Is Hoops Class Complete?

SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar called it the 'Goldilocks Deal'. Sometimes a prospect isn't always the perfect fit, so you search for those needed ingredients for your team. Time will tell if the Washington men's basketball staff found the players to take them back to the NCAA Tournament, but as of Wednesday Romar seemed confident in the four signees that make up the 2013 recruiting class…so far.

With the addition of guards Jahmel Taylor and Mike Anderson, Washington's 2013 signing class stands at four. Factor in Martin Breunig's impending transfer and the Huskies have 12 players currently on scholarship. "We could add one more, we could not add one more - we'll have to wait and see," Romar said. "If he's going to help us we'll bring him in. We don't have to bring in a 13th guy."

With UNLV's Mike Moser on track to graduate and be immediately eligible to play at another school, rumors have the former UCLA signee looking hard at the Huskies as a possible destination. "It would not be a small," Romar did say when asked what position they would likely sign if they did push to fill their final roster spot.

The reason it would be a big is that UW's current recruiting class is made up of all guards - and rightly so. C.J. Wilcox's Montlake future remains uncertain and they lose Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy to graduation. Couple that roster attrition with the two more guard losses they suffered after last season - Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten - and you can see how the Huskies needed to rectify their guard rotations, and quickly.

"Yeah, we definitely needed guards," Romar said matter of factly. "Not only to replace what we were losing but to make sure that we don't go through again what we went through the last two years. Someone goes down and gets hurt or someone leaves and now you don't have that quality depth or a whole lot of answers. We just don't want to be in that position again. Our teams that were really successful weren't in that position…we always had the depth."

The addition of Taylor and Anderson to Washington's two November signees - Nigel Williams-Goss and Darin Johnson - means the Huskies now have four guards that can come in and compete immediately for time with Andrew Andrews and Hikeem Stewart in UW's backcourt. If Wilcox stays at Washington instead of declaring for the NBA Draft - something that will be known no later than April 28th - the Huskies would then have seven legitimate guard options to choose from - something they haven't had the last couple years. The number of bodies alone can help UW do a number of things right away for next season, according to Romar.

"It changes a lot of things," he said. "I think we can run the floor offensively on a more consistent basis. We can pressure the ball, we can get out and deny the wings better than we have the last couple of years. That depth helps immensely."

Add two current Huskies held out due to transfer restrictions in Perris Blackwell and Gilles Diericks and the roster turnover heading into the 2013 season means Washington fans are going to be watching an almost entirely new team. "We'll score more than we did last year, that's for sure," Romar said.

One of the key words Romar repeated Wednesday was 'winner'. "Nigel (Williams-Goss) is a winner," Romar said. "Did I expect them to go 34-1? They won the championship last year and last summer almost every event he was the MVP. It wasn't because he was the most spectacular player out there; it was because he willed his team to victory. Nothing surprises me with Nigel…if he did a 360 windmill, that would surprise me. But in terms of the heights that he's been able to take his teams to, that doesn't surprise me. He has an enormous will to win. That's a gift a lot of kids don't have.

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder."

Romar said much the same of Taylor. "Jahmel Taylor is a really, really feisty winner is how I would describe him," the UW Head Coach remarked when talking about the 5-foot-11 guard prospect from Pacific Hills High School in West Hollywood, Calif. "He was the California 4A State Player of the Year and his team also won a state championship. He's just a real dedicated, passionate basketball player, a really good character kid. He's a 5-11 guard, a shooting guard for a long period and is trying to make a transition to playing the one. He's a guy that can pressure the ball and works really hard."

Taylor averaged over 20 points a game the last three years of high school - this year with Pacific Hills and the two other years at Sierra Canyon - so he has a similar prep scoring punch to former Husky Justin Dentmon.

The Huskies had been recruiting Taylor for a long time; the same cannot be said for Mike Anderson. Given UW's depth issues the last couple of years Romar did not want to be put in the lurch in case Wilcox made the decision to turn pro, so his staff scoured the country for a suitable replacement. Like the search for that perfect bowl of porridge, chair to sit in and bed to sleep in, the Huskies needed to find that balance of elements in one player to step in and contribute from the jump. They may not have initially thought they would have to go as far as Hartford, Connecticut - by way of Tampa, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, and eventually Moberly, Missouri - to find it, but they did. And Anderson wasn't the first guy Washington looked at, but in the end Romar felt he was the best guy for the job.

Anderson averaged 17.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists, while shooting 83.1 percent from the free throw line, 52.6 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the 3-point line in 33 games during the 2013 season for Moberly Area Community College. He had 24 double-digit rebounding games for the Greyhounds, as well as a season-high of 31 points, so he knows how to find the hoop when he needs to, like Wilcox.

"We had looked at a couple others," Romar said of Anderson. "(UW Assistant Coach Jim) Shaw went down and saw him. It was kind of like the Goldilocks deal…one was too this, too that - that one was just right. Mike Anderson plays multiple positions on the perimeter. He's a good ball handler, a good penetrator - a dedicated player that is a really good rebounder from the guard position. He has also been successful…they didn't win a championship but was also successful in the junior college ranks."

Johnson, like Anderson, is another player that can go off on a scoring binge at any time. "Darin…we really like Darin," Romar said of the 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Sacramento. "He's physical, athletic, shoots the ball. Darin, he has as much upside as any of the guys we've signed. Darin has kind of been a late bloomer. Opposite of Nigel, he didn't get all the accolades early. He didn't really come on the scene until last summer but he continues to get better and better and better. We're excited to have him. He has a real scorer's mentality; he knows how to put the ball in the basket."

'Tough' is another word Romar used to describe Washington's current recruiting class - tough players and tough competitors that have what it takes in terms of passion and fortitude to take that next step in their development. "I love our class," he said. "I think we have some toughness, I think we have versatility. I think we have some players that love to play and are going to work and do everything in their power to be the best they can be. If you don't have those…that foundation, those guys don't improve that much. Guys that really improve are the ones that have a passion to be better. And I think all those guys have that.

"This is what we want to get…good basketball players that are tough kids on the floor," he said. "Darin Johnson is a tough kid, he's strong, he's a slasher, he loves contact, he initiates contact and doesn't mind mixing it up. We know Nigel Williams-Goss is a fighter, a winner. These guys are winners and passionate about the game as a foursome. That would be a way to describe them. But they all bring a certain level of toughness that helps."


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