Had a conversation with Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar yesterday after Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss declared for the NBA draft, and figured I’d post the full transcript, because it includes a few other interesting comments about related topics.
(I can’t imagine you were too surprised by this) “No, those guys had great individual seasons and they contributed to us going back in the right direction, they helped create a buzz for our program again, and it sounds like they both have opportunities to be drafted high, and it’s something they decided they wanted to do.”
(When did you first get the sense that you might only have those guys for one season?) “That’s an interesting question, because when we started practicing, we started scrimmaging, as a staff, we would say, ‘we don’t know what’s going to happen, and right now Marquese is really raw, and he has a lot of things he has to work on, but his talent package, man, he’s going to be a special player.’ Then when we started playing games, you just saw some of the things he did – we thought it was just a matter of time before the NBA was going to recognize what he could do.
“Then Dejounte, more toward the middle of the year, you could just see that there was more and more interest from the NBA, all of a sudden they were coming to more of our practices, they were coming to all of our games, they were asking questions, so you could see it was coming. You could see that part was coming, the interest was coming and the opportunity was coming, and it was just a matter of, would those guys responds to those opportunities.”
(On how much feedback the players asked him for) “I would say probably Marquese, I was in touch with his mother quite a bit, and just talked through things and the process and the whole thing. Dejounte and I had a talk about it and it wasn’t something we talked about on a daily basis, because we were playing our season, but it was addressed.”
(From your view, does this feel like the right decision?) “I think right now, a lot of what the NBA drafts on is potential, and I don’t think there’s anyone that wouldn’t agree they have great potential. They have that opportunity and they know – they’re not walking into it blindly, I think myself and other people have been honest with them about pros and cons, what can happen either way. The fact of the matter is, they both right now project to be in the first round, and in today’s game, the landscape of how things go, it’s a rare occasion if someone’s going to turn it down. And it would take a couple years sometimes for kids to impact the score, impact winning when they make the jump, but they’re willing to take that risk with those and try to develop them.”
(Is this sort of a worst-case scenario in that they weren’t necessarily recruited as 1-and-done players, so you might not have been planning to replace them for the last year?) “Dejounte would play against pros. He played in the summer pro-am and he would dominate. Marquese, just his talent, if you remember, I had said early, before anyone saw him play, this is arguably the most talented big guy we’ve ever recruited. People looked at me then like, ‘right.’ I think now we can see. You know that ability was there and we also know … yeah, they would definitely play in the NBA, just how soon? I don’t think Dejounte or Marquese thought they would have a chance to go in the first round after one year. I don’t think anybody thought that. It’s a credit to them and how hard they worked and how they developed so fast to get to that point. … I will say, I didn’t sense they had one foot in the door and one foot out when they came in. I don’t think either one of them came in saying they’re going to rent out our program for a year and play in the league.”
(On trying to find replacements for Murray and Chriss in the offseason) “You know, if Marquese were to come back, we would have six post guys on scholarship. I don’t think we’ve had that very often. Six post guys that are all capable of playing. With the way things are now in the spring, where it’s a lot like free agency, now we recruit and we take players knowing that in the spring, somebody’s going to be gone. And it’s like that all around the country. So yeah, we’ve done that before, and at this point now, just like you know guys are going to be leaving, we keep our eyes and ears open also in case that happens, to hopefully be prepared for it.”
(Would you prefer a graduate transfer, even though it’s difficult to get those players into UW? Or an unsigned freshman?) “I think when you lose guys like that, you hopefully can bring someone in that is ready to help you win right now. And sometimes you can look at a situation a lot like that in the NBA, where teams get lottery picks and they’re still not winning because those players aren’t ready to help them win. They will at some point, but … sometimes guys just aren’t ready to help you win. So in this case, you’re talking about two guys that if they were back, they played a year, they understand a lot more and are definitely ready to help you win even more. So you try to replace somebody like those guys with someone with a little more experience.”
(Do you still feel like the program is headed in the right direction, in terms of what your roster looks like for next season?) “Absolutely, and that’s not an answer where you say, ‘what else was he going to say?’ And here’s why. We can concentrate on what we lost, but I think it’s also important to understand what we still have coming in. Markelle Fultz is an unbelievable guard. Sam Timmins is a post player that in terms of the package he brings to the table, we haven’t had. Spencer Hawes was obviously a great player, but Spencer wasn’t 275 pounds and 6-11. Not talking about who’s the better player, just talking about, we haven’t had someone like that. Matthew Atewe has already played in the SEC, against (teams like) Kentucky and Florida. … So those guys are going to come in with us, not to mention whoever else might be coming in with us. … Last year at this point, when guys left, things looked very dismal, but we knew different, because we knew what we had coming in. People hadn’t seen Marquese Chriss play, Matisse Thybulle. So we were confident things were going to look up. People don’t understand what we have coming in and they don’t understand how big a jump freshmen make to their sophomore year. Even Malik Dime, a JC guy, those guys typically can make big jumps, and people may not see that. All in all, we’re fired up for next year, even though we lost two really good players. We’re still fired up for next year.”
(Do you anticipate any more departures?) “You never know. This day and age, across the country, no program is safe with everybody staying. Not the way things are now.”
(As far as Noah Dickerson’s suspension, will he be back in good standing with the program now?) “Oh yeah, he’ll be fine.”