Tony Wroten is headed back to the place it all started. Sure, the heralded Huskies freshman had already played in seven games for Washington, showing some of his scoring brilliance, athletic explosiveness and make-you-gasp passes.
But it was on basketball’s biggest stage – Madison Square Garden – against college basketball’s most recognizable team – the Duke Blue Devils – where Wroten announced his presence in the basketball world.
With friend and equally hyped fellow freshman prospect Austin Rivers guarding him. Wroten scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
While some of his teammates looked overwhelmed by the situation, Wroten embraced it, exhibiting a fearless, aggressive attitude that would be the hallmark of his record-setting season.
“It was a big-time game against a big-time opponent, played at Madison Square Garden,” he said. “I live for games like that.”
Now, 27 games after that date with Duke, Wroten will be back in New York at Madison Square Garden with the Huskies for the National Invitational Tournament semifinals, and possible final, in what could possibly be his final games in a Huskies uniform.
While he says that decision won’t come until later, Wroten’s one season at Washington will be one for the record book.
He’s averaging 16.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists this season, while being named to the Pacific-12 all-conference first team and freshman of the year.
By scoring 22 points in a quarterfinal win over Oregon, Wroten broke the freshman scoring record of 541 points previous held by friend and fellow left-hander Isaiah Thomas. Now with 551 total points, Wroten can add to that total, which will be a tough record to break.
“It wasn’t even a goal,” Wroten said. “I didn’t even know I did it until someone told me. It’s a blessing and an honor.”
Thomas, a rookie starter for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, offered praise.
“I talked to Isaiah,” Wroten said. “He told me congratulations and that records were meant to be broken. He also told us to go out (and) win the NIT.”
Besides the scoring record, Wroten set the freshman records in assists (130) and steals (63), the second most in any Huskies season. He needs only five more to surpass Bryant Boston’s record of 67.
“The assists record is big because that means I’m helping out my teammates,” he said. “The points record is big ’cause I beat a record held by a good friend.”
Wroten also has his name in the record book for 131 turnovers, the most in a season for UW basketball.
The turnovers are a part of the learning process, while the numbers – and more importantly the swagger – that Wroten has brought to Washington has been vital for this team.
“I said many times, it just shows his versatility,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “ He just busted his tail like a champion. He just shows a lot of versatility on the floor. Each game presents a different challenge and he’s talented enough to adjust to whatever games he plays.”
Washington center Aziz N’Diaye fell during practice Friday, jamming his tender left wrist. N’Diaye didn’t practice much on Saturday, but Romar said he will be ready for Tuesday’s game. In Minneapolis, senior center Ralph Sampson III practiced with the team. Sampson injured his knee in the Gophers’ regular-season finale. He hasn’t played since. Forward Oto Osenieks, who suffered a concussion in the Gophers’ second-round game, did not practice. His status for Tuesday is undecided.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org