It would be very difficult to put together a case that the best player on the Washington Huskies is anyone other than fifth-year senior C.J. Wilcox. He led the Dawgs in scoring last season with 16.1 points per game, and ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in that category. He and Scott Suggs led one of the best sharpshooting wing duos in the country last season. There was a problem, however. It seemed that only one of them could get into a rhythm at a time. There were glimpses last season, but the two never seemed to put it together at the same time.
Wilcox will have a pair of new teammates along the wing along with a familiar, yet unfamiliar (to us) face. The "familiar" teammate would be Hikeem Stewart. The new faces are junior Mike Anderson, a transfer from Moberly Area Community College in Missouri, and Darin Johnson, a freshman recruited out of Sheldon HS in Sacramento, CA.
Guessing, the two starting wings would likely be Wilcox and Anderson, but we know Romar has a proclivity to run two point guards in a lineup at the same time. Should Nigel Williams-Goss, crown jewel of the 2013 recruiting class, and Andrew Andrews both earn spots in the starting lineup over Anderson I would not be surprised.
Nonetheless, the wing isn't as crowded as it has been in recent years. It is not to the point where someone is going to transfer because they are afraid of not getting the playing time they want (Elston Turner). So, let's take a look at the wings for this season.
Last season Stewart did not receive all that much playing time. The little playing time he received was cut to minimal amounts when Scott Suggs returned from injury. We cannot dissect his game the same way we can with Andrews just because we haven't seen as much of him.
*I am putting Hikeem Stewart with the wings because he was recruited as a shooting guard, and because the preview of Andrew Andrews's game took a lot more space than I anticipated. Stewart has been working as a point guard a lot in the offseason and in practice last year, and will probably be running the point when he plays, but up to this point he has been more of a 2-guard than a 1, so he is going here, for now.
Defense was the name of his game last year. He got playing time due to his defense. His offense left some things to be desired. He is able to make the first pass to get the offense into a set, but after that is not much of a threat to score. He does have some ability to hit mid-range jumpers, and maybe he has extended his range out to the three-point line over the off-season, but as a whole, his offense is not what he is on the team for. That would be defense. He is good at defense, he potentially could be the best perimeter defender on the Huskies.
The problem with his offense is his Offensive Rating (advanced metric that gives a broad picture as to how good a player is offensively by determining how many points that player would create over 100 possessions) is 62.2. Average is somewhere around 100. That sort of "offense" greatly hinders a team, no matter what kind of defense he provides.
Coming out of high school, he was considered to be a combo scoring guard with good slashing ability in the lane. He has struggled to make the transition to a point guard, being a creator for others as opposed to being the one putting the ball in the basket himself. He has struggled putting the ball in the basket himself in general, actually. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times sat down with him and talked a little bit about this upcoming season. Check it out, some cool stuff in there.
We haven't seen much of Stewart, but like he said, "It's now or never." His junior year is coming up, and if he doesn't make an impact, this year, it is difficult to see him making the court too much in his final season with the Dawgs.
An athlete. That is the main item to mind when someone watches Darin Johnson play. He is explosive. Shining in transition - in the PG preview article I mentioned that Romar is looking to return to more of an up-tempo style, as is his nature - Johnson's athleticism and physicality allow him to get to the rim. His length and strength allow him to finish as well. As Stewart put it in his talk with Allen, "He's a real athletic slasher. He's long. He can play D. He's real quick... But Darin is a heckuva athlete."
Johnson flew under the radar but he is rated as a four-star recruit by many sites, three-star by ESPN, whose scouting report is actually very positive about him. Some of the few questions about him are his ceiling as a player and his outside shot. He has a decent jumper, but it could stand to get a little bit more consistent both in the mid-range pull-up game and from deep. He is an incoming freshman, so his decision-making may not be the best right away, but that is something that should get sorted out as he gains experience. His passing is still okay, for a wing player.
One reason his ceiling is called into question is because it looks like he has filled out more than most players his age, so his physical development beyond this stage is a bit uncertain. At this time, we don't know what to expect out of him. We don't know what we can expect out of any newcomers, including this next one.
Junior college recruits don't have very much information for us to go off of. What we do have, are stats. We also have quotes from pay sites that I can't share on this free site. What do we know about Mike Anderson? We can't say that we know very much, as we haven't seen him play much, nor are there scouting reports out there for many JUCO recruits such as Anderson.
A little background on him is probably in order. He went to high school in Hartford, Conn. at Weaver High School. Originally, he attended Iowa Western CC where he redshirted before he transferred to Lincoln Trail College in Illinois. He found his way to Moberly after all of that shuffling around.
While he was at Moberly, he helped to lead them to the Region 16 Championship Game. He scored 29 points to go along with 14 rebounds, but it wasn't enough as they lost 77-70 in a game that was probably down to the wire even though the score may not show it thanks to free throws at the end of the game.
