December 29, 2010

Wroten shows Lakes crowd why he's so special

It was a good thing to have a video camera handy Tuesday night.

When it came to reviewing the two most critical plays in Garfield's 71-69 overtime victory over Lakes, I could rewind and play back those instances to get a closer look at what happened.

And, as it turns out, in both cases, a chance to take a closer look at a basketball player who recruiting experts are calling the most gifted high school passer in the country from the Class of 2011.
During signing day last month, Lorenzo Romar talked about how truly special Garfield's Tony Wroten Jr. was and what a treat was in store for Washington Huskies fans.

Romar called Wroten, the gem of his 2011 recruiting class, "a very, very tough kid. When you think of Tony Wroten or you've seen him play, he is flashy. He can do some things on the floor that will dazzle you. But he's also a winner who is willing to do the dirty work, and do the little things that help you win ballgames."

That's what Wroten displayed Tuesday night in Lakewood in front of an overflow crowd in the final game of Lakes' old gymnasium.

Garfield trailed an unbeaten Lakes team by 11 points with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But that turned out to be far too much time remaining for Wroten, a 6-foot-5 point guard who scored 30 points on the night.

"I wasn't concerned about my points," Wroten said. "I was more concerned about getting a W. I told my team I'll do whatever it takes to do that."

There was panic in Lakes' play down the stretch, with several ill-advised passes. Five turnovers at that critical juncture.

But the margin for error against Wroten and his talented cast on a Garfield team ranked No. 1 in Class 4A was zero.

With his quickness, long arms and athleticism, Wroten disrupted everything and made Lakes pay dearly for mistakes. One backcourt turnover turned into a monster dunk.

Wroten's will to win took center stage. He was tired from banging bodies all game with 6-foot-9, 300-pound center Zach Banner, but his determination to win kept him going.

Yes, on top of scoring 30 points and wowing fans with unreal passes and a couple fancy dunks, Wroten also had the defensive assignment to cover Banner, a force in football who is starting to become more of one on the basketball court.

Wroten gave up more than 100 pounds and at least four inches to Banner, yet his quickness and jumping ability gave the Lakes center trouble.

Banner was a big factor in rebounding but was held to seven points after scoring 18 points in each of his previous two games.

"Yesterday in practice, coach told me I got him," Wroten said of a conversation with Garfield's Ed Haskins. "I'm not going to back down from anybody but I was kind of shocked, you know what I'm saying? Because he's bigger than me. I just had to buckle down and play good defense on him."

Banner knows he'll never face a player quicker and more athletic than Wroten again. Banner was used to being on the receiving end of Wroten's passes as both are teammates on the Seattle Rotary AAU team, along with guards Isaac Winston of Lakes and Glenn Brooks of Garfield.

Wroten gave Banner trouble especially when he put the ball on the floor. Garfield's 6-foot-6 sophomore Daeshon Hall, who had 13 points, also helped limit Banner's effectiveness.

"It's a quick matchup," Banner said. "It limits me to my moves because if I try to drive, he's so little that the refs will give him a charge. So I was being smart with it. But it also is a disadvantage (for him) with the rebounds. I ended up finishing with 11 or 12 rebounds."

Despite his seven points, Garfield players singled out Banner as the Lakes player they were most impressed with.

Lakes has a few senior players who have college potential but are flying under the recruiting radar with most large schools. Among them is Winston, an acrobatic dunker who's starting to play the point guard position that he's projected to play in college. Winston, a 6-2 senior who's the brother of Washington State freshman Andre Winston Jr., scored 17 points against Garfield. He is getting the most attention from Seattle University.

Other intriguing Lakes senior prospects are 6-5 guard-forwards Nate Guy and Taylor McAllister, who each played a role in trying to defend Wroten Tuesday night. McAllister had 10 points and had a clean block of one of Wroten's shots.

Junior guard Andrew Holloway led Lakes with 20 points.

Still, it was Banner who got Garfield's attention the most.

"A couple years back, big boy couldn't move down the court," senior wing Des'juan Newton said. "Now he was forcing us to make horrible shots in the paint and he was finishing his shots down low."

When the game was on the line, it was little surprise who made the biggest impact.

With Garfield trailing by two points and 9.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Wroten grabbed an inbound pass and took off.

Guy tried to pin him deep in the backcourt, but Wroten, a left-hander, turned, switched the ball to his right hand and darted around Guy. He saw Cedric Dozier slip, then sliced right through Dozier and Guy and reached midcourt on a fast dribble.

He blew by McAllister near the top of the key, then glided by Banner and wrapped a pass around the Lakes center to Hall for an easy layup that tied the score and sent the game into overtime.

In the overtime, Wroten stole an inbounds pass near midcourt with seven seconds left that would lead to teammate Tucker Haymond's winning free throws with .6 seconds remaining.

Each time, Wroten didn't score on the play. But each time, he was the difference maker.

"I just want it more," Wroten said. "I knew I had to get the steal, make the layup, do whatever. I was dog tired but all that gets thrown out the window."

So, this is what Romar meant by special. This is what he meant by dirty work and doing whatever it takes to win.

"He has a passion to play basketball," Romar said. "He wants to be the best."

A packed gymnasium, and a dejected Lakes basketball team, got a sampling of that Tuesday night.

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