By the end of Thursday night, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten will become the seventh and eighth players drafted from the University of Washington under the tenure of Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. Husky fans will be celebrating to see two of their own make it to the league, but more than a few fans will likely still hold some resentment in the back of their heads for these two bolting to the NBA a little earlier than they perhaps should have. I know I held some of this resentment, at least until it all eventually eroded this past week.
I spent Wednesday night watching the NBA combine online, an event that occurred in early June. While Ross and Wroten's stocks have shifted since then, the premise is the same, Wroten's upside is higher than Ross' but picking Wroten is a higher risk than picking Ross. Wroten is projected as a late first round and early second round pick, while Ross will not fall out of the top 15.
However, the main feeling I got out of watching the NBA combine did not deal with the draft stocks of Wroten and Ross but the feeling of a lack of animosity towards both of them for leaving Washington early. As an avid Washington Huskies basketball fan, it was easy for me to get upset at both of their decisions initially.
What does this say about both of their characters when the pair is leaving an incomplete legacy and leaving on a bad note? Contrast both Ross and Wroten's careers at UW to the careers of Brandon Roy, Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter — all four year players. The conclusion is simple, it is way easier to like Roy, Brockman and Pondexter. Those three guys cemented their legacies in Washington basketball folklore. Wroten and Ross? Not so much.
Three months since the end of the college basketball season, my judgement of their judgement is gone. It would have been nice for Isaiah Thomas to return for his fourth year this past season. It would have been even nicer for Nate Robinson to stay for his senior year in 2005, but both players had the NBA on their minds and a host of other reasons on why to declare early. And so do Ross and Wroten.
Ross' freakish jumping ability and silky jump shot along with his size have teams drooling over his potential as a potent scorer in the league. And as as polarizing of a player Wroten is, he can flat out ball. I'll admit I've had problems with the way he's carried himself out on and off the court at times in high school — his arrogance, mainly — but even if my baseless assumptions off of a few yelled expletives and an out of control twitter account were true, in the end, it doesn't matter.
No other point guard from this class can make the same out-of-nowhere passes Wroten can. No other point guard in this draft class can get to the basket at will like Wroten either. I'll acknowledge the truths of his broken jumpshot and a few other weaknesses, but label me as a person who wants to see Wroten succeed. He's a Seattle product, he stayed loyal to his roots and decided to play for Washington and he was spectacular last season.
Sure Wroten and Ross could have left UW on a better note, but once you remove the purple and gold from the equation, you realize that these guys are just like every other aspiring basketball player: they have a dream to play in the NBA.
The pair is leaving behind a chance at Washington to set records, appear in NCAA tournaments and become legends. In the end, their future success at Washington is not guaranteed, but their spot on an NBA roster, barring anything out of the ordinary, is all but guaranteed this fall. Their personal dreams of being in the NBA will be fulfilled, even though my personal dreams of Washington winning a national championship are temporarily being set aside. Who am I to scold them for chasing their dreams?
Major props to Lorenzo Romar for embracing all of his players and supporting them fully in their decisions to turn professional. I don't know if he has any other choice, but I am sure he's thought over and over in his head how much he would love for Ross and Wroten to return as well, or how much he would have killed to have Thomas and Robinson for another year, or even Hawes for another year too.
Wherever these guys end up, I'll be rooting for them just like Coach Romar. They played their hearts out while they were at UW and it would not be fair for them not to receive the same support from Husky fans as they continue their basketball careers.
Happy NBA draft day Terrence and Tony. Good luck — just don't end up on the Thunder.