Anderson told jucorecruiting.com he chose UW because, "I bonded very well with Coach Romar and clicked with him. I also liked the group of guys they had coming back next year. I like their tempo and their style of play as well."
According to gohuskies.com, Lorenzo Romar said, "Mike Anderson is a multi-dimensional guard. He is 6-foot-4 ½ and has extremely long arms and is a really good rebounder. He is the type of player that has his hand in a lot of different areas of the game. He's pretty good at everything."
Looking at the statistics, we can conclude one thing: Anderson can shoot the three, and shoot it very, very well. He shot over 44 percent from the three-point line last season at Moberly. A basket is a basket. If you can shoot, you can shoot. It may take a little while to transition your shooting to a new group of teammates, but once that transition is made, shooters shoot. As our own Anthony Cassino put it in his article about the original commitment of Anderson to UW, "... if you can shoot it, you can shoot it. The hoop is 10 feet high everywhere."
His stats also show a very, very adept rebounding ability, especially for a small forward. He averaged 10 rebounds per game. Part of that is due to playing competition that is not nearly up to the level he is - D-I scholarship recruit - but it still takes hustle, athleticism, and skill to be able to rebound at those numbers regardless of the level of competition.
We will see how his overall game stacks up once the games get going, but for now, we get a long athlete with the ability to shoot the ball. Sounds like Romar's kind of player.
UW's top returning player is Wilcox. UW's best player is Wilcox. That isn't in question. The guy can do it all. He can shoot, he can attack the basket. He can defend on-ball. He can defend off-ball. He can catch a lob pass and finish above the rim. He can throw that lob pass. He can rebound, block shots, and garner steals. Oh yeah, did I mention that he can shoot? He is really good at that last one.
One thing that Wilcox can't seem to do is stay healthy. He has dealt with stress fractures each of the last two seasons. During his sophomore campaign he was dealing with a stress fracture in his femur near his hip, and it hampered his ability to practice with the team. The only thing he was allowed to do basketball-wise outside of games was to shoot 50 jump shots each day. For those of you who like to shoot a basketball, you know that is a paltry amount for a shooter of Wilcox's caliber.
"Stress fractures are caused by the repetitive application of force, often by overuse - such as repeatedly jumping up and down or running long distances." (Mayo Clinic) Sounds like someone who shoots basketballs a lot would be susceptible to this injury. Who do you think shot lots of basketballs over the past several years for Washington? One guess, and the answer is not Aziz N'Diaye. If you guessed C.J. Wilcox, you would be correct. Now, there are more factors that go into it than just shooting a lot. Scott Suggs probably shot nearly as many times as Wilcox over the past several years, and he never dealt with a stress fracture. There are other factors in play: genetics, shooting form (Do you land softly on your toes, hard on your toes, soft on your heels - difficult - or hard on your heels? How high do you jump? How balanced are you?) I would also assume Wilcox did a lot of training on his vertical jump, as his standing vertical was actually similar to Terrence Ross's. Remember, Ross won the NBA dunk contest last year.*
*Terrence Ross is running a charity called the Dunk Cancer Foundation where the proceeds go to funding the Children's Cancer Association. Check it out, it is a great cause.
After that tangent, we are back to Wilcox's game. We know that he is one of the best shooters in the nation. His ability to catch-and-shoot in transition, off of screens, or standing still is something that can be used in any offense. He has developed the ability to attack the basket based off of his pump fake and defenders keying in on his shot.
He has improved his ball-handling every year that he has been at UW, and was entrusted at times last season to initiate the offense. My assumption is that it was the play-call, and regardless he usually got the ball into the hands of either Abdul Gaddy or Andrews almost right away and either cut or ran off of a screen.
In addition to improving his ball-handling, Wilcox has also improved as a defender during the course of his career. He spent time early last season defending the opponent's best perimeter threat (like Deonte Burton), but once he had to deal with the foot injury, Romar did his best to keep him off of the opposition's best outside player, conserving his energy for the offensive side of the ball.
Wilcox has the ability to get into the lane. Defenders are focused on the jumper most of the time with him, so he has the ability to use up-fakes to get defenders in the air. Fear of his jumper also causes defenders to close out extremely hard on him, giving him a better opportunity to drive off of the catch. Even off of a standing dribble he can use his length and quickness to get into the lane. Usually once he is into the lane he will use his runner from around 12 feet, or pump fake into a turnaround, fadeaway jumper.
Oh yeah, and C.J. Wilcox can rebound.
Nobody would be surprised if Wilcox put up 40 points in one game this season. Or in multiple games this season. He is really that good.
He's a good player, that Wilcox guy. Maybe someone to watch this season.
Overall, Washington has an inexperienced group of wings. Wilcox and Stewart are the only ones with any D-I experience, and it could be argued that the fifth-year senior is the only wing with any experience on the roster. The time Anderson spent at Moberly will definitely help his transition, but we won't know how much that means until the games start. We don't really know what UW has at the wings outside of Wilcox, but each player has the potential to be a very solid contributor not only this season, but down the line.