.