Want to watch C.J. Wilcox squirm? Ask him to rank the point guards he’s played with during his five years at Washington.
He begins with Isaiah Thomas, but then things get a little tricky. That’s when the squirming starts. Wilcox is a nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
His choices: Tony Wroten Jr., Abdul Gaddy and Nigel Williams-Goss.
Wroten spent one year with the Huskies before being taken 25th overall in the 2012 draft. Gaddy tallied the second-most assists all time at UW.
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And Williams-Goss appears to be the next in a long line of standout UW point guards.
After a few seconds, Wilcox continues.
“As far what he’s done and at the age he’s at, Nigel is definitely near the top,” he said. “They’re all different. Isaiah was more aggressive. Abdul was pass first. And Tony knew how to get his shot.
“But Nigel just picks his spots really well. He’s really smart on the floor. … It’s kind of hard to judge off of one season, because some of those guys like Gaddy had a full career. But as far as what he’s done in one season, Nigel is right up there.”
During a season filled with disappointments, Williams-Goss has been one of the few bright spots for Washington (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12), which plays host to Washington State (9-18, 2-13) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Good scorers know good playmakers.
And Wilcox, who ranks second on UW’s all-time scoring list, knew the Huskies had a gem the moment he saw Williams-Goss on the first day of practice last year.
The freshman point guard had the senior shooting guard at hello. And it wasn’t just Wilcox, it was all of the UW players and coaching staff.
After verbally committing to Washington, Williams-Goss began recording Husky games and studying them with his father Virgil. Last summer, the incoming freshman with the 4.0 grade-point average asked the Huskies for game film and pored over them extensively.
During his 18 years as a coach, Lorenzo Romar doesn’t remember another recruit making a similar request.
“He’s very disciplined that way,” Romar said. “That’s another reason why he’s such a good student. He studies and it’s important for him to get it right.”
Williams-Goss’ reputation preceded him before he arrived at Montlake year. He was the McDonald’s and Parade high school all-American, the four-star recruit and the jewel of a 2013 recruiting class ranked 23rd by ESPN.com.
But none of that mattered when training camp began in October. Williams-Goss was one of seven new players who quickly began to separate himself from the rest.
“That first day he came ready,” Wilcox said.
With three regular-season games left, he’s perhaps the most impactful freshman in UW history. He averages 13.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 33.4 minutes.
Along with Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, who is a projected first-round pick in the NBA draft in June, Williams-Goss is one of the two leading candidates to win the Pac-12 freshman of the year award.
“What he’s done for us as a freshman, he has to be in the discussion,” Romar said. “We’re not in the top four in the league. I wish we were. But he’s had a great freshman year.”
He set UW freshman game records with 32 points during a Jan. 25 win against Oregon State and 10 assists in last Saturday’s 86-62 victory at OSU.
“I get pleasure out of winning, so I felt good after both games,” he said. “Whatever we got to do to win. Whether it’s zero points and 10 assists or 10 points and zero assists.”
For the first time in his playing career, Williams-Goss has had to deal with losing. During his four years in high school, his Findlay Prep teams in Nevada compiled a 124-8 record, including a mythical national championship as a junior and freshman.
Entering the final weeks of a five-month season that began in November, Williams-Goss admits he’s also had to fight against running into the proverbial freshman wall.
“It’s preparation,” he said. “I watched a lot of film even before the season started. I had a lot of talks with former college players, the coaching staff here and tried to get as much advice as I could to stay away from that.
“I can’t say it’s not tough to get the mental focus that’s needed for every game at this level. It hasn’t been easy, but I can’t say that it’s affected me to the point where it’s something I can’t get through.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278
On Twitter @percyallen