There has been a lot of discussion on the blog about Lorenzo Romar, and whether or not he is the right man for the job here at Washington any more. Four consecutive years missing the NCAA Tournament and this season's collapse have only increased the amount of pitchforks poking at Romar's behind.
I started writing at the Dawg Pound during the first season in this skid. If you need to skewer somebody, it should be me. Romar shouldn't be receiving the boot just yet.
We all know this slidestarted when Romar adopted a new recruiting strategy. He attempted to bring heralded national recruits to Montlake. He whiffed on each one that wasn't a point guard. He nabbed Abdul Gaddy (the consensus no. 2 point guard in his class behind John Wall), Tony Wroten and Nigel Williams-Goss. There was the Terrence Jones flip, Jabari Parker awkward middle school pity dance - no chance he was ever coming to UW - and most painful of all was Aaron Gordon heading to Tucson for his sole season of college ball after a long and fruitless courtship.
There were other notable misses. Still, Romar was almost able to turn things around after landing exactly zero freshman recruits in the 2012 class, where the wheels started to wobble, but didn't fall off. Romar knew that he would have to take a risk in an attempt to keep the cart from completely leaving the trail, and Robert Upshaw showed himself to be equal parts talent and problems, both of which he has in spades.
That's where we begin to figure out what happened with this season.
I won't count this among the attrition, but will mention that Wroten would be a senior had he stuck at UW.
First, Martin Breunig transferred to Montana, who he is now leading in scoring. He would be a senior and be a good rotation big, assuming he isn't fueled now solely by his lack of minutes at UW.
During the 2013-14 season Hikeem Stewart announced he would be transferring, and is now playing Division-II basketball at Kentucky Wesleyan. A loss of depth. This (2014-15) would be his final year as a Dawg.
Next, Desmond Simmons announced he would be transferring and would not be at Washington for his fifth-year senior season. Two factors played into the decision (speculation): he saw a crowded frontcourt at UW with Jernard Jarreau, Shawn Kemp Jr., Upshaw and incoming freshman Tristan Etienne. Simmons would be the fourth big in that rotation. The second is more speculatory than the last, and that is his very serious girlfriend back in California. He ended up at Saint Mary's, lending more credence to that theory.
But, think about the first reason: too much depth in the frontcourt. That is a good problem to have, something Romar should be lauded for, really. Things didn't work out quite like he would have hoped, but there was a lot of optimism in that front line.
So, Simmons is gone. Breunig is gone. Stewart is gone. None of these losses would have impacted the current recruiting class either, which makes them hurt even more. The fourth duck in this row was Tristan Etienne.
As a true freshman, Etienne was either going to redshirt or play sparingly. With the departure of Simmons, he was then slated for a bigger role, and he had the talent to perform even as a true freshman. He left as abruptly as this paragraph changed perspective. It was unrelated to his open-heart surgery performed while in high school. He hasn't transferred to any other school, and is no longer playing basketball. Five dominoes.
Jahmel Taylor left. The sophomore sharp shooter wasn't garnering big minutes, but depth is important. The second consecutive mid-season transfer following Stewart. Six dominoes.
Now, the big one: Upshaw was dismissed for violation of team rules. His loss is just as big as each and every loss before combined. He was on his way to a first-round pick in the NBA Draft, potentially the top 10. He was the anchor for everything the Huskies did on defense, and the main pick-n-roll partner for Nigel Williams-Goss, the new centerpiece of the UW offense. It takes seven dominoes to topple a season, so long as the seventh is seven feet tall and weighs 250 lbs.
What isn't quite attrition but also has had a big effect on the downfall of this season is the evolution of Jernard Jarreau. He was looked at to be a beast in the high post. His jumper is sweet from 18 feet out. His ball-handling ability at 6-10 would be devastating on the break, and his passing from the high post was going to open up the offense. In combination with Upshaw, it actually worked really well.
The problem is that most of his game has been slowed due to his knee injury. We all know he tore his ACL in the first game of the 2013-14 season. Since then he has put on a lot of (good) weight. The problem with that, is while he was putting on the weight, his body hasn't been able to adjust quite like a body normally would to the increased mass. He wasn't playing basketball daily, learning the new abilities and limitations of his body. He was instead in the trainers' room.
Not only was he learning a new weight, but learning a new knee. I did both at the same time, (15 pounds of muscle while recovering from an ACL tear) and I was firing passes through teammate's hands, struggling with the strength aspect, not leaping to the heights or moving at the speeds I was accustomed to (due to both the weight and knee combined with a continuing back issue) and altogether had to learn everything over again. Jarreau is doing all of this while 6-10 and putting on twice the weight.
There are 900-plus words that are just a timeline of the attrition that Romar has had to deal with. Without a restocking of the shelves that only two coaches in the country are capable of (Sean Miller and John Calipari) a team will implode. And that's what the Huskies did.
Here is a a scientific graphic showing the timeline of the attrition:
Everything can and should be traced back to the head coach. Romar is not close to blameless in this scenario. Yet, through all of it, Romar put together a top 10 recruiting class headlined by a potential first-round NBA pick in Dejounte Murray, supplemented with solid pieces all around the floor. As an assistant at UCLA, Romar's specialty was recruiting and he is showing us why. He isn't Miller or Calipari, and doesn't have the success, history and tradition backing him like Mike Kryzewski. But he is a fine recruiter and a good coach who is recovering from his stumbles and will find his way out of this pit of despair.