Before Dony Wilcher gets into the early mornings, the pull-ups at Peninsula Park, the sprints in the sand and up staircases and the endless hours spent snapping jumpers in the gym, let him tell you about the time Washington Huskies guard Andrew Andrews hustled him for $5.
This actually happened the first time the two ever met. Wilcher is a basketball trainer and coach in the Portland area, where Andrews grew up, and he was running a camp during the summer before Andrews entered eighth grade. Andrews came to the camp with a friend. Afterward, Wilcher gave them a ride to the bus stop.
That’s when Andrews offered him a wager: if the kid could solve a Rubik’s cube before they got to the bus stop — no more than a couple blocks, Wilcher said — then the coach had to pay him $5.
Wilcher accepted, certain there was no way this “little yappy kid” was going to solve a puzzle that complicated in that little time … until they arrived at the bus stop and Andrews tossed the cube into his lap, perfectly solved, each side a solid color.
“I actually had to go to the ATM,” Wilcher recalled Friday with a chuckle. “And I thought, ‘I kinda like this kid.’ ”
It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Andrews and Wilcher began training together and remain close to this day — Andrews refers to him as his mentor — and it was under Wilcher’s guidance that Andrews returned to his roots this past summer.
That’s a literal reference, because Andrews really did go home to Portland for the offseason. But it’s figurative, too, because the workouts, the dribbling drills, the shots and shots and shots — they were all designed to convert Andrews back into a point guard, the position he played in high school.
In his first three seasons at UW, Andrews played off the ball — Abdul Gaddy ran the point in 2012-13, and Nigel Williams-Goss took over the position the past two seasons. But when Williams-Goss decided in April to transfer to Gonzaga, it opened the door for Andrews to return to what he feels is his natural position. So he spent the summer in the gym with Wilcher to practice pushing the ball up the court, reading pick and rolls instead of coming off screens and refining the art of the catch-and-shoot.
Through 14 games, it seems a natural fit. Andrews leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.1 points per game (he averages 6.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, too), he’s won two Pac-12 player of the week awards — including last week, after scoring 35 points in a double-overtime win over UCLA and 24 in a win over USC — and as the Huskies prepare for Saturday’s noon game at Washington State, Andrews is on pace to finish his UW career as one of the top 10 scorers in school history.
His increase in production this season is a byproduct of two key factors.
First, he’s simply shooting better from behind the 3-point arc, making those shots at a 41.4-percent clip after averaging just 32.5 percent in his first three seasons.
And he’s also taking advantage of the NCAA’s new emphasis on freedom of movement, using his bullish style to draw fouls at a rate higher than most every other player in the country. According to noted statistics analyst Ken Pomeroy, Andrews ranks fifth nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.6), which means he also shoots a lot of free throws — 133 of them so far this season. He’s made 111 of those, an 83.5-percent mark.
Ask him how he draws so much contact, and Andrews shrugs. There’s no secret, he says. He’s just an aggressive, physical player. Always has been.
“It’s kind of the LeBron factor,” Wilcher said. “The freight train’s coming at you, but if it’s quick enough to turn the corner on you, the foul’s on you.”
Or, as UW coach Lorenzo Romar describes it: “There’s a saying that sometimes you can reach for the ball, or you can run through the ball. When there is a ball in the middle of the pack, he runs through it to get it.”
Making the ensuing free throws requires practiced technique. Andrews said a coach told him in fourth grade that he needed to develop a preshot routine, so he did, and it’s the same one he uses today — he’ll feel out the ball, dribble three times, spin the ball once, dribble again and shoot.
After every practice drill, Andrews said, he tries to make 10 consecutive free throws. In the offseason, if he hoists 500 jumpers, he’ll match that output with 500 free throws.
Another key, Andrews said: “Try and be winded. Try and make it as game-like as you can. Sometimes I’ll have my coach clapping in front of me or doing little things to try to bug me or throw me off. We have a drill at the end of every workout or whatever, it’s called a one and one, where you have to make a free throw all net and make a 3-pointer all net, but it has to be consecutive. ...
“And what it does is, it gets you in the constant rhythm of making shots without hitting the rim, so you’ll be doing this drill and if it rims in you’re getting mad at yourself even though you’re making the free throw, because it’s not all net.
“That kind of got my mindset in a place to where just making a free throw should be second nature.”
UW (10-4, 2-0 Pac-12) at WSU (9-5, 1-1)
Noon, Beasley Coliseum, Pullman
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 1000-AM (UW), 710-AM (WSU)
Projected starters (Statistics for 2015-16)
2 Ike Iroegbu, G (6-2, jr..): 13.0 ppg, 4.3 apg
32 Que Johnson, G (6-5, r-jr.): 10.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg
23 Charles Callison, G (6-0, jr.): 7.4 ppg, 3.1 apg
15 Junior Longrus, F (6-7, sr.): 3.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg
24 Josh Hawkinson, F (6-10, jr.): 16.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg
12 Andrew Andrews, G (6-2, r-sr.): 21.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.1 apg
5 Dejounte Murray, G (6-4 1/2, fr.): 14.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.4 apg
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, fr.): 5.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, fr.): 6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg
0 Marquese Chriss, F (6-9, fr.): 12.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Scouting report: UW was picked to finish 11th, and WSU 12th, in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, though each put forth some encouraging play during the first weekend of Pac-12 competition — UW swept UCLA and USC in Seattle, and WSU beat UCLA after losing to USC. The Cougars are 8-2 at home this season. … WSU has been slightly more efficient offensively than UW this season, averaging 1.032 points per possession, compared to 1.025 for the Huskies (according to TeamRankings.com). Both teams prefer an up-tempo game, though the Huskies play at a faster pace on average. … UW seems to have the advantage defensively. The Huskies hold opponents to 39.5-percent shooting from the field, which ranks fourth in the Pac-12. WSU ranks 11th, allowing a clip of 42.4 percent. But the Cougars are the second-best shooting team in the league (49.1 percent), and UW is the worst (40.8 percent). ... Josh Hawkinson, WSU’s leading scorer and the Pac-12’s leading rebounder, grew up in Shoreline and his mother played basketball at UW. ... WSU freshman guard Viont’e Daniels is from Federal Way.