Through an exhibition game and a season-opening victory over South Carolina State, the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team has flashed promise in areas that were problematic a year ago.
The Huskies appear as if they’ll defend better this season, and their rejuvenated frontcourt should be more productive on the glass.
But perhaps the primary concern entering the 2014-15 season — to outsiders, at least — is that the Huskies might struggle to replace the perimeter presence of C.J. Wilcox, the UW’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.
And nothing about the UW’s first two games has quelled those worries. The Huskies hope to improve on Friday night when they scoot a few miles south on Interstate 5 for their annual game against cross-town rival Seattle University at KeyArena (7 p.m., JoeTV).
In their exhibition game against Saint Martin’s, the Huskies shot 5-for-21 from 3-point range. In the 77-59 victory over South Carolina State, that mark was 3-for-21.
Lorenzo Romar joked that maybe the arena was too cold that night. Regardless, he isn’t yet concerned about his team’s lack of production from beyond the 3-point arc.
Of his team’s 21 attempts from 3-point range last week, Romar said that at least 16 were in rhythm or uncontested.
“I promise you — I promise you — after about four or five games, if we are not making 3s and we’re shooting 20 percent, then I will say, ‘Wow, we’re not that good of a shooting team,’ ” Romar said Wednesday. “But I’m not ready to say that yet. Not after one game.”
Romar said after the Saint Martin’s game that UW’s 3-point shooting was maybe the worst he’s seen from his squad since they started practicing this season (until the South Carolina State game, that is).
“I think if you ask any of us, we feel we’re a much better shooting team, as a whole, than we were last year,” said sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who is UW’s top returning 3-point shooter after making 35.6 percent of his attempts as a freshman. No other returning player who took at least 30 attempts shot better than 29 percent last season.
“That’s not really a concern of ours right now, I don’t think. … We didn’t shoot well really in either game, but it’s definitely — I wouldn’t say (it’s) a concern at this point.”
Part of the solution, they think, is the addition of junior guard Quevyn Winters, a transfer from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, who played his freshman season at Duquesne University.
Winters, who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, averaged 9.6 points in his only season at Duquesne. He said he chose to transfer closer to home after his great grandmother died, and that’s how he wound up at Indian Hills.
He already had a relationship with T.J. Otzelberger, who worked at Iowa State before joining UW’s staff prior to the 2013-14 season.
“Once he came here, we stayed in contact,” Winters said, “and I was doing well.”
Romar targeted Winters as a potential replacement — at least partially — for Wilcox’s outside shooting. Winters made 3 of 6 from 3-point range against Saint Martin’s, but missed each of his three attempts against South Carolina State.
He said he’s still trying to figure out his exact role. But it appears early as if he’ll be a fixture in the Huskies’ rotation.
“I know I bring outside shooting and toughness, and being able to rebound and stuff like that,” Winters said. “But besides that, I’m still just trying to find my way. I just want to help contribute to the win.”
Seattle U, coached by former UW assistant Cameron Dollar, is coming off a 98-74 win over Nebraska-Omaha. The Redhawks are led by Isiah Umipig, a score-first guard who averaged 19.6 points per game last year.
“We know that they have some seniors on that team,” Romar said. “They have some guys that have been around the block. We know that they play hard, and we know that they have guys that are capable of making baskets, Isiah being the main guy.”