Washington Huskies

John McGrath: The legacy of Roy offers a lesson for Murray and Chriss

Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss are terrific basketball talents destined for the NBA. The Washington Huskies freshmen do not need my advice about the pros and cons of pursuing that destiny immediately.

But as Murray and Chriss ponder the payday awaiting them, I hope they notice the No. 3 jersey hanging from the rafters of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Brandon Roy wore it for four seasons at Washington, where he blossomed from a teenager with flaws in his game into a lottery pick selected as the NBA’s 2007 Rookie of the Year.

Roy thought about turning professional after a solid junior season, but something told him that coming back as a senior would enhance his draft stock.

Did it ever. His per-game averages spiked for points (12.8 to 20.2), rebounds (5 to 5.6) and assists (2.2 to 4.1). Staying in school offered other benefits, too, such as the chance to lead his team to the Final Four for the first time since 1953.

The Huskies advanced to the regional semifinals, where they had a four-point lead over Connecticut, with 21 seconds remaining, and couldn’t hold onto it. A factor in the 98-92 overtime defeat — probably the key one — was Roy’s unavailability for much of the second half. He had four fouls, and coach Lorenzo Romar needed to save his star for crunch time.

The final game of Roy’s career at Washington didn’t diminish the thrill of the ride. His team came within a single possession of elite status and, along the way, he polished the skills that vaulted him from a somewhere-in-the-draft choice to the sixth overall selection.

If Murray and Chriss decide to take a quicker route to the NBA than Roy did, nobody has the right to criticize them. A system is in place that encourages basketball players to go pro before they’re emotionally and physically ready to go pro. The system needs to be fixed.

Until that happens, Murray and Chriss should be informed of all that awaits them just around the corner. Markelle Fultz, who might be the most coveted prep player that Romar has ever recruited, is on his way to Washington from the other Washington.

A 6-foot-4 point guard at DeMatha Catholic — the powerhouse high school in the D.C. area that boasts such alums as Adrian Dantley, Danny Ferry and Victor Oladipo — Fultz chose the Huskies over Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland and Arizona.

There’s no question about Fultz’s long-term plans. Projected as the No. 5 pick of the 2017 draft, he will play basketball with the Huskies for one season, and then he’ll be gone.

But, oh, what a year that could be. If either Murray or Chriss stay in school, Washington begins next season as odds-on favorites for the Pac-12 regular-season championship.

And if both stay in school? This gives the Huskies the look of a national championship contender. Think about it: Three certain first-round NBA draft picks on the same college team, complemented by the likes of 6-9 shot-blocking specialist Malik Dime and the 6-10 Sam Timmons, a New Zealander who sat out this season under the radar.

Every best-case scenario has a corresponding flip side, of course. Should the Huskies begin next season at full strength, with Murray and Chriss and Fultz in harmonic cohesion, a high-jump bar will be set on great expectations.

Anything short of a Sweet 16 berth could cost Romar his job.

But first things first, and the first things about next season are tethered to the first big decision Dejounte Murray and Marquise Chriss will make in their young lives.

Do they take the money and run, or stay grounded for five months of crazy fun?

If Murray and Chriss are on the bubble about any of this, they might try contacting Brandon Roy, and ask him how he feels when he sees his No. 3 jersey hanging from the rafters.

UW men’s basketball: A look at

the good and bad of 2015-16

THREE UP

1. Andrew Andrews. As UW coach Lorenzo Romar said on Thursday, “no one thought Andrew Andrews would do what he did this year.” That’s accurate. Andrews led the Pac-12 in scoring with 20.9 points per game, averaged 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists, and was named first-team All-Pac-12 for his efforts. The fifth-year senior was a consistent bright spot for the Huskies this year.

2. Freshmen emerged. Most already knew UW’s freshman class was talented, but the first-year players probably still exceeded those expectations. That’s especially true of guard Dejounte Murray, who made second-team All-Pac-12, made the conference’s All-Freshmen team and had per-game averages of 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists, and Marquese Chriss, the springy forward who averaged 13.2 points per game.

3. They were competitive. The Huskies lost only three Pac-12 games this season by double digits, and six of them were by six points or fewer. That was a source of frustration, of course, but evidence that UW had a chance to win nearly every league game it played this season — something it couldn’t say in the past few years.

 

THREE DOWN

1. Another year without an NCAA tournament appearance. The Huskies have fallen short of that goal in five consecutive seasons now, and despite the fact that nobody really expected them to get there this year, it must be considered a disappointment.

2. Rebounding problems. If there was one area in which marginal improvement could have led to several more victories, it was UW’s ability — or inability — to prevent opponents from collecting offensive rebounds. The Huskies were the worst defensive-rebounding team in the Pac-12. That was the difference in many of UW’s close games this season.

3. Possible early draft entries. Murray and Chriss were impressive this season, which means they’re now viable first-round NBA draft prospects. If either or both choose to leave early, the makeup of UW’s 2016-17 roster will change dramatically, despite the arrival of incoming guard Markelle Fultz, a five-star recruit.

Christian Caple: ccaple@thenewstribune.com

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