Strolling near the sports complex at the University of Washington on Friday (Oct. 8), I distinctly believed I could hear the faint sound of Sister Sledge serenading the area in a way that hadn’t been heard since her hit “We Are Family” became the anthem of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
What a dysfunctional family the descendant clan of the ’79 Bucs has become.
It’s a different case in Huskyland. The decision by star Garfield High point guard Tony Wroten Jr. to be an athlete where his dad played ball is but the latest in a series of filial fortunes carried on at UW. Another state prep star, Kasen Williams, is expected to become part of the Husky-football program when the stellar senior’s playing days at Sammamish High are over. His father, Aaron Williams, was of the same era as Tony Wroten the elder.
The youngsters are but the latest examples of offspring and siblings of Husky greats playing for the home programs. Spencer Hawes selected Washington instead of North Carolina, largely because his father and uncle had played basketball at UW. Dawg-vet Nate Robinson, now a sixth-year NBA player, is the son of Jacques Robinson, immortalized by being the only one to win MVP honors in two major bowl games (Rose, 1982, Orange, '85).
Husky coaches Lorenzo Romar and Steve Sarkisian are eminently aware that their recruiting burdens get lighter when they can go to the homes of high-school kids whose parents have histories with UW. The coaches certainly aren’t alone among their peers in making ongoing efforts to ingratiate themselves to the families of potential stars. For generations college coaches obviously have kept recruiting as the key priority.
That’s why it was interesting to see in person last January a couple of custodial parents looking well beyond a school’s sports reputation when helping a child decide where to commit to an athletic program.
A professor from the UW business school and I were asked to meet prior to the UW-WSU men’s basketball game with Kasen Williams and his parents. I and many of my colleagues who teach at the school typically are very happy to oblige when parents of any prospective student ask for a chance to meet.
For me, the Williams example was unlike any other such meeting; the business prof later said the same. The five of us sat at a table in the sports complex and, for about half an hour, Aaron and Rhonda Williams, the latter, mostly, asked question upon probing question, none having to do with anything other than the academic environment and scholastic expectations at the school.
When the session ended (and it did only because the basketball game was about to get underway), I said to Rhonda Williams that, had we known the meeting was going to be this comprehensive, we might’ve thought to make a video recording to be shared with other parents of prospective college students.
In the end it wasn’t much of a surprise that young Williams, on Aug. 27, announced that he settled on UW instead of Cal, Notre Dame, Florida, or Louisiana State. Nor was it completely unexpected that Wroten Jr. would choose Washington, especially in light of the remarks his mother, Shirley, made this week about the Wrotens’ warm regard for Romar.
Coach LoRo himself knows more than a little bit about family loyalties and the advantages of keeping clans together. That much was apparent last Saturday night (Oct. 2) along the southeast sideline of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was where Husky football fans could observe the basketball coach, sporting a field pass for the football game with USC, practically wearing a path in the turf while showing his solidarity as a Dawg fan.
Sometimes the hoops mentor got within 20 yards of the end-zone corner, where Washington fans were reveling with Husky cheerleaders. Romar’s daughter is on the Dawg pom squad. That being the case (though the UW band never got around to playing it that night), a certain Sister Sledge tune would have seemed to be in order. For Husky sports, the song seems eminently more appropriate than “Louie, Louie.”