BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 02/22/2012

Thiel: Huskies do well in one-and-done era

Washington’s next victory will make four seasons in a row with 20 wins, a school record. What’s impressive is that they have come in the one-and-done era of freshmen turning pro.

Terrence Ross had 30 points and 14 rebounds against Washington State, which may end up being his most prolific game of his college career -- if he turns pro. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

After the tittering and guffawing die down in early March, a team or teams will have won or shared the Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship. It’s the rule. If the Huskies are there, no matter how clown-car was the league, having done the deed only once in the last 53 years, the regular-season crown will be a big deal.

But a more impressive mark is this: The next Washington win will be the 20th of the season, meaning that milestone will have been reached four years in a row — a first in UW hoops history.

In the era of one-and-done for NBA-caliber players, that’s rare air.

Then, if coach Lorenzo Romar pulls off 20 wins next year, after losing two players to the first round of the NBA draft, just give him the deed to the campus.

Not saying it’s going to happen, but once Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten start getting all giggly about going pro, staying back in Montlake is going to be hard to do. Plus, by moving on, they won’t have to go through the annoyance of the question anymore.

“They’ve handled it very well,” said Romar, “but it puts a lot of pressure on players in the middle of the season.”

Sometimes it seems that our fast-twitch culture is so intoxicated with the future that it overwhelms the here and now. The intense attention given to high school recruiting and pro drafts nearly surpasses the passion for game and seasonal outcomes. We can’t be satisfied with what’s now before we demand to know what’s next.

Near the end of Washington’s win over Arizona Saturday, as Ross stood at the free-throw line, he was serenaded by bleats of “One more year!” from the Dawg Pack denizens.

Romar described the gesture, a routine ritual for premier college players with choices, as “lovingly chanting,” but noticed that Ross was shaking his head. Not, as Ross explained later, telling the crowd “no,” but because he was nearly mortified.

“He  was embarrassed,” Romar said.  “If he were alone, maybe he wouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he’s with his team, and he’s a team guy. It’s  hard to avoid (the question) –  it’s the elephant in the room, but a player of his caliber is going to get asked that question.”

The question has changed college basketball over the last six years. Since the NBA after the 2004-05 season mandated a minimum age of 19 for entry into the draft, to end the practice of having to scout high school games, the invention of the one-and-done player has made managing the college roster a more aggravating task than herding water buffaloes.

In some cases, such as with now-retired Arizona coach Lute Olson, the one and done drove him bats. With other coaches, such as John Calipari at Kentucky, he makes in a point to go after the best talents each year and expects they will leave after a season.

Romar is somewhere in the middle, managing to accept the rule while quietly selling the virtues of college life to those willing to listen.

Among those players in Romar’s 10 years who made it to the NBA, he coaxed four years out of Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, Will Conroy, Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter, and three out of Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson . Spencer Hawes was the lone one-and-done, although Huskies signee Martell Webster left for the NBA from Seattle Prep in 2005, the final year it was possible.

Asked how he managed the feat, he answered with feet, as in, “Two feet in.”

Romar asks the recruit with pro potential to give his all in the first season, instead of “one foot in, one foot out the door.

“Nowadays in recruiting, it’s just part of the discussion — one and done, two and out, four years . . . ‘How do you feel about it? Where do you stand?’”

Naturally, Romar is an advocate of the full-meal deal, a coach who takes as much pride in Darnell Gant, one-time NBA wanna-be, finishing with his degree as he does in Thomas putting up 23 points in his first NBA start last week.

“People say all these basketball and football players don’t care about an education,” he said. “Trust me, I care about an education.”

Yet he manages to get the W’s too. Should the 19-8 Huskies win any among their final three games — at Washington State Saturday, and next week at USC and UCLA to end the regular season — the fourth 20-win season is two less that the number of 20-win seasons by his four UW predecessors combined — Marv Harshman (four), Andy Russo (one), Lynn Nance (none), Bob Bender (one).

Granted, the Huskies play a few more games now, but they also play with fewer upperclassmen. And if Wroten and Ross leave, Romar will be tested next season as never before.

For longtime Seattle basketball fans, the prodigy-to-pro story is an old one, and its origins had roots here. More than 40 years ago,  Spencer Haywood left college in Detroit after one year to join Denver in the now-defunct American Basketball Association. After a single season, he was pirated away by then-Sonics owner Sam Schulman, who was promptly sued by the NBA for hiring a player before his four years of college eligibility had passed.

Schulman argued that the restriction was an unfair restraint of trade. A federal judge agreed — and changed the game.

As a 21-year-old NBA rookie, Haywood averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds. By his third year, he was averaging 29 points and 13 rebounds, doing things that fans a generation and a half later think were invented by LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Tee-hee.

Haywood established that while the NBA is a man’s game, a few special kids can play it, and must be permitted to play it. A couple of his hoops descendants are in his old town. Should they leave it shortly, they would do well to offer a virtual fist-bump to a previous Seattle baller who opened the door, and a current Seattle coach who made them jump two feet in.


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    I wonder if part of the reason one and done has become so prevalent is with kids who can play for a season and leave, which means they don’t have to attend but a few classes?
    That’s what Corey Dillon did and makes it easy to make a name without the grind of playing a sport and also spending much time studying.

    • Artthiel

      The one-and-one is hoops only, and done for the benefit of the NBA, not the players. It’s true that players really don’t have to care about school, but that’s really never changed, as long th school is willing to indulge them. Regarding Dillon, he was a JC transfer who became eligible as soon as his jr yr at UW was done. And if he did crack a book, it was purely for his pleasure.   

