The title of this piece was originally going to be, “When Will Tony Wroten Get It?” After attending the Washington basketball games against both Duke and Marquette this past week, I decided the question needed revising.
Tony Wroten came to Washington billed as a point guard. Between his height, speed and impeccable court vision, he had all the necessary traits to be and elite lead guard and more. He seemed to have a flair for the extraordinary, and loved to make the crowd ooh and aah.
While at Garfield, his deficiencies were simply glossed over. He didn’t give effort on the defensive end — what high school superstar did? He tried to make impossible passes, endlessly popping unsuspecting teammates in the face. But we all knew that when he got to UW, those issues would be rectified, Romar would have him playing under control, and Tony would be a force.
Yet those issues still haven’t been solved. Through the first few games, Tony turned the ball over like a maniac, guarded his man worse than Brendan Sherrer could have, and clanked free throw after free throw after free throw off the rim. It looked like it was going to be a long year for Tony.
But something clicked in that Duke game. Tony doesn’t know how to operate a halfcourt offense like Abdul Gaddy does — feel free look at their assist to turnover ratios and compare. For most of the Duke game, Tony played shooting guard. He wasn’t looking to send 100 MPH rockets at Darnell Gant from short range. He was looking to get the ball to the rim and score.
And score he did. We all saw Tony drop 23 in that game, but perhaps more importantly he fouled out Austin Rivers and Seth Curry. He was the only Husky actively pursuing his shot. The four-guard lineup spaced the floor to facilitate his drives. His turnovers were cut down now that he was looking for his own shot. His defense rounded into shape – it took guarding a superstar (Austin Rivers) for him to care, but if guarding the best player is what makes Tony try on defense, I am all for it.
I’m not sure the kinks in Tony’s game are ever going to work themselves out. Check that, I’m not sure if Tony will ever work them out. If he decides he wants to be an all-time great, he’ll do it. He will learn how to operate a half-court offense. He’ll develop a mid-range game. He’ll finish with his right hand for once. He’ll learn how to shoot free throws. The list goes on. Tony doesn’t have anywhere close to a complete skillset right now.
But he certainly has a unique one. Not many players his size can see the court like he can, get to the rim as consistently as he can, or run the court like he can. As of right now, that combination of skills best suits the shooting guard position, where he doesn’t have to worry about getting people into position and operating the entire offense. He can simply do what he does best – get to the rim and score.
So we can wonder when Tony will “get it” all we want. Garfield fans have been asking it since he played his first game in his freshman year. But maybe Tony doesn’t need to get it. Whether he dots the I’s and crosses the T’s of his game, Tony is going to continue to help Washington win, even if it isn’t in the way we expected when he first arrived. Maybe the Tony Wroten we had been searching for was in front of us all along — we were just looking in the wrong place.
--Frankie Pavia (@FJPavia)