With three games to go in the regular season and a championship at stake, with the Pacific-12 Conference tournament looming and its automatic bid to the NCAAs up for grabs, and with the hope of a postseason tournament berth well within their grasp, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten have seemingly obvious priorities.
Ask either and they will tell you they are totally focused on the moment – each day’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s showdown in Pullman against Washington State.
And yet, while Ross and Wroten concentrate on the present, all around them fans and media debate their future.
The speculation started before the season began, but the questions have been growing in the past few weeks as the season nears its end.
Will Ross and/or Wroten leave school for the NBA after the season, or will they return to Washington for another season?
Before last week’s final homestand against the Arizona schools, Wroten, who leads the Huskies in scoring with 16.3 points per game along with 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists, was asked if he’d thought about the possibility that they would be the last games he’d play in a Huskies uniform at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Not really,” he said. “I never really think about my next decision. I’m just thinking about college basketball and helping my team win. I’m not focusing on the NBA at all.”
A week earlier, on the day before the Oregon State game, he was asked about the decision timetable.
“I’m just focusing on my team,” he said. “I will make those decisions after the season.”
As Ross stood at the free-throw line, moments from scoring his 24th and 25th points of Saturday’s 79-70 win over Arizona, the sold-out crowd, spurred on by the student Dawg Pack, began chanting, “One more year! One more year!”
Ross, who is averaging 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, kind of shook his head as the cheer echoed throughout packed Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I wasn’t shaking my head to be like, ‘No, I’m not coming back,’ ” Ross said after the game. “I was shaking my head because I can’t believe they’re chanting this right now.”
It wasn’t the first time Ross had been asked about his future. But it was the first time Huskies fans had chimed in. If there were any more home games, it’s a certainty Ross would be hearing it again.
“I was flattered, but I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Ross said. “I might come back, but at this point it’s whatever happens in these last games and in the NCAA tournament. I just want to see how the future plays out, but at the moment I’m just focused on our team.”
For the ultra-quiet Ross, it’s all a little much. Coach Lorenzo Romar could see it.
“You look at reaction when the crowd lovingly chanted ‘One more year,’ ” Romar said. “He was embarrassed by that. Maybe if he was alone, he wouldn’t be embarrassed. But he’s a team guy.
“That was a team situation, and it was embarrassing for him.”
Neither Ross nor Wroten should be embarrassed by his potential pro career. Both are projected as first-round draft picks if they decide to leave.
With his size and length, his feather-soft shooting touch and his limitless athleticism, Ross is a possible lottery pick, with most draft analysts having him going around the 12th to 15th pick.
Wroten isn’t projected quite as high, but he is almost a certain first-round pick because of his size, raw tools and potential.
Both have legitimate NBA dreams. Both want to keep them as that until after the season.
It’s to the point now where both players would prefer not to talk about the future. They are trying to focus on the season at hand.
“Getting asked about the NBA every day obviously gets frustrating,” Wroten said before practice Tuesday. “But reporters are just doing their job. You can’t really get mad at them. They’re trying to help. I just politely answer their question.”
Indeed, Ross and Wroten have been honest and forthcoming about the situation. They speak in generalities, because that’s how they are looking at the situation.
Romar hasn’t tried to shield them too much from the speculation. He knows the questions are going to be asked.
“I think it’s really difficult,” Romar said. “You have to do it because it’s your job and you have to ask. But I think it’s really difficult to put that kind of pressure on young men when they are involved in a season.”
Realistically, it is part of their growth as players, as people and as possible professional players.
“It’s hard to avoid it,” Romar said. “It’s the elephant in the room. A player of their caliber that has these opportunities waiting for them is going to get asked those questions. They are put in a situation to answer those tough questions.”
And Ross and Wroten have shown maturity and patience.
“I do think they are handling it very well,” Romar said.
It’s difficult to visualize both players returning to the Huskies next season. Losing one of them to the NBA seems like a certainty, and losing both would sting. No one is sure what their future decisions will be.
But until that time comes, it might be best to enjoy the final three regular season games, the Pac-12 tournament and, hopefully, the NCAA tournament.