There were Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox, meandering their way toward the locker room. Both looked very fresh, very relaxed, and very young.
Washington gets these two very special players for three more years.
Ross had just hugged his large family contingent that made the trip south from Portland, Oregon, and was looking a little bit lost.
"How do you get out of here," he asked as he took his headphones off and looked around. "This place is confusing, and huge."
He finally finds his way back to the court and looks up and around the now empty stands. The 6-6 small-forward had just torched that very court for 13 points in a 6-for-12 shooting performance that may have been remembered more for the incredible dunks he contributed.
Ross has that shooter's mentality to be sure. "I just try to be aggressive, I try to be confident, and I try to remain calm, all at the same time," said Ross of his approach. "You have to be confident all of the time so when you get your chances, you are ready to make them happen."
Ross has had a resurgence since the USC loss when he didn't play one single minute.
"That was disappointing, sure," said Ross of not getting onto the court. "But the next day I was over it already. You can't really think about it or you won't be ready for the next game."
"I used it a little bit to get me going in this tournament, but mostly, I just always try to be ready so when coach needs me, I'm there."
Ross has really found a home at the small forward position. His long arms and extreme vertical leap allow him to be a solid rebounder. He gets up, he gets up quickly, and he secures the ball well when he has the chance.
And Isaiah Thomas loves feeding him the ball. They have a play that is incredibly fun to watch. I won't tell you the way it is signaled in, but I will tell you that when it does happen, you can see Ross's ears pin back and you see Thomas almost giggling when he sees the defense and knows what's coming. Thomas curls out off the top of the key, looks away, and then suddenly turns toward the paint and lobs a ball that is seemingly going nowhere. As the ball drifts over the defense and wide of the hoop, the defense reacts….not in any effective way, but more in an "OH CRAP" kind of way. You see number 31 standing in the corner, looking disinterested, and then in a flash you see him cut, dart, and go at breakneck speed for the hoop. He elevates extremely quickly and meets the pass from Thomas. Now the lazy floater of an assist that seemed so strange and off-target becomes prey for the flying Ross, and Terrence secures the ball at the top of his leap and in one incredibly fluid and sick motion, slams the ball through the hoop with the force of a sledgehammer. At the end, he lets out a scream and then plummets back to earth in time to run back on defense.
ESPN has had Ross on numerous times for that very play.
In the 2011-2012 season, look for more of that, but also look for him to display even more of his tools. Of all of the Huskies on the current roster, Ross is probably the most aggressive at looking to score. He is constantly looking at the hoop, looking at the defense, and just waiting to either cut at the elbow and elevate, or when he gets the chance, catch-and-shoot from beyond the arc.
Ross leaves the Staples Center finally, headed up the stairs and on his way back to the hotel. He stops for just a second and looks at the bronze statues outside and allows himself a smile.
C.J. Wilcox, the 6-5 sharpshooter from Pleasant Grove, Utah, looks extremely calm as reporters descend on him after a 14-point effort where he made 3 of 7 from beyond the three-point arc and also made all three free-throws. His demeanor belies his youth, as he fields questions.
Washington has not had a shooter like Wilcox since probably Trey Simmons, and Simmons didn't have as quick of a release as Wilcox does. It is the purest stroke, and it comes at lethal times. Wilcox is not afraid to keep shooting even if he's missing.
"We have so many great scorers on this team, when I get my chance I just try to make it count," said Wilcox. "And Isaiah (Thomas) is so good at getting you the ball where you want it. You always have to be ready because the ball is coming. He will put it right there so my job is to catch it and shoot it."
Wilcox does that better than just about anyone that has ever suited up for the Huskies. He is 6-5 and he has a good vertical leap, so he gets his shot off every time. His elbows bend, they stay in pretty tight just like the textbook says to do, and he elevates quickly. Then he squares up, points his toes, and releases the ball with a perfect backspin trajectory toward the hoop. Most of the time at courtside, you can tell just after he releases it whether it's going in or not. He is so accurate, if he gets the right spin going, chances are it is going through the basket and net.
He is enjoying playing in the lineup at the same time as fellow freshman Terrence Ross.
"Sure. We are playing pretty well, and both of us enjoy defense. That is the part of the game you really have to work at and make that happen. We are learning."
Wilcox's on-ball defense is solid, and his movement and long arms in the zone make him a terrific cog on the stopping unit. His promotion into the starting line-up is reward for how well he has picked up on that part of the game.
"I have not had a shooter like him before," said Lorenzo Romar. "He can just kill you when he's open. He has the green light to shoot any time he has the chance. He's had the green light since he signed on the dotted line to play for us."
So next year, look for Wilcox to be a solid two-guard and for Ross to be at the small forward position. These two have extremely bright futures ahead of them.
"Those guys are just awesome," added Darnell Gant as he walked out of the locker room. "They are dangerous, and they are playing some great ball. It's fun to get them the ball and just watch them. They can really hurt the other team."
Gant will be a senior next year and he is excited about both of those guys coming back for more. "I love being on the floor with those guys. They are outstanding athletes and very good teammates. They know what being a Husky is all about."
A perfect pair
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