In our continuing off-season interview series, RaptorsHQ talks to Terrence Ross' NCAA coach, Lorenzo Romar...
You can talk to his agent.
You can talk to his trainer.
You can talk to teammates and other people who've spent time with him.
But the best way to get to know a young player outside of talking to the player himself?
Talk with his coach.
Following this advice, RaptorsHQ recently had the opportunity to talk to Lorenzo Romar, Head Coach of the University of Washington Men's Basketball team, and obviously, coach of Raptors' draft pick Terrence Ross.
Here were the results of the conversation...
RaptorsHQ: Really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today coach, let's start by talking Huskies before moving on to other topics.
Coach Romar: No problem, I'm ready for you!
RHQ: Let's jump back to last season for a second. You guys had a great record in the Pac-12 going 14 and 4, but were upset in the Pac-12 Tournament Quarter Finals, and yet made it to the NIT Semis before obviously a tough loss to Minnesota, so how would you characterize last season?
CR: I would say up and down. We were a young team, and before the season started we might have struggles, early, but I thought we'd become a better basketball team as we went on. And sure enough, in pre-season we were 6 and 5, or something like that, but then we ended up winning the league, we were 14 and 4 as you mentioned in our conference play, but then stubbed our toe in the conference tournament opener. I think that was our demise there. So we weren't real good early, we weren't consistent, and even when we did become a better team as the season went on, it wasn't good enough in spite of us winning the league, to get into the NCAA tournament.
RHQ: Yeah, that's always tough. On the success side, talking about last season, we can obviously point to two players who will be in the NBA next season, Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross. Can you talk a little bit about their impact on the program?
CR: Oh they had a tremendous impact. Let's start with your guy (chuckles), our guy, Terrence Ross. He became a really good defender, from his freshman year he became our go-to guy, he was inspirational to his teammates and fans, he just had a really good sophomore year. And then Tony Wroten was freshman of the year in the conference so that pretty much speaks for itself.
RHQ: You've really built up a great cast of players now who've gone to the NBA, with each one of those guys going to the next level, does it make the recruiting process a bit easier?
CR: I don't know, it always seems like an uphill battle but they (recruits) will listen. They're familiar with the fact that we've had some success in that regard and they listen when they hear it's Washington. Doesn't mean that you'll get them, but they'll hear what you have to say.
RHQ: With Ross, was he a standout player right off the bat when you were looking at him in terms of recruitment?
CR: He was a standout talent, that was for sure. Now what Terrence had to do, was he had to learn how to defend, and to play every possession at this level. And once he did those two things, it was over.
RHQ: Ross obviously is of super-interest to us here at the HQ, he had a very solid Summer League campaign, did you get to watch him at all?
CR: I did! I wasn't ever there but I recorded those games and was able to watch them.
RHQ: Now the college season obviously isn't THAT far removed from the start of Summer League but did you see any growth and change in his game from season's end to his time in Vegas?
CR: You could just see that he was trying to do what he was told, it seemed that he was being coachable. I don't know their (the Toronto Raptors' Summer League Team) schemes, or what they were trying to run, but you could just tell that he was trying to conform to what they wanted.
RHQ: So let's talk about Ross for a bit; what are some of his strengths and how would you describe his overall game?
CR: Well, outstanding athleticism. That jumps right out at you. He has a rare blend of athleticism and a deadly stroke from the three-point line. At 6-6, 6-7, he has good size, he's quick off his feet and that allows him to be a good defender. He's also a good rebounder from the guard position.
RHQ: That's one of the things I think the Raptors' liked about him as a prospect, not just the shooting ability but this is a team that's really trying to improve defensively under Coach Casey, so getting another defense-minded prospect was key. Do you see a good fit then with Toronto?
CR: Oh yeah, but I think he's a good fit for anyone. He certainly has grabbed a hold of the defensive end though, to complement what he can do on the offensive end, and I think knowing Coach Casey, he'll do just fine.
RHQ: Any situations you'd say he excels in, he seems to be very smooth in terms of moving without the ball, cutting to the hoop, and scoring in that fashion without having to break guys down off the bounce.
CR: Yeah, he is good in that regard. He can work harder to get to the line more, I think he can do that, but he just has ice water in his veins. Here's the thing; if he's playing in his back-yard or drive way, it's the same thing as if he was playing for twenty-thousand people in the championship, he just doesn't get rattled.
RHQ: Well that's great to hear, the Raptors could use a few more players of that ilk!
CR: Yeah, he just doesn't get rattled, he's not afraid to take the big shot. Someone told me in basketball there are "takers" and "makers." He's a "maker."
RHQ: Having watched him play last season in college, I would concur. In terms of the offence you guys ran in Washington, I know he and Tony were focal points, but were there certain plays that you ran to maximize his skills and abilities?
CR: Well we'd post him up quite a bit. When teams would try to deny him the ball, we'd throw over the top, throw him lobs quite a bit, and run him off screens. And then isolate him. We'd isolate him one-on-one and in those instances, he was nearly impossible to defend.
RHQ: You mentioned getting to the line more in terms of things that he has to work on, anything else you'd say he'll need to focus on as a young player?
CR: No, I think sometimes as a freshman his shot selection was something that we had to talk to him about but he's a scorer you know. He's going to take a questionable shot here and there. And sometimes those shots might be questionable for someone else but for him, it was more of his role to score. But that doesn't mean he's just going to go out there and look for his own shot.
RHQ: Going back to the draft process, did you talk to Terrence and Tony much during the entire event?
CR: Oh yeah, we were in constant contact and I was fortunate enough to be with Terrence at the draft in New York.
RHQ: Wow! I didn't realize that, was it a big shock when his name was called? I know the "prognosticators" had him slated to be a later lottery pick.
CR: Yeah, that's what we thought. Going in, I thought he'd go anywhere from 12 to 15 but when Harrison Barnes was selected we just thought "hmmm." We knew that Toronto did like him, and I remember right before they called his name I said "Toronto does like you I think," and right about that point, his agent said they were about to draft him. So, it was great, a great night.
RHQ: That's pretty exciting, and you've been through a bunch of these now. Whether it's Brandon Roy or Terrence Ross, it must never get old.
CR: The experience of helping the kids get drafted, no, but you know actually, this was my first one live. When Brandon Roy got drafted I was actually coaching the USA basketball team, and we were playing during the draft so I couldn't go.
RHQ: Speaking of Brandon, he's a player that flew under the radar a bit in the draft process. Everyone knew he'd have an immediate impact at the next level, but I don't think anyone thought he'd be as good as he was. Any comparisons there to Ross, not in terms of type of player, but in the fact that people may not know enough about his game and potential?
CR: In terms of being under the radar, absolutely. In terms of the type of player, yeah, they're totally different players, you're exactly right. But yeah, Terrence is a much better talent than I think many people realize, and he'll have a chance to show that in Toronto.
RHQ: Thanks for your time coach, that was great.
CR: No problem.