One day, Robert Upshaw was blocking shots and grabbing rebounds for the Washington Huskies against the Utah Utes. Fewer than 24 hours later, he was dismissed from the program for violating team rules.
Read on for some additional thoughts on how his dismissal will impact the Huskies, as well as some links.
--- Don't think there's any question that this is the most significant in-season player departure in Romar's career at Washington. On the court, Upshaw turned out to be everything the Huskies hoped he would be, and a lot of that obviously showed up on defense, where the 7-footer blocked 84 shots in 19 games -- a single-season school record by a margin of 17 -- and forced opposing offenses to alter their gameplan around his presence. It's really not possible to overstate how much the Huskies are going to miss him on both ends of the court (he averaged 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, too), especially without any kind of depth behind him in the frontcourt. These are their available scholarship players, at least until Jernard Jarreau returns from injury: Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, Mike Anderson, Shawn Kemp Jr., Donaven Dorsey, Darin Johnson, Quevyn Winters and Gilles Dierickx. I'd expect Dorsey to step into the starting lineup, likely at the 4 spot, though Anderson obviously has experience playing there, too.
--- A Twitter follower wondered who the last player dismissed by Romar was, and I'm not sure it's happened before. Not like this, anyway. Mark McLaughlin left the team amid unclear circumstances in August of 2012, before he ever played, though UW's official release stated that he chose to leave. Doug Wrenn obviously didn't return to UW for his senior season in 2003 after being "encouraged to leave" by Romar, with whom Wrenn did not get along, but that still wasn't an outright dismissal. Venoy Overton's situation was ugly, but resulted in a suspension, not a dismissal. Romar and his staff seemingly gave Upshaw ample opportunity to work through his off-court struggles -- can't be sure exactly what those were, though an ESPN report indicates a history of drug use -- and while we're not privy to what was going on behind the scenes, it seemed from the outside that Upshaw had turned a corner. Romar and Upshaw each said as much. The 7-foot, 250-pound sophomore was always engaging and thoughtful during media interviews, and seems to be a bright, friendly guy. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. He seemed likely to declare for the NBA draft after this season, anyway, but NBA teams will now be even more wary of his lengthy history of rules violations. Upshaw has enough physical tools to qualify as a legitimate pro prospect. His inability to harness what troubles him off the court, though, has again introduced doubt into his future. And it could be devastating for the Huskies in the present.
Never miss a local story.
--- Dating back to April of last year, the Huskies' frontcourt has absorbed the following losses: senior forward Desmond Simmons decided to transfer to St. Mary's; freshman forward Tristan Etienne chose to leave the team for personal reasons; Jarreau suffered another knee injury, albeit this one not nearly as serious as the ACL he tore last year; and Upshaw was dismissed. That means UW is down four frontcourt players who, one year ago, could have been reasonably expected to be available this season.
--- Have to guess the Huskies will play more man-to-man defense without Upshaw patrolling the middle. He was the biggest reason their 2-3 zone has mostly succeeded so far, and that approach seems much less palatable now without a true rim protector back there. Kemp is now UW's only true post player with any kind of significant Pac-12 experience, and he's not the kind of defender who scares opponents into hurried shots and passive play around the basket.
--- What's Washington's ceiling now? The NCAA tournament seems like a long shot. The Huskies likely needed a pretty strong finish to make the big dance, and that would have been difficult even with Upshaw in the lineup. The NIT seems a lot more likely now, though even that will require a great deal of resolve from the Huskies. They'll have to summon some soon, with Stanford visiting Hec Ed for an 8 p.m. game tomorrow night (Wednesday).
On to some links.
--- UW promoted former assistant Keegan Cook to head volleyball coach, replacing Jim McLaughlin, who left for Notre Dame.
Romar is scheduled to speak with reporters at 2 p.m. today. We'll have more then.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple