C.J. Wilcox: One More Year!

On Thursday, Washington junior guard C.J. Wilcox announced that he would be returning for his final year of eligibility, eliminating speculation that he might declare by April 28th for the 2013 NBA Draft. He talked about his decision, and Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar spoke to the media about what Wilcox's return means for the 2013-14 Huskies.

C.J. Wilcox
What were some of the main factors that led you to your decision to come back to Washington? - "The main thing is that my dad and I were talking and thinking back to about when I first got here and the vision to redshirt my first year and have that last year to become the best player that I can be and lead the team. We were not expecting the NBA to come into the picture so fast. That kind of got off track and we lost track of the vision. We started to seriously considering it and meeting with agents, but at the end of the day we went back and wanted to finish what we started and come back for my fifth year and lead the team."

What did the NBA evaluation report tell you and where did it tell you that you would be drafted? - "Most of the projections were late first round to mid second round. Most of it was all jumbled up in there. We got feedback from 20 teams, so it wasn't the whole 30. Basically it was stuff that everyone already knew. So it wasn't a shock when we got it back. I met with agents to see what they were hearing, and stuff like that. I mean, it wasn't much of a shock, but I was just trying to get as much information as possible."

What kind of input did Lorenzo Romar give you? - "He was really helpful. He was trying to do what was best for me. He was supporting whatever decision I made. He was great during the whole process. He was talking about both what would happen if I came back and if I left for the league. He gave me both sides of everything. He was really helpful through the whole process."

From the feedback you received is there anything they told you about the skills you need to work on? - "A lot of the NBA doesn't know that I'm athletic and that I'm more than a stand-still shooter. I need to continue to work on ball-handling and getting to the free throw line more. I need to be more of a leader and help the team get more wins…stuff like that. There are a bunch of little things, but my main ticket is my ability to shoot the ball. That's not going to change. They just want to see me do a couple of other things."

In an ideal world would you play less than the 34.8 minutes per game you played? - "Yeah I think so. We talked about not playing as much and instead playing quality minutes. We'll have enough guys that I think I will be able to do that and not have to stay on the floor as much as I did this past year."

How much did the decision of past Huskies like Brandon Roy, Quincy Pondexter and Jon Brockman to return for their senior years play in your decision? - "We all hear about the Quincy, Jon and Brandon returning and Coach Romar and I talked about it. Everybody is kind of different, but I figure it's not going to hurt my future to come back. I'm not going to get any worse, unless something happens, but I think that my stock can go higher. That's what happened to them. I've got a lot of stuff to work on, so coming back and doing it here as opposed to going pro will be easier on me. The NBA is a lot different than college. Seeing what they did definitely played a role in my decision and gave me some motivation to follow that path."

Ultimately, how close were you to following the evaluations that had you projected in the first round? - "It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I made. There was a lot of information that goes into the whole process. You are getting a lot of different information from agents. Some were saying I should go, others were saying I should come back to school …there was a lot of different information. I definitely went back-and-forth. At the end of the day I decided it was best to come back."

Looking at the Husky roster, what do you think of the prospects? - "I think we have a good team. Perris (Blackwell) is going to be a force in the middle. He can do a lot and is going to do really well this year. I've known Nigel (Williams-Goss) for a while and I've always known he can be a good player. He's going to get in here and be a great leader and do some damage for sure. Shawn (Kemp Jr.) is going to have a good summer and be back. Andrew (Andrews) is coming back. I think we have a good solid base and we have some guys who can fill some roles, so I think we can do some damage."

You're graduating with a sociology degree after this quarter. What academic plans do you have? - "When I first got here my family and I thought that since I was going to be here for five years that I would go through and then get my master's degree, but I don't know if that has changed. We haven't really talked about it. We may just want to focus on basketball and take some regular classes."

Do you have any message for the Husky fans? - "I'm really excited to come back and play again in front of them. They really stuck by me through the year, so thanks for the support. I'm looking forward to playing in front of you all again next year."
Lorenzo Romar:
Was C.J.'s decision a surprise? - "I couldn't say either was a surprise. I think he was really torn, I really do."

How much influence did you have? - "My approach every year is to gather the information for them, help them with the pros and cons and let them decide."

Does that affect your attempts as maybe adding another player to fill the 13th roster spot? - "Really good players want to play with really good players. You look around, and when teams have an addition I think guys are excited."

How much does this help the team next year? - "When you have returners…he's a second-team all-league choice. Anytime you have someone like that that is as coachable and as team-oriented as C.J. is it's definitely going to make you better than if you didn't have them."

Will his foot be an issue? - "It will eventually be fine. But like Scott Suggs' foot was, he eventually had to have surgery with his…but whether you have surgery or wait his foot is going to be fine."

So you anticipate surgery? - "No. No. No. Either way, it'll be straight."

What will the team be like with C.J. back? - "You know for sure you have a go-to guy. For sure. That question gets asked at the beginning of the year, but we know that from the outset. It's C.J. We know he's going to provide scoring for us. The best offensive teams have at a minimum a triangle that can score points. We have that with C.J. and I think we'll have that from Day One with Perris Blackwell, and then whoever is that third guy is of the triangle, they will emerge. From there you have guys that can put the ball in the basket and play off those guys. But he is the cornerstone of that right now. You have a guy that can come in and be a potential All-American. When you have that it definitely, definitely helps your team coming into the year."

