So far, Greg Sparling has been able to do what no opposing defense or well-intentioned coach has been able to do — keep Mark McLaughlin grounded.
The high-scoring guard, who has made stops at Baylor, Seattle University, Tacoma Community College and Washington, has seemingly found a home in Ellensburg, of all places, with the Division II Central Washington Wildcats.
“He’s back another year,” Sparling said, alluding to McLaughlin’s multischool résumé that looks like an airline flight plan when you connect the dots between each destination. “I think we’re the guys who have been able to keep him the longest.
“I think he’s comfortable here. I think that’s a HUGE word here. He’s comfortable here in Ellensburg.”
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On Wednesday, McLaughlin, a former star at Inglemoor High School, returns home for an exhibition at Washington, the place he once called his “dream school.”
“I don’t think it will be too weird,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Perhaps not weird, but the 7 p.m. game at Alaska Airlines Arena might be a little awkward considering their short relationship and the way the sides parted.
McLaughlin was heralded as a changed man when he signed with the Huskies on April 11, 2012.
However, his tenure lasted just four months when the school released a statement on Aug. 12 from Romar that said McLaughlin was “pursuing other opportunities.”
On Tuesday, Romar said he’s still supports McLaughlin and added, “I tried to keep in touch from a distance.”
When asked the circumstances surrounding McLaughlin’s abrupt departure, Romar said: “I would say that would be up to him to talk about.”
Attempts to reach McLaughlin were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, multiple sources said he left the team after an on-court altercation with a UW player during a summer pickup game. The heated exchange resulted in punches being thrown.
McLaughlin, according to sources, failed to abide by disciplinary measures set forth by the team and soon he quit the team.
Given his well-traveled past, Romar admits the Huskies took a chance committing to someone who now has ties to nine schools in six years.
McLaughlin played at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore but quit 12 games into his senior season in 2008. He had committed to Washington State in 2007, but changed his mind. He committed to Nevada and played the 2008-09 season at New Hampton (N.H.) Prep. He changed his mind about Nevada after the coach left, and committed to Baylor. He spent a month or so at the Waco, Texas, school in fall 2009 before returning home and redshirting that season at Seattle U.
He played for Seattle U in 2010-11, then quit and played the 2011-12 season at Tacoma CC.
In 2012, the early departures of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. to the NBA created gaping holes on the Huskies’ roster. Washington was desperate for a scorer like the 6-foot-6, 212-pound McLaughlin, who averaged 28.4 points during his last season at Tacoma Community College.
“He had shown some consistency in that year,” Romar said. “We talked to a number of people who had felt he had been consistent. We knew what had happened in the past, but we gave it a shot.
“It didn’t work out.”
Romar said he had expected McLaughlin to be “a double-figure scorer” for the Huskies.
“It was a season last year when we desperately needed scoring, and we recruited him to do that,” Romar said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. When you talk about him not being with us, it affected us. I think he could have helped us if he played.”
Meanwhile, McLaughlin thrived with the Wildcats last season.
He averaged 22.8 points and led CWU in scoring in 23 of 28 games. He shot 46.6 percent from the field, 81.3 percent at the foul line.
McLaughlin, who was voted first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conferennce, was also first on the team in steals (38) and second in rebounding average (5.4), assists (65) and blocks (14).
“I think the big thing is the spotlight is not glaring on him,” Sparling said. “I think a smaller environment was the best thing for him. I don’t think he wants to be in the limelight. I think he wants to be right here at Central Washington.”
• Touted Washington freshman Nigel Williams-Goss will start Wednesday’s exhibition. The Huskies will also start C.J. Wilcox and Andrew Andrews in the backcourt. Redshirt sophomore Jernard Jarreau will start at forward alongside fifth-year senior Perris Blackwell.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org