If Williams-Goss bolts, it could be a dagger for the program. The Huskies still would be talented, but they wouldn’t have an experienced star to anchor them.
The Washington men’s basketball program had a clear path to resurrection: Put a banner recruiting class with the backcourt duo of Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews, get Jernard Jarreau healthy, and transform into one of the most improved teams in college basketball next season.
It was an optimistic, yet realistic plan. A few more things needed to come together, such as the development of sophomore-to-be Donaven Dorsey and perhaps recruiting a decent fifth-year transfer big man who could be eligible immediately if he graduated. One good offseason, and the Huskies could have an NCAA tournament-caliber roster, which coach Lorenzo Romar desperately needs after four seasons out of the Big Dance.
But there was always one problem with that line of thinking: Williams-Goss’ ambition. The point guard wants it all — now. He’s used to winning, and he has struggled dealing with records of 17-15 and 16-15 during his first two seasons at Washington. He also wants to play in the NBA as soon as possible, and he has been conflicted for some time about whether playing for the Huskies is helping him there.
On Thursday, the depth of Williams-Goss’ concern became clear. Multiple reports said the stat-stuffing guard plans to transfer. The UW says Williams-Goss is still weighing his options. While it all gets sorted out, the Huskies’ hopes for next season — and Romar’s best chance to ensure his job security — sit in limbo.
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If Williams-Goss bolts, it could be a dagger for the program. The Huskies still would be talented, but they wouldn’t have an experienced star to anchor them. They would be too dependent on their six newcomers. Andrews would be their only returning double-digit scorer, but if he perceives the program to be in disarray, he’s a fifth-year senior-to-be who could graduate and transfer without having to sit out a year.
It’s a delicate time for Romar’s program. If the coach has a miracle stashed away, he needs to pull it out now. If there’s any chance Williams-Goss could return, Romar needs to give his best recruiting pitch. If Romar has a mystery Plan B, he needs to reveal it soon.
The Huskies had made significant strides in recruiting over the past year or so. They had momentum in rebuilding the roster. But without Williams-Goss next season, it will feel like they took a step sideways, if not a step back.
The concern is even greater when you consider that assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger recently returned to his old job at Iowa State after two seasons at Washington. It was a hiring coup when Romar poached Otzelberger. Though the on-court results have been mediocre the past few years, the assistant trio of Brad Jackson, Raphael Chillious and Otzelberger was quietly helping Romar redirect the Huskies in the right manner.
Now, you have to wonder whether people are losing faith within the program. Rebuilding is difficult and tedious. Fans are fed up. Patience is in short supply. Every bit of bad news feels more troublesome than it probably is.
This Williams-Goss story is peculiar. He’s an Academic All-American with a 3.74 grade-point average to go with his fantastic basketball numbers: 15.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds this past season. Despite being such a good student, he considered turning pro after his freshman season. Despite Romar’s track record of developing talented guards into NBA players, Williams-Goss is young, impatient and worried that losing is affecting his draft status.
But here’s what is really strange — and damning for the Huskies: If Williams-Goss wants to go to the NBA so badly, why would he transfer and sit out a year? Why wouldn’t he stay another season at Washington, play with improved talent, win more and make scouts better appreciate his game?
Are things that bad at Washington?
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Or is Williams-Goss not thinking straight because he’s so worried about making it to the next level?
Regardless of what he decides, Williams-Goss must remember this: NBA scouting is sophisticated. The talent evaluators aren’t just obsessed with the players on teams that make deep NCAA tournament runs. If he’s an NBA player, he’ll get drafted, no matter what his team’s record is. He’s playing in the Pac-12, not Uzbekistan.
It’s unfortunate the Huskies are so fragile right now. In the past, a past that is starting to seem so distant, they’ve been able to anticipate early departures and deal with the losses. They’ve been able to reload without rebuilding.
But right now, one impact player stands as the difference between revival and reverting to the mediocrity of the past three years.