Huskies hope backcourt can lead them back to NCAAs

Huskies hope backcourt can lead them back to NCAAs

Published Oct. 29, 2014 4:13 p.m. ET

SEATTLE (AP) Nigel Williams-Goss seriously considered the NBA. He put time and thought into calling his college career good after one season at Washington and seeing if his game was ready for the professional level.

''It was something l felt I could use another year of college at least and just continue to develop my skill set,'' Williams-Goss said. ''My main goal is if I do get a chance to reach that point I want to be ready to make an impact and that was my biggest thing. I didn't think if I left I would make an impact.''

Williams-Goss will have plenty of opportunity to make an impact in his sophomore season at Washington.

With the departure of leading scorer C.J. Wilcox to the NBA, there is a major void for the Huskies to fill. And Williams-Goss is the prime candidate to take on a greater load than he did as a freshman.


Do that, get Washington back into contention for an NCAA tournament bid after missing the last three years, and Williams-Goss could prove himself ready for the NBA.

''Physically, I've filled out more,'' Williams-Goss said. ''I watched a ton of film last year, and really took advantage of the off-time as far as improving my overall game. I tried to improve on everything over the offseason.''

The three-year NCAA tournament absence is the longest since Lorenzo Romar returned to his alma mater more than a decade ago and reignited a dormant program. The recent backslide has restored some of the apathy Romar worked hard to overcome when he arrived.

Getting back to the NCAAs and in contention in the Pac-12 Conference would help calm some of the chatter regarding Romar's future and help bridge what is expected to be a strong recruiting class for 2015.

''We have to make sure that we're healthy. We have to make sure that we come as close as we can every day to reach whatever ceiling we have this year,'' Romar said. ''If we can do that, I think we can be very competitive throughout the year.''

Here are other things to watch as the Huskies try to improve on last year's 17-15 record:

BACKCOURT SCORING: Williams-Goss won't have to carry the scoring by himself from the guard position. The Huskies also return guard Andrew Andrews, who averaged 12.3 points per game last season. The Huskies will also move Mike Anderson back to a more traditional wing position. Last season, Anderson, at 6-foot-4, was forced to play out of position as more of a power forward in a four-guard alignment.

Washington also has a pair of 6-foot-5 guards to likely bring off the bench - junior college transfer Quevyn Winters and sophomore Darin Johnson.

FRONTCOURT QUESTIONS: While the depth in the backcourt is strong, the Huskies are filled with questions up front.

Washington returns only one frontcourt player who appeared in more than half its games last season: Shawn Kemp, Jr.

The Huskies' hopes lie in the return of Jernard Jarreau after he missed most of last season with a knee injury and the debut of Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw. There were high expectations for Jarreau last season before he suffered a season-ending injury 2 minutes into the regular-season opener.

His return gives the Huskies an offensive skill player with length at 6-foot-10. Upshaw is a defensive force with shot-blocking ability around the basket and the hope he can bring some offense.

''Robert is a big game-changer down there in the paint,'' Jarreau said.

UNHERALDED FRESHMEN: Sandwiched between the arrival of Williams-Goss - a McDonald's All-American - last season and the much-hyped recruiting class for 2015, the Huskies won't be relying on freshmen much this season.

The most likely to contribute will be forward Donaven Dorsey, who at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds could end up providing needed minutes with the frontcourt teetering on not having enough bodies.

SCHEDULED TESTS: While Washington doesn't face any significant true road tests before the start of Pac-12 play, the non-conference slate should help get the Huskies ready for conference action.

Mixed in with the expected tuneup games is an appearance at the Wooden Legacy and potential matchups with Long Beach State and Xavier, a home contest with Mountain West favorite San Diego State and a neutral site game in Las Vegas against Oklahoma.