Romar doesn't shy away from one-and-dones

SEATTLE - Spencer Hawes was the first, and Tony Wroten could be the next. For the frosh phenom from Garfield, being Lorenzo Romar's second 'one-and-done' player at Washington is well within reach: His picture adorns the Pac-12 website when looking for the latest weekly release for men's basketball.

Wroten was the Pac-12 Player of the Week seven weeks ago, the only freshman to be so honored; he currently second in the league in scoring and first in number of 20-point games.

Tony has done his bit, and then a whole bunch on top of that.

When Hawes left after his one year at Washington, he did it after the 2006-07 season, one where they won 10 of their first 11 games - including a memorable win over LSU and Glen 'Big Baby' Davis at home, but only one Pac-10 road win that season derailed any chances of the Huskies sniffing the post-season.

That's not the case this year. Wroten has been a critical element in Washington's on-court success. If they win their last three conference games - all on the road, starting with Washington State Saturday night - they can lay claim to owning the best regular-season record since Romar took over the Huskies' program in 2003.

The whispers of 'one-and-done' for Wroten, meaning he'd leave after his first year at UW to pursue professional opportunities, is not uncommon; schools like Kentucky have done it for years under John Calipari. After the 2010 season, the Wildcats lost five players to the NBA draft, and four of them were one-and-done - including heralded guard John Wall.

"It obviously gets frustrating, but they are just trying to do their job," Wroten says when asked about the one-and-done talk. "You can't really get mad at them. They are just trying to help. I just politely answer their questions. It is what it is."

Comparisons between Wroten and Wall aren't far-fetched; both are lanky, smooth guards who can lull you to sleep with the fact that they aren't the best jump-shooters around. But they relentlessly attack the basket, are freakishly athletic and can't stand to lose.

"I think what coach Calipari is doing with the freshmen and sophomores that make up that team is phenomenal," Romar said this week when asked about his stance on recruiting one-and-done players. "I think a lot of teams people don't give them enough credit. Just watch…like the Fab Five, a lot of people talk about how flashy they were, but those guys shared the ball and if you watched them play, they were disciplined when they went out and played the basketball game.

"At Kentucky, they play defense together. They guard you. They aren't just running around; they share the ball. That's hard to do. You can get a lot of young players in there and they can be very good, but you struggle. You struggle on the road, you struggle earlier in the year. You can try and avoid it, but it's very difficult for the most part."

But all that said, Romar knows there's tons of upside in signing one-and-done prospects - including the fact that they immediately make your team better.

"We'll never turn down a guy who is a potential one-and-done guy," he said. "But the key to that is; are you with us? Are you with us, or are you half with us? If they have one foot in the door and one foot out, it can be very, very damaging to your program while they are there. But if they have both feet in? We welcome it. If you are fortunate enough in your program to have a couple of guys that are one-and-done, you have to have some veterans with them. If you have some upperclassmen with them, it can definitely work."

And that's what's happened. Wroten has combined his talents with Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Terrence Ross, veteran guard Abdul Gaddy, sophomore sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox, junior big man Aziz N'diaye and senior do-it-all teammate Darnell Gant to form arguably the most talented team in the conference. It hasn't been a one-man show, even though at times they've had to rely on Wroten and Ross to pick up the slack in crunch time.

"The thing with our group is that we didn't have a returning All-League performer on our roster," Romar said. "Just like our freshmen were learning and had to get up to speed, our returners had to get up to speed with just being able to carry a team at times, to be able to play through a scout because they are game planning for you. We are still learning this year to be good at that."

Romar is clearly a college guy; that might be obvious to say, but he's seen what an undergraduate experience can have on a young man - going all the way back to his first recruited player at UW, Bobby Jones, and extending through this class with Gant. "There's no doubt; you can't run from it," Romar said. "The fact that you're on campus, going to class, interacting with others that didn't necessarily grow up the way you did and have different interests than you - you're just put in situations. Whether it be an overseas trip, a cultural event, a play, going to New York and seeing what happened with 9/11 - all those experiences can do nothing but help develop you as a person. It's hard to avoid that from happening if you spend time in college."

