The UW guard has always been known as a great shooter, but this year he's found ways to score even when his shot isn't falling.
No one ever doubted C.J. Wilcox’s ability to shoot.
Ever since redshirting his freshman year, the 6-foot-5 guard from Pleasant Grove, Utah, has been considered the best shooter on Washington teams that produced four NBA players.
However, every other facet of his game came into question.
Can he score inside? Can he dribble? Get to the free-throw line? Create shots for teammates and make the assist? Rebound? Play defense? Be a leader? Stay healthy?
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Six games into his junior season, Wilcox hasn’t answered all of those questions, but he’s silenced a few critics and gained several admirers.
“He’s a stud,” Cal State Fullerton coach Andy Newman said. “You can’t leave him for a second. He can shoot it. He can penetrate (and) go by you. He’s got great length. He scores a lot of different ways, and he’s got the mentality to score.”
Fullerton’s game plan for Sunday’s 4 p.m. game at Washington (3-3) will start by emphasizing rebounding. The Titans (3-3) don’t start anyone taller than 6 feet 6, and they’re horrendous on the glass.
The next concern is slowing down Wilcox, whom Newman described as “exceptionally rare.”
“We just don’t see many guys like that,” Newman said. “You’ll get prolific scorers like that at our level — at the mid-range level — but they’re usually just one-dimensional. They either can only penetrate and they can’t shoot it, or they can only shoot it and can’t penetrate it. … He’s showing he can do it all. So it really makes it hard on a coach to help our guys in how to defend him.”
Wilcox’s scoring average (19.5), field-goal percentage (52.3), three-point field-goal percentage (45.5), rebounding average (3.7) and minutes per game (35.7) are all up from last season.
Before Saturday, he ranked third in the Pac-12 and 41st in the country in points per game.
Despite the fast start in what seems to be a breakout season, there’s still one question that will hound Wilcox all season like a dogged defender.
Will he be consistent?
That question is particularly significant after the past two games when Wilcox had his best scoring performances as a Husky.
He had a career-high 28 points against Colorado State last week in what was practically a one-man show for Washington, which lost 73-55. Wilcox accounted for 51 percent of UW’s points while connecting on 11 of 25 shots in 37 minutes.
On Tuesday, Wilcox was even better in leading the Huskies to a 66-61 win over Saint Louis.
He converted on 11 of 13 field goals and 1 of 2 free throws for 27 points in 37 minutes.
“I just take it upon myself to be aggressive,” Wilcox said. “(It) was just one of those nights where my shot was just falling.”
Wilcox is on pace to shatter Washington’s all-time three-point record if he returns for his senior year, but even the best shooters have a tendency to suffer through slumps.
However, Wilcox is maturing this season by finding ways to score when his outside shot isn’t falling.
Entering the year, 56 percent of his field goals came from behind the three-point arc, and 61 percent of his attempts were three-pointers.
Wilcox has relied less on the long ball this season. Three-pointers account for just 32 percent of his field goals and 38 percent of his attempts.
He’s also drawing more fouls than ever before. Last season, Wilcox attempted 93 free throws, making 84 percent of them. This season he’s on pace for 180 free-throw attempts, and he’s making 83.3 percent.
Albeit in a relatively small sample size, Wilcox has proven to be consistent. He’s scored in double figures in every game, tallied at least 22 points in three games and led Washington in scoring four times.
And Wilcox, who missed three games last season to injury, appears to be durable. He had arguably his best game as a Husky on Tuesday despite a sore back.
“We know all about scorers,” said Newman, whose Titans were second in the nation with an 88.5 points-per-game average before Saturday’s games.
“But Wilcox, he’s something special.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.