What type of role do you see him playing? - "I think we will see his role of being an all-around basketball player…won't just be receiving the ball to make shots but distributing the ball to make shots. I don't mean he'll be the point guard but he'll be out on the floor making more decisions with that basketball in his hands. And maybe guarding the opposition's best player and just coming up with the big plays. We will be depending on him for a lot."

On what does it say about him that he didn't go for the cash grab right now? - "When I say this it not only speaks well of C.J., but also his parents…his Dad has been unbelievable in this process, just making sure this decision was calculated and thought-out. They worked together on it. I think C.J. was realistic about what he wanted to get accomplished. They had a plan from Day One and they are sticking with that plan for C.J. to become the best that he can possibly be before he moves on to the next level. At times it was questioned…as people began to see what kind of player C.J. was his sophomore year - why would you let him redshirt? Maybe you could have used him occasionally here and there. It wasn't worth the impact he could have in that last year. And I think next year we'll see that impact. They stuck with that decision, and you just don't see that very much in this day and age."

On how the depth at guard will help him in terms of minutes next year - "It'll be less is more. There were times where C.J. was just worn out. In some programs you can play that many minutes and you can be fine. The way we play, it's pretty demanding. His 34 minutes (per game) wasn't the normal 34 minutes; you're talking about him having to run around the entire game just to get open. There was a lot asked of C.J., but next year with more depth - with more of a presence in scoring in some other areas - he'll have much more of a consistent year and do a lot more things.

"I want to say this too: There's no doubt in my mind that if C.J. had made the decision to leave, he would have played in the NBA this year. And there could have been a possibility that he could have worked his way up in the workouts into the first round. That could have happened. But C.J. and his family, they didn't want to go in through the back door, so to speak. They wanted to come in through the front door, and I think this will allow him to do that."

How much did the foot factor into C.J.'s durability? - "There were times - C.J. would tell you that - once the game started the foot didn't bother him. It was the mental part. That may have affected him. But you combine that with just not practicing every day and going out and playing 34 minutes in a game - that can make you inconsistent right there - I don't care how healthy and strong you are."\

Will he be 100 percent before the season starts? - "Oh yeah, well before that."

What is his to-do list to improve to come in that front door? - "I think with C.J. being a senior coming back this year - just having the ball in his hands, making those plays, different opportunities - just being even more aggressive, I think his athleticism is naturally going to show. He made a play against Cal - I think it was this year - where Allen Crabbe tried to drive to the basket and C.J. just went up there and blocked a dunk out of nowhere. If you didn't know him you'd go, 'Whoa! I didn't know he could do that'. I think he'll show more of those things next year. He's very athletic - he's very fast, he's very quick. He can get up to 11-6 on the backboard atop the square…he can really jump."

What he needs to do to get to where he can make it in the NBA? - "Getting to the foul line, making plays for others…I think that would help his cause. When he drives the lane and gets double-teamed, kicking it out…just recognizing that as part of his decision-making. Getting stronger, using the two-man game, using the ball screen…I think those are all things that C.J. can do but I think he'll be more confident next year and be more aggressive going out and doing those things."

Would you like to see him come back five pounds heavier? Ten pounds heavier? - "I don't know if the weight is as important as the strength. Sometimes finishing through contact, that's where the strength comes in - going up with the ball in traffic and not getting it knocked away. In terms of endurance, you try to go out and play the way we want for 35 minutes a game, it's going to be hard to keep that up for an entire season. I don't care how strong you are."

On how C.J.'s decision impacted their recruitment of Mike Anderson - "It wasn't just C.J. It was also…I can say it, he signed…Aaron Gordon is a guy that can play multiple positions also. For the longest time we had a great chance to get Aaron, but it didn't work out. There was a while before Aaron announced to everyone else we knew he wasn't going to come our way. With him and then C.J. maybe not coming back…we felt we needed to do something. I was just committed to not being in a position again where someone gets hurt or someone is out for whatever reason and we don't have any depth - so we made a decision to add to that and be prepared for whatever situation occurred."

On Lamont Smith going to New Mexico - "Lamont was given a great opportunity to go to New Mexico. Steve Alford obviously took the head job at UCLA and his top assistant Craig Neal got the head job and they were starting from scratch. He needed someone really strong to come in, and in some ways help him coach the team. He's kind of like an associate head coach; he's almost going to be like a co-head coach, so that's what he decided to do."

Any physical concerns for the team heading into the off-season? - "No. There's a couple guys licking their wounds from the season, but nothing major."

On being comfortable with the number of threes Wilcox took last year - "I think that number was down from before. I haven't looked but I think he shot a higher percentage of three-pointers earlier in his career. Getting to the foul line, I know that's something he's going to work on and we're going to work on getting him there. That would be something else to compliment his three-point shooting. For us to start to say he's shooting too many threes when he's one of the best shooters in America - I'm not sure I'm ready to say he's shooting too many threes. I just think he needs to compliment that and will compliment that by getting to the free throw line more. I think he'll have more assists next year as well as scoring."

With Smith going to New Mexico, how will you juggle the staff? - "Right now at this point, coach (Paul) Fortier is on the road. He wasn't on the road, now he is."

Do you plan to add someone new? - "Add…I don't think that's the right word because right now we have a full compliment."

So there's no additions to the staff? - "There could be, but in terms of adding we're not in a search to add someone."

So Fortier is back to being a full assistant coach instead of being the Director of Player Personnel? - "Yes."

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