  • 1coolguy

    I wonder if part of the reason one and done has become so prevalent is with kids who can play for a season and leave, which means they don’t have to attend but a few classes?
    That’s what Corey Dillon did and makes it easy to make a name without the grind of playing a sport and also spending much time studying.

    • Artthiel

      The one-and-one is hoops only, and done for the benefit of the NBA, not the players. It’s true that players really don’t have to care about school, but that’s really never changed, as long th school is willing to indulge them. Regarding Dillon, he was a JC transfer who became eligible as soon as his jr yr at UW was done. And if he did crack a book, it was purely for his pleasure.   

  • jafabian

    Won’t happen but I wish the NCAA would reinstate the freshman rule, where you couldn’t participate in sports until after your freshman year.  But then, if it was up to me I’d dump the three point line and the dunk.  I’m a purist that way.  You want to make it on SportsCenter?  Wait until the NBA or the Olympics. 

    The NBA is ruining the NCAA game with kids thinking they’re THIS far away from the NBA and making a huge financial windfall.  Another rule I wouldn’t mind seenig return but again, won’t ever happen is the hardship rule.  Or something like it.  I think if Spencer Hawes stayed the full four years at Washington he’s be an All-Star by now.  His game would be that much better.

    Calipari does seem to be working within the one-and-done rule even better than Coach Romar but then again his reputation isn’t the best.  How schools like Duke and North Carolina work with it is impressive.  They just keep rolling.  Here’s to the Huskies get to that level at some point under Lorenzo!

  • jafabian

    Won’t happen but I wish the NCAA would reinstate the freshman rule, where you couldn’t participate in sports until after your freshman year.  But then, if it was up to me I’d dump the three point line and the dunk.  I’m a purist that way.  You want to make it on SportsCenter?  Wait until the NBA or the Olympics. 

    The NBA is ruining the NCAA game with kids thinking they’re THIS far away from the NBA and making a huge financial windfall.  Another rule I wouldn’t mind seenig return but again, won’t ever happen is the hardship rule.  Or something like it.  I think if Spencer Hawes stayed the full four years at Washington he’s be an All-Star by now.  His game would be that much better.

    Calipari does seem to be working within the one-and-done rule even better than Coach Romar but then again his reputation isn’t the best.  How schools like Duke and North Carolina work with it is impressive.  They just keep rolling.  Here’s to the Huskies get to that level at some point under Lorenzo!

  • Artthiel

    Jafabian, you’re right, you’re a purist. No rolling things back to short short.  As far as denying kids jobs, the old rule was unfair, even if it messes with college ball. The game is mostly corrupt, but it’s good to see some guys, like Gant, getting as much out of college as they give. 

    • jafabian

      I’d like to see players like Gant or Brandon Roy join the coaching staff at some point.  Their experiences as four year players would be beneficial to future players on the team and would even be a good recruiting tool.  Parent’s would love to have them talk to their kid about the benefits on staying in school.

      Love your use of Spencer Haywood in your article Art.  His case DID change the game.  I’d say though that back then Spencer was a lot more ready for the NBA than a lot of kids who come into the game early today.  But then again Spencer didn’t have to deal with nearly as many things as today’s players do.

  • Artthiel

    Jafabian, you’re right, you’re a purist. No rolling things back to short short.  As far as denying kids jobs, the old rule was unfair, even if it messes with college ball. The game is mostly corrupt, but it’s good to see some guys, like Gant, getting as much out of college as they give. 

    • jafabian

      I’d like to see players like Gant or Brandon Roy join the coaching staff at some point.  Their experiences as four year players would be beneficial to future players on the team and would even be a good recruiting tool.  Parent’s would love to have them talk to their kid about the benefits on staying in school.

      Love your use of Spencer Haywood in your article Art.  His case DID change the game.  I’d say though that back then Spencer was a lot more ready for the NBA than a lot of kids who come into the game early today.  But then again Spencer didn’t have to deal with nearly as many things as today’s players do.

  • cruddly

     So now we grade how the teams drafted by comparing their actual picks against the experts’ predictions?   Does this makes sense?   It kind of does if you make your living hyping this kind of crap for a football starved nation.  America loves things that can be inflated, from beach balls to the  NFL draft.

  • Phharmening

    Sometimes one does roll a 7 on the come-out passline, and I’ve seen it done 3 times in succession. The NFL draft is nothing other than a crap shoot.  There is no way to give an accurate grade on this Seahawk class now.  And when a grade can be given, either PC and JS will be called geniuses, or they will be on their way to the unemployment lines.  

  • Soggyblogger

    Like most polls, I hated the questions. I was forced to pick the least offensive statement: I trust PC/JS to …. blah blah. While I think this draft grade (stupid, stupid, stupid) is A, it’s not entirely because I “trust” this FO, but because I did my own pre-draft scouting, and thought Irvin the best non-QB prospect for our team. Yes, I did. I hated the other pass rush options. They all have “potential bust” written across their foreheads. Mediocre, short armed, slackers, and questionable production in college. While Irvin is fast by any standard used. I can see him terrorizing QB’s for the next ten years. 

    Who can blame sportswriters for quoting other sports writers to validate their own opinions? Original research is too much to ask. Having an original opinion is, too. Oh, well, back to amateur sports blogs………………