Jorge Gutierrez is “that guy.”
It’s more of compliment than a criticism of the California senior guard.
When opposing fans talk about Gutierrez, they mutter, “How long has that guy been in school? 10 years?”
“I feel like he’s never leaving,” Washington sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox said. “I was surprised that he was back for another year. It seems like he’s been there forever.”
Even opposing players refer to him as “that guy.”
“He’s that guy you hate to play against, but would love to have on your team,” UW junior guard Abdul Gaddy said.
“That guy” will lead the Pacific-12 Conference co-leading California Bears into Alaska Airlines Arena today for a key conference showdown.
Gutierrez’s numbers aren’t gaudy. He ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 14.3 points per game and fifth in assists at 4.3 per game. He also pulls down 4.8 rebounds per game and picks 1.8 steals per game.
Yet he’s still considered a Pac-12 player of the year candidate. If you add up the numbers, plus the little things he does, you get a player opposing coaches love and hate.
“He plays so hard, he plays so competitive, he’s one of the greatest warriors this league has ever had,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I didn’t say greatest player.
“But it terms of being (a) competitor and a warrior, wow, he’s just impressive.”
The average fan might not be quite so impressed. Gutierrez doesn’t have a textbook jump shot with range out to 24 feet. He doesn’t have explosive quickness. And you won’t see him making high-flying finishes at the rim. Perhaps his most recognizable quality is the jet-black shoulder-length hair pulled tight behind his head.
“I think he can dunk, but I’ve never seen any of his highlights on SportsCenter,” Romar said. “But he’s one of the more feared guys you play against just because he’s all about what’s important on the basketball floor. He’s not about who’s watching him or none of that. He’s about what he’s doing on the floor.”
Gutierrez doesn’t have any grand explanation for it. It’s just how he’s always played.
“I’m just a competitive guy,” he said at the Pac-12 media day. “I don’t like to lose. I think every game matters. Like you said, every play matters. For a guy like me, winning is everything. That’s what it is.”
It’s something the Huskies respect.
“He does all the dirty work, and he will do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s guard the best player or dive on the floor for loose balls,” Gaddy said.
Ah, the defense. Gutierrez is considered one of the best defenders in the Pac-12. He was named to the Pac-10 all-defensive team the past two seasons.
He’s a pest. He’s annoying. He’s physical. He’s relentless.
“He’s just always there,” Wilcox said. “He’s nagging. He does the little stuff to get you out of your game. It’s the little things like grabbing your jersey when the ref’s not looking – things that will get you of your game.”
Wilcox won’t have to deal with Gutierrez, but Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten might.
“He never really guarded me last year, but I know he can really defend and he’s going to be there at all times,” Ross said.
Many a scorer has been harassed, hurried and harangued into an awful night by Gutierrez.
“He takes it personal. He takes a lot of pride in it,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery after Gutierrez held Weber State’s Damien Lillard, the nation’s leading scorer to a then-season-low 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting.
Lillard, a John Wooden award semifinalist, came into the game averaging 26.9 points per game, and Gutierrez forced him into missing 10 of his first 11 shots.
“He’s an awesome guy to watch play,” Romar said.
So the Huskies will have to deal with “that guy” tonight. But they are looking forward to it.
“I relish playing against him,” Gaddy said. “I don’t like playing against him, but he’s tough competitor and brings out the best you.”