Huskies' Ross to enter NBA draft

Published On: Apr 01 2012 11:16:57 PM PDT
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SEATTLE -

For years, Terrence Ross commuted across the Columbia River with his mother to Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore.

In between, Marcine Ross home-schooled her son when he was a high school sophomore.

He spent a fourth year of high school in suburban Washington, D.C. He then considered a prep school in Phoenix before he returned home to re-enroll at Jefferson and eventually sign with Washington a couple hours up Interstate 5.

There, he grew from a Huskies freshmen deferring to Isaiah Thomas last year into UW's dynamic scoring leader this season. He took 100 extra jump shots and post moves with Huskies assistant coach Paul Fortier this winter before and after each practice, to gain more consistency.

All those places he's been and all he's done.

So when the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee let the smooth, 6-foot-6 sophomore know this week he could be selected in the middle to late in the first round, it's no wonder Ross announced this on Sunday: He is foregoing his final two college seasons to pursue his "lifelong dream" and enter the NBA draft.

"I heard anywhere from top 10, to late in the lottery (top 14), to late in the first round," Ross said by telephone in Seattle Sunday afternoon, five days after the All-Pac-12 shooting guard scored 21 points in Washington's season-ending, overtime loss to Minnesota in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.

"I was not trying to be overwhelmed through this process. I've got to thank my mom for that. She made sure my head was on straight.

"I've been thinking hard about this for the last month or so. It is not much of a shock."

Nor was it much of one to the Huskies, or to coach Lorenzo Romar.

Romar took Ross away from a gaggle of Huskies that had just entered the Marriott Marquis 30 minutes past midnight Wednesday morning in New York, about an hour after another big night from Ross couldn't keep UW from losing 69-68 to Minnesota at Madison Square Garden.

The shooting star talked briefly but intently with his coach, who was leaving in a few hours for New Orleans and the annual national coaches' convention at the Final Four. The chat was reminiscent of the one Romar had with Thomas, then another Huskies underclassman, 12 months ago just before the team bus took Washington away from Charlotte, N.C., following its third-round loss to North Carolina in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Now Thomas is a candidate to become the NBA's rookie of the year with the Sacramento Kings.

"Coach Romar was very supportive," said Ross, who considered the advice Romar got from the veteran, respected coach's many NBA contacts.

"I just based it on the season I had this year. I based it on my performance and my maturity level."

That soared last summer, after Thomas joined Spencer Hawes and Nate Robinson in leaving the Huskies for the NBA early over Romar's 10 seasons leading UW. Ross admittedly stayed back behind Thomas' dominant personality and the leadership of seniors Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton on the 2010-11 team.

That provided Ross with valuable time to grow.

"I've matured a lot these two years, being in college," Ross said. "I think I'm ready for this.

"Being at Washington and playing for Coach Romar has been a blessing. On the court, off the court, with school and in life, it's just been a real blessing to consider myself a Husky and get to where I am right now."

Romar, from New Orleans on Sunday, cited the 21-year-old Ross' rapid maturity over the last year as a reason he supports this decision.

"We wish Terrence the best," Romar said. "He was refreshing to coach because of his humility and team-first attitude.

"We wish him well and anticipate that he will have an excellent NBA career."

When Thomas left, Ross didn't just welcome his new role as Washington's most dangerous scorer. He seized it.

He established himself as one of the Pac-12's most complete players and one of the nation's top athletes. He ranked among conference leaders in eight categories: points per game (16.4, fourth), rebounds per game (6.4, sixth), offensive rebounds per game (5.1, third), free-throw percentage (.766, 11th), steals per game (1.3, 12th), 3-pointers made per game (2.1, eighth), 3-point shooting (37.1 percent, 14th) and blocks per game (0.9, 13th).

Ross burned opponents that jumped out to defend his perimeter shot by posting up smaller guards in the lane. When teams sagged inside to take away his post moves, Ross stepped back and swished deep jumpers over the befuddled foes.

And Washington won its second outright regular-season conference title since 1953.

His array of offensive skills and ways he can be a matchup nightmare were on display on national television against a top opponent in Marquette at Madison Square Garden in early December. After Ross had spent most of the night hurting Marquette from outside, Romar called a play on Washington's final possession that sent Ross to left side of the lane just above the low blocks. He took an entry pass and scored on a turnaround shot over a smaller defender to put Washington ahead. Were it not for a missed defensive assignment on Marquette's subsequent screen play for the winning 3-pointer just before the final buzzer, Ross would have had the winning shot in a victory that likely would have secured another NCAA tournament bid for the Huskies.

Ross' 574 total points were tied for ninth most in any Huskies season. He was the only Husky to reach 30 points this season, doing so twice. He scored 26 in the second half to bury rival Washington State. He had nine games of 20 or more points.

Ross also flourished in the NIT. He averaged 25.0 points in four games. He was 15 for 15 from the free throw line and led UW shooters from 3-point range, making 15 of 37 tries (40.5 percent) as Washington came within one point of playing for the first national postseason tournament championship in the program's 110-season history.

According to a new NCAA rule, Ross has through April 10 to change his mind and pull his name from the draft to retain his college eligibility. But he says that is not going to happen.

Since there's just 10 days between now and that new NCAAA deadline, underclassmen essentially have no time to "test the waters" of the NBA draft, as there had been through last year with the league's deadline in June for early entrants to withdraw their names.

"I'm all in right now," Ross said. "I don't think there's anything that can change my decision. I've thought it over very hard."

If Ross had returned he could have been a first-team All-America and a top-five NBA pick in 2013. But he doesn't need to come back. His outside shot is so smooth and his post-up game so advanced for a guard, NBA people covet it him as-is. Ross is listed as the 20th-overall talent in the 2012 draft by espn.com.

Next, he will head to Los Angeles to work with a trainer that specializes in building strength in guards and thus more shooting range for the NBA-distance 3-point shot.

Asked what he will miss most at UW, Ross didn't hesitate.

"It's playing in front of the Dawg Pack," he said of UW's raucous student section that lines one sideline a few feet off the floor at Alaska Airlines Arena. "I feel U-Dub has one of the best crowds and best arenas in the country.

"Plus, the way Coach Romar has been a mentor for me... I love my team. That's going to be hard to pass up.

"(But)," Ross said of entering the NBA, "this has been a lifelong dream for me."

Ross has consulted with teammate Tony Wroten over the next move for the Pac-12's freshman of the year. Some also consider the 6-5 Wroten, UW's second-leading scorer just behind Ross at 16 points per game this season, as a potential first-round pick this summer.

"I've talked to him about it a few times," Ross said. "We've said when it comes down to it we've got to do what's best for us.

"I think (my decision) will affect him in a way. I'm not sure how."

Wroten has also asked the NBA's draft advisory committee for an estimate on where he may be selected in June. The committee's deadline to provide a response is Friday.

"I don't know," Wroten said early last Wednesday morning in New York, when asked about his future. "I'm going to sit down with my family and go from there."