That being said, Romar is also a realist. He understands that trying to bring in top talent like Hawes, Wroten, Brandon Roy, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter, and the rest means you are going to suffer some attrition. Players like Elston Turner (Texas A&M) and Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) - phenomenal players in their own right - have left Washington in part because of a perceived abundance of talent, so much so they knew they wouldn't be the focal point of the offense.

Kids join big-time programs thinking big - not just about what they can do while they are there, but also about what that means for them in the long term. Romar even joked that all kids go to major programs thinking one-and-done or two-and-out, and the reason they don't all go that route is because it's the coach's fault. He messes up the plan. He added that with Wilcox and Ross - who is certainly on the pro track right now and has every chance of being selected in the first round of this next draft if he chooses to leave - they never considered leaving as a point of emphasis.

In Romar's own words, they've had both feet in.

"In the home visits, it wasn't brought up with either one, but that was just one meeting," he said. "You're talking to them countless times during the process, and there's a number of times where that conversation could come up."

The NBA's deadline for declaring early for the 2012 draft is April 29th; however the NCAA has bumped up their own early-entry deadline to April 10th, which means any freshmen looking to declare that are also playing in the National Championship game in New Orleans, for instance, would only have eight days to decide their immediate futures.

With the regular signing period starting on April 11th, the NCAA's intent with this change was clear and two-fold: It gives coaches clear delineation between who is and isn't on their roster, so they can finish recruiting for the 2012 class without any question marks. They know exactly how many players they have, and therefore how many additional players they can sign. And for the prospective student-athletes it clears up any confusion they may have when looking at rosters if their criteria is partly based on who returns at their position. This is all about playing time and competition for spots, and by moving up the date it gives colleges and the prospects looking at them a clearing by which they can operate. Before, players could opt back in at the same time colleges were trying to move forward without them; the change in date should alleviate those concerns.

But what about those looking to jump? On the surface it clearly seems to be a massive disservice to those wanting to test the waters but not looking to leap right in from the get-go. Romar isn't concerned. He believes both Wroten and Ross will have all the information from the right sources in plenty of time to make informed choices.

"In our situation, I would say by April 10th, our guys will know," he said. "You watch kids for four years, or two years, or you watch 'em all year - not to mention you've seen them in high school…the ones that are going to come out after a year or two you have a pretty good idea if they're good enough. They spend countless hours and money on scouting in the NBA. We do a lot of checking ourselves and talk to NBA people and get a lot of feedback. Just about everybody we've had that's been in that position - whether it's been favorable to them or not favorable - we've been able to give them accurate information to what the NBA thought their chances were, their prospects. And we should be able to do that by this time to make an intelligent decision."

Yet the chants of 'One More Year!' echo throughout an empty Alaska Airlines Arena right now, the elephant is on the court - and it won't budge for at least another month. For his part, Romar would love to see the rule go from 'one-and-done' to 'two-and-done'. Of the five NBA Washington players he's developed, only Hawes has gone after one year. The rest - Brockman, Pondexter and Nate Robinson - all needed at least three years and most took all four. But with the amount of money that's being thrown out there, he knows what just one pro contract could mean to players and families, let alone a long-term, lucrative deal that could set them up for generations.

"When these kids get an opportunity, and they do it the right way - to get a financial head-start on life and be set financially the rest of their lives - it's hard to tell them you're making a huge mistake not going four years," Romar said.

And he's right. Just look at Isaiah Thomas. He left Montlake after three years with everyone doubting except those closest to him - including Romar. He knew he was ready. If it weren't for Jeremy Lin, everyone would be talking about Thomas' ascension to a starting spot with the Sacramento Kings after half a rookie season. "I watched him a two nights ago," Romar said of the former Hilltop legend. "Best player on the floor when I watched him. He played winning basketball; it was great to see him do that."

Washington fans could be saying the same thing of Wroten or Ross a year from now. They are clearly capable from a talent perspective; no one is questioning that. Romar is confident both have first-round written all over them. Now it's just a matter making a choice to stay or go.

So will they go, or won't they? History suggests that no matter what they eventually decide to do, they are in good hands.

And all the while, Romar is doing his homework for 2013, and the Huskies are already hot in the discussion with three more potential one-and-done players; Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, and Jabari Bird. And they may not be the only ones.

It's just the way of the world right now, and Romar wants to make sure Washington is not just wise to those ways, but that they are doing it with both feet in. Top Stories