Lorenzo Romar knows where Sam Timmins’ rookie mistakes are most likely to manifest. Maybe one of those interior passes — a strength of the 6-foot-11 forward’s game — gets deflected. Maybe one of those layup attempts — after a seal attempt –—gets blocked.
It’s why Romar wishes the Washington Huskies were in a position to just let Timmins play through those frustrations and adjust to college basketball’s faster pace and more frenetic effort. But at 9-12 overall and 2-7 in Pac-12 play — USC, with its 18-4 record, visits at 8 p.m. Wednesday — they aren’t having that kind of season.
“Freshmen make mistakes,” Romar said. “Just as simple as that. Some are in situations where they can go out and play through their mistakes and stay in. … With Sam, we haven’t been able to do that, and I think if he were in that situation where he was just able to play through his mistakes, I think he’d be further along. Because freshmen go through that. The nature of our games just haven’t allowed us to do that.”
Given extended minutes in Sunday’s 77-66 loss at No. 7 Arizona, Timmins, a freshman from Dunedin, New Zealand, played what Romar said was his best game of the season: a career-best 11 points and six rebounds in a career-high 28 minutes. Timmins was 5 for 9 from the field and made his second 3-pointer of the season, giving the Huskies at least a little post scoring with starting forward Noah Dickerson in foul trouble.
Timmins also had two steals and looked more comfortable in the middle of UW’s 2-3 zone defense than in man-to-man.
“He not only scored 11 points, he was a guy that we could throw the ball to and he could make a basket,” Romar said. “He was very good on defense. He was talking on defense. He was directing traffic. He got a couple steals. He was just really good.”
It was the kind of play Romar probably expected earlier this season from Timmins, who said this season has “definitely been a huge learning experience for me.” When Timmins signed with UW in April 2015, Romar touted him as “a rare find” and “a true center who can score on the block and is extremely skilled.” The son of a rugby star, Timmins thought for a time that he might pursue that sport, but found himself drawn to basketball and stuck with it.
He had already played for a professional team in New Zealand, and was viewed by some as one of the country’s emerging young basketball stars. He enrolled at UW in January 2016 and began practicing with the team, as well as traveling to road games, suiting up and sitting on the bench. He even went through pregame warmups, as much a part of the team as possible without actually playing.
Still, this season has been eye-opening.
“Once the games started, that’s when I really kind of realized how different it is from New Zealand basketball,” Timmins said. “Just when I started realizing how quickly everything was happening on the court, and I was processing it slower than it was actually happening, which was something new to me. Once I realized that, that’s when it kind of hit home how much of a change I’m going to have to make to keep up and be effective and play my game.”
Timmins said that in New Zealand, “for the most part, I was able to do what I wanted on the court. (My) teams were winning. I never had to deal with too much adversity with losing.”
This has been a different experience. Timmins has played in each of UW’s 21 games and started nine, but is averaging only 13 minutes, 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds, and has committed 26 turnovers. Like the rest of his teammates, his defense is a work in progress. But he’s learning, slowly adjusting to a significantly higher level of competition.
That’s what made the Arizona game so encouraging: Romar has been trying to build Timmins’ confidence — “he’s shown nothing but faith in me,” Timmins said — and scoring in double figures against a top-10 team can only help.
His goal, Timmins said, is to get to the point where he’s “not really feeling like I’m just looking everywhere trying to keep up with what’s happening around me. It just kind of felt like it all came together a little bit (at Arizona). It was promising.”
WASHINGTON (9-12, 2-7 PAC-12) VS. USC (18-4, 5-4)
8 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: Tied, 71-71.
Statistics for 2016-17:
11 Jordan McLaughlin, G (6-1, jr.): 13.9 ppg, 5.3 apg.
2 Jonah Mathews, G (6-3, fr.): 7.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg.
22 De’Anthony Melton, G (6-4, fr.): 9.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg.
30 Elijah Stewart, G (6-5, jr.): 14.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg.
4 Chimezie Metu, F (6-11, so.): 13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg.
20 Markelle Fultz, G (6-4, fr.): 23.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 6.1 rpg.
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, so.): 13.8 ppg, 2.9 apg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, so.): 9.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg.
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, R-fr.): 3.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, so.): 10.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg.
Scouting report: The Trojans lost several underclassmen from last season’s NCAA tournament team — their first bid since 2011 — but reloaded well enough to go undefeated in nonconference play. They were picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, and are currently in sixth place at the halfway point of the conference schedule. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects USC as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. … Ken Pomeroy ranks USC 52nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 83rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, the Trojans are shooting worse than any Pac-12 team since league play began, at just 40.8 percent, and rank seventh in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense in conference games (45.5 percent). USC ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting in league games at 37.4 percent. Stewart and McLaughlin each shoot 40 percent or better. … USC has been without sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright since Nov. 30, when he sustained a Grade 2 sprain of the medial-collateral ligament in his knee. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Boatwright, one of the team’s top shooters, hopes to return against UW. … Shaqquan Aaron, the former Rainier Beach High School star, won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after scoring a career-best 23 points in USC’s victory over UCLA. Aaron played his freshman season at Louisville, then sat out last season after transferring to USC. He averages 9.4 points and 22.8 minutes, and has started 16 of the Trojans’ 22 games.
Christian Caple: email@example.com