No, the season hasn't gone exactly as planned. Jernard Jarreau going down less than two minutes into the season had a big effect on that. Desmond Simmons missed the first month and a half of the season after knee surgery. Maybe the team won't make the NCAA Tournament, though that shouldn't be put completely out of the picture. It shouldn't stop us from appreciating what we are seeing on the court. There is one player who deserves our appreciation, however much his may be taken for granted.
When he has a night like he did Thursday, it is pretty easy to highlight what Wilcox has done. He is scoring as close to 20 points per game as one can get (19.9) with every defense keying on him, including some box-and-one defenses. He is doing this all while being more efficient than he ever has from the field. His percentage from behind the arc is the best of his career at 43.2 percent. His overall field goal percentage is at 46.3 percent, also a career best. The best of the from-the-floor percentage statistics, eFG%, also puts this as his best season at 57.4%.
It took a season for Wilcox to adjust to being the sole focus of defensive gameplans. Though he was not at his healthiest last season, efficiency across the board went down for him, even free throw percentage. He still scored nearly 17 points per game and played 35 minutes per game.
Compared to Ryan Appleby's best season, considered by many to be the best shooter in Washington history, the two are in a dead heat, when efficiency is the only criterion. Appleby's junior year, 2006-07 was his best season shooting the ball. He scored more points in the season following, but his percentage went down as well as his minutes. His assist-to-turnover ratio worsened as well, with more focus on him. So, 2006-07 is the season we will use and compare it to this season for Wilcox.
One could also argue that this is the first healthy season that Wilcox has had since his freshman season when he played only 15 minutes nightly, so now we are seeing the true Wilcox.
Wilcox this season versus Ryan Appleby in 2006-07. I can't embed the table, sadly, but click on the link.
You can see that Appleby and Wilcox have an identical (.1 is completely negligible) three-point percentage. The only reason that Wilcox lags behind in the eFG department (.3 could still be considered negligible, especially in a single-season sample) is because he shoots more two-pointers.
Think about the fact that the number one thing that every single Huskies opponent is focusing on this season: stopping Wilcox. Appleby was one of four scoring options on that 06-07 team with Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Quincy Pondexter and Spencer Hawes. Based off of efficiency and surrounding talent, I have to say that Wilcox has earned that edge.
Two players have ever done what C.J. Wilcox is doing this season. Shooting his percentages from the field (46.3%, 43.2%), while scoring at least 19.9 points per game and hoisting at least 7.4 three per game. Two (at least since Sports-Reference started keeping track, nearly 20 years, and Adam Gore played only one game, putting him out). One of them is named Stephen Curry. That is absolutely remarkable..
When I started writing this, I figured I was going to say we need to show more appreciation for Wilcox. He is a guy who has stuck with the Huskies for his senior season even though he could have been selected in the NBA Draft last season. He wanted to help lead the Dawgs to the NCAA Tournament. That doesn't look like it is going to happen, but it doesn't mean he deserves any less appreciation. He has done more than his part to take the team to the heights it placed at the beginning of the season. The rest is on his teammates to pick up the slack
Instead, Washington fans are being treated to one of the most efficient shooting seasons of all time. Nobody has ever had a season like Wilcox's scoring the ball. He is also averaging over a steal and block per contest. He averages over four rebounds per game from the wing. I didn't even include that in the criteria. Wilcox is the best shot-blocker on the team (8th in total blocks in the conference, and he rarely will allow And-1 finishes. When he comes in to block a shot, he comes in hard and won't let his opponent get an easy two points. That was very much on display Thursday, though Oregon made almost every one of their foul shots.
Sometimes greatness is right in front of our eyes and we just can't see it. The Huskies probably will never see a shooter who is as good as Wilcox ever again. While he is a Dawg, he deserves our attention every night he plays. Nobody has scored as well as he has, and nobody has played as much as he has (leading the conference in minutes played).
Watch the Huskies this season, if for no other reason than to watch greatness.