Wilcox goes from good shooter to great guard

christian.caple@thenewstribune.comJanuary 25, 2014 

A proclamation was made late Thursday night after C.J. Wilcox used one of the best games of his career to lift his Washington team to victory over Oregon.

It was Wilcox’s long 3-pointer in the final minute that served as the final dagger, and UW coach Lorenzo Romar was asked about the merits of having a fifth-year senior like Wilcox available to take such a shot.

“He’s not only a fifth-year senior, he’s one of the best shooters ... ” Romar said before pausing and correcting himself. “One of the best guards in America.”

A subtle correction, but an important distinction for Romar to make.

Wilcox’s progression from

3-point-shooting specialist to complete guard began last season, Romar said, even as some were insisting that the 6-foot-5 guard from Pleasant Grove, Utah, was still nothing more than a spot-up shooter.

That’s a label that irks Romar.

“One thing about a label, man — it’s hard to take that label off,” he said.

Asked Friday, a day ahead of UW’s 2 p.m. Saturday game against Oregon State (Pac-12 Networks), whether he truly believes Wilcox to be one of the nation’s best guards, Romar doubled down.

“There’s no question,” he said. “No question he’s one of the best guards in the country. At the end of the year, hopefully our season will reflect that, and the draft will reflect that.”

The numbers already do. With 20 games in the books, Wilcox is second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.9 points a game, and his 46.3 percent shooting from the field is better than his career average. He ranks ninth in 3-point field-goal percentage at 43.2, has made and attempted more 3-pointers than anyone else in the conference, and has made more than half of his team’s 3s. His steals, blocked shots and assists have increased, too.

On a team that lacks other big-time shooters, Wilcox’s ability to knock down 3-pointers is still his most valuable asset. But Romar said Wilcox’s performance on Thursday against Oregon might have been the most complete of his career, pointing out the three blocked shots and three steals on his stat line in addition to the 23 points on 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I think the last couple of years, and especially this year, there is an inner confidence that I think has made a big difference, where he just feels like they’re going in,” Romar said. “I think early in C.J.’s career, sometimes he was shooting but maybe there was that doubt. There’s no longer any doubt.

“I just think he is aware that he’s a good shooter. He’s a fifth-year senior, and just playing with a lot of confidence. He expects it to go in.”

He’s not the only one. When Wilcox let fly from a few strides behind the 3-point line during the final minute of Thursday’s win over the Ducks — a shot over which Romar fawned again on Friday — sophomore guard Andrew Andrews said he couldn’t help but admire the result.

Often, Andrews said, a Wilcox shot will go up, and he’ll become “mesmerized” by the flight of the ball instead of crashing the offensive glass.

This time, it didn’t matter.

“When he shot that last shot, I started backing up,” Andrews said, thinking that “he’s probably going to make it.”

Said Wilcox: “At this point, it’s just repetition. You’ve done it a million times. It’s just something that you’ve done before. ... It’s just a shot that you know you can make.”

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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