By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — When the University of Washington men’s basketball team ventured south to Portland to try and lure a Jefferson High School kid named Terrence to Montlake, it was widely assumed his stay at UW wouldn’t last long.
But that was Terrence Jones, a big man with NBA skills who ended up signing with Kentucky and may well be playing his final game tonight in the national championship. When the Huskies missed out on him, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of fanfare about 6-foot-6 former Jefferson High teammate Terrence Ross — considered by many UW fans to be a recruiting consolation prize.
And yet when Ross declared Sunday for the NBA draft, saying in the process that his two years at UW would be his final ones, absolutely no one seemed to be surprised.
The sweet-shooting sophomore swingman gradually established himself as a legitimate NBA prospect as the 2011-12 season went on, scoring 30 points to almost single-handedly bury rival Washington State on Jan. 15 and then firmly entrenching himself as UW’s go-to scorer down the stretch of the season.
And after Sunday’s announcement, Husky fans won’t get to see him in a UW uniform again.
“I’m all in right now,” Ross said on a conference call Sunday night when asked whether there was any chance he could pull his name out of the June draft. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to make me change my decision. I’ve thought about this really hard before I made my decision. I made the right decision, and I’m not going to change.”
Ross is one of two UW players considering an early exit for the NBA, and he said Sunday that his announcement might affect freshman Tony Wroten Jr.’s decision.
“I’ve talked about it a few times,” Ross said Sunday night. “We really just said, when it comes right down to it, we’ll do what’s best for us and see how the situations works out. I think that we’re both going to do what’s best for us. I think it will affect him in a way; I’m not sure how. He’s really going to do what’s best for him.”
Along with graduating senior Darnell Gant, the Huskies could lose 39.4 points per game and 52 percent of its offense if Wroten joins Ross in the upcoming draft. The Huskies don’t currently have any signed recruits and will rely on the addition of redshirts Scott Suggs, Jernard Jarreau and Andrew Andrews to help fortify the roster next season. The Huskies are also holding out hope that McDonald’s All-American Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-7 power forward who lists UW, Kentucky, Florida, Oregon and UNLV among his final schools, will sign for next season.
While Ross and Wroten were neck-and-neck as the Huskies’ top two scorers this season — Ross at 16.4 points per game, Wroten at 16.0 — Ross was undoubtedly the go-to guy down the stretch of the season while averaging 25.0 points per game in the National Invitational Tournament. He’s considered a mid-first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft and will be difficult for UW to replace because of his explosive scoring ability.
But UW was able to weather the storm of losing top scorer Isaiah Thomas early to the NBA after the 2010-11 season, winning the Pacific-12 Conference regular season title with one of the Huskies’ youngest rosters of the Lorenzo Romar era.
Ross was a big reason for that, but his effect on the team was a gradual process. He frustrated UW fans during the first half of the season because of what was perceived as a passive approach to offense, and even some of his best games came after quiet first halves.
But Ross really came to play in UW’s four NIT games, scoring 23, 32 and 24 points in wins over Texas Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon on the way to the tournament semifinals. He averaged 25.0 points per game in the NIT while hitting 15 of 37 shots from 3-point range.
Romar, who is in New Orleans taking part in Final Four activities, said in a statement that the Huskies will miss Ross as both a player and person.
“We wish Terrence the best,” Romar was quoted as saying Sunday. “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.”
Ross, who also averaged a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game and ranked second on the team with 44 steals, acknowledged that returning for his junior season could have conceivably put him in a better position for next year’s draft but added that he has no second thoughts about declaring now.
“I’ve thought about all the things that will be going on — not just for myself but for the team and where I fit in,” he said Sunday night. “And I really thought it will be a really good opportunity for me to come out now.”