Sophomore guard is expected to play Thursday against UCLA despite stress fracture.
Some days, C.J. Wilcox launched 1,000 jumpers before noon.
Since elementary school, he spent countless hours recalibrating his delivery, fine-tuning his mechanics and perfecting the timing of a shot that has carried him from Pleasant Grove, Utah, to Pac-12 standout.
“So much of it is repetition and muscle memory,” Wilcox once said. “You do it over and over — so many times — you don’t forget.”
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The Washington backup guard will need to tap into that muscle memory because a stress fracture is expected to keep him from practicing the rest of the season.
Wilcox returned last week from a three-game, 15-day layoff and helped the Huskies to a pair of victories.
However, he needs to rest during the week in hopes the pain in his hip, caused by the stress fracture in his left leg, subsides enough so he can be cleared for games. Washington (14-7, 7-2 Pac-12) has nine regular-season games left.
“Each week it’s a game-day decision,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He has just a little pain. If it doesn’t go away at all, he won’t play. So he has to be able to function. It’s a call each week.”
The UW medical staff has limited the sophomore to just 50 jump shots during practice. That’s like restricting a golfer to five minutes on the driving range.
When the Huskies begin workouts, Wilcox rides a stationary bike or watches from the sideline.
“I’d rather practice than sit out,” he said. “It gets boring sitting on the sidelines every day in practice. You’re not getting reps. My wind is definitely not where it’s supposed to be, but other than that, it’s not a bad gig.”
Rehabilitation is a lonely endeavor, but it’s necessary considering the seriousness of Wilcox’s injury and his value to the Huskies.
Without its third-leading scorer, who averages 14.8 points, Washington is forced to rely on a seven-man rotation. Wilcox didn’t play against California, and UW’s lack of depth contributed to a 69-66 defeat.
“In my eyes, he’s one of the best shooters in the country,” said freshman guard Tony Wroten Jr., adding that he and Terrence Ross are able to drive when Wilcox draws defenses outside.
Wilcox is tied for first in the Pac-12 in free-throw percentage (89.4), second in three-point shots (45) and sixth in three-point percentage (43.3).
Romar noted that Brandon Roy didn’t practice during the week during his junior season because of a knee injury. Despite that, the future NBA star came off the bench and averaged 12.8 points during the 2004-05 season, when the Huskies finished 29-6 and advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.
“There were games when he said, ‘Coach, if you don’t need me tonight I’m OK to sit out,’ ” Romar recalled of Roy, who retired before this season because of knee problems. “And I’d rest him.”
Wilcox isn’t planning to miss any more games, but said: “If they don’t really need me, then I won’t play that much.”
Admittedly, he was sore for two days after the 69-67 victory Saturday at Arizona, when he played 26 minutes and scored 15 points, including the game-winning free throws.
Ideally, he’d play about 20 minutes.
“He probably played a few more minutes than he should have,” Romar said. “But those free throws were huge.”
In their last meeting, Wilcox torched UCLA, Washington’s opponent Thursday. He scored all 24 of his points in the second half to lead the Huskies to a 70-63 victory. Wilcox connected on 7 of 8 shots after halftime, including four three-pointers.
When it was over, the Edmundson Pavilion crowd chanted “C-J! C-J!” as he walked off the court.
Romar called it “one of the greatest performances maybe in the history of the program.”
Wilcox’s mere presence could be important against the Bruins (12-9, 5-4) Thursday.
“Someone has to pay attention to him,” Romar said. “That opens it up for someone else. He allows us to give other guys rest, to keep our guys fresh for the end of the game.
“He’s a good basketball player. One of the top shooters in the country. so he makes our team better.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen