The University of Washington basketball program has been blessed since the day that former player Lorenzo Romar took over the program in 2002. Since that time the Huskies have been knocking on the door of the elite level of college basketball with consistent play and regular NCAA Tournament appearances.
Lorenzo is one of the good guys in the sport. His kids stay out of trouble, his teams win quite a bit more than they lose, and most importantly his players graduate. With the exception of an early recruiting miscue by Cameron Dollar his program is among the cleanest in the country.
Running things clean mean that his players, family members, and the assorted entourage aren't receiving special benefits to come to Washington. You come to Washington to play basketball at the highest level and prepare yourself for what comes later in life. If it isn't the NBA you still have the opportunity to obtain a degree from one the best colleges in the country.
During his career at Washington Romar has built up his program to level that gives him a decent shot to take his team deep into the NCAA Tournament. Taking it to the next level means you are going to be knocking heads with the Kentucky's of the world in recruiting. You are going to lose more than you win in that battle when it comes to recruiting.
Kentucky is college basketball royalty. The Wildcats have been to the Big Dance a record 50 times and have won 101 games in the tournament. They have been to 41 Sweet 16's, 32 Elite 8's, and 13 Final Fours. They rank second only to UCLA with 7 national championships.
Kentucky's 23,000 plus seat arena is packed every single night during the basketball season and the who's who of the region such as Ashley Judd can be seen at court side during games. There are also another million or so fans who aren't in the arena who are big time followers of the program. It is easy to see why a kid like Portland's Terrence Jones would choose to attend school there. Kentucky is the definition of big time when it comes to college basketball.
The flip side of the equation is that the
Wildcats sport a graduation success rate of only 18 percent for its black athletes and 31 percent overall according to statistics released in 2009. Kentucky’s graduation rate scorecard for its black players for the last six years reads like this: 18, 17, 9, 17, 17, and 0.
Over the last 10 years, its black player graduation rate has never risen above 29 percent. Its overall graduation rate passed 50 percent only once, in 2001. When you factor in that the NCAA doesn't penalize schools anymore for players going early to the NBA the overall numbers are extremely poor.
When John Calipari took over as Wildcat coach in 2009 a total of seven players were asked to go elsewhere to make room for the new blood that Calipari was going to bring in. Four of those former players have said publicly they were asked to leave the program.
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said that Calipari was honest with the team he inherited.
Players were told up front whether or not they fit into Kentucky's plans. Either "we have a spot for you or we can help you go someplace else," Barnhart said.
Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones are probable one and done players according to the scouts. Perhaps trivial things such as graduation rates, degree's, and a stable coaching staff are not that important when an attainable goal is a multi million dollar contract in the NBA after a mandatory year in college.
We like to think that a kid has more value than just being a basketball player when he chooses to attend Washington. Quincy Pondexter is an excellent example of a kid who did extremely well on and off the court during his four year stay.
Q-Pon will likely be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. He probably won't end up being an all time great in the NBA but he should be in a position to set himself up financially for the rest of his life. Even if the NBA doesn't work out he can always fall back on the degree he earned at Washington and the connections he made while attending school to help secure his future.
That being said the UW has attrition just like every other school. Kids leave in search of more playing time and others simply have been given the suggestion that they might be a better fit at a lower level program. That is how the game is played in the rarified air of perenial tournament programs.
One thing that a kid who commits to Washington can count on is that Lorenzo Romar is going to be his coach whether he stays one year or five at the school. Lorenzo isn't going anywhere and he honestly wants to retire at Washington. There aren't a lot of coaches out there like that.
At Kentucky things are different. The return of John Calipari in 2010 isn't guaranteed even though he has only been on the job for one season. Coach Cal has one foot in the bluegrass and the other in the NBA. Rumors have him teaming up to broker a package deal with LeBron James in Chicago or New York next season.
Despite the daily rumors of Calipari moving on there was something in his message to Terrence Jones which made enough sense to him and his family to renege on his commitment to Washington and attend Kentucky. Only time will tell if he made the right choice.
Life goes on at Washington despite the losses of Kanter and Jones Coach Romar is still thrilled with his three man recruiting class. He has a physical seven footer who can run the court and give him needed beef inside in Aziz N'Diaye. He has a pure shooter who can also defend in Terrence Ross who Kentucky also wanted. He also has Desmond Simmons who reminds him of Bobby Jones and Justin Holiday.
It is a good class that keeps Washington at or near the top of the Pac 10 in coming years. It gives the Huskies a chance to break past the Sweet Sixteen in coming years and make a run at the final four without selling out the soul of the program to get there.
Huskies Golfers Dominate
Washington never really has been an elite golf school. the weather in the Northwest isn't as ideal as it is in places like California, Arizona, or the Southeast. Despite that Washington has put together one of the elite golf programs in the country over the last decade. Washington has won two consecutive Pac 10 championships and won the NCAA Western regional recently by an incredible 29 strokes! The Huskies now move on to the NCAA championships in Chattanooga on June 1st in the quest for their first NCAA team championship.
Softball Team Advances to the NCAA Super Regionals
The Huskies beat North Carolina 2-1 in Seattle to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals where they will face 14th seeded Oklahoma in a best of three series at home starting on Thursday.