Washington State Week: Kansas Transfer Leads Large Set Of NewcomersPosted by Connor Pelton on August 4th, 2012
On the heels of last-year’s CBI runner-up season, Ken Bone welcomes in eight newcomers, headed by Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge. The eight newcomers will no doubt ease the blow of losing three “team first” guys, but sometimes talent can’t make up for chemistry. We’ll break all eight of them down below, roughly in the order of the contributions we expect from them.
Royce Woolridge, Sophomore, Guard, 6’3” 175 lbs, Kansas – Woolridge received pure garbage minutes in his freshman year at Kansas (0.9 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.6 APG in 2.8 MPG), with his best game coming in his first one - six points, two rebounds, and two assists in eight minutes against Longwood. It was an uphill fight from there, and by season’s end Woolridge decided a transfer was necessary. He chose Washington State, a place where he could study Faisal Aden’s game — one much like his own — in the mandatory sit-out season, then fill his role after Aden leaves. Like the departing sharpshooter, Woolridge is a “fill-it-up” type of scorer, meaning he needs to shoot the ball to get his points. That will be fine with Cougar fans if he can make those shots consistently. He will also bring the physical, explosive, nose-for-the-ball mentality that Marcus Capers left behind. Described by coaches and teammates as the best player on the practice floor last season, everyone is anxious to see what he’ll bring to the table once the bright lights are shining.
Demarquise Johnson, Freshman, Shooting Guard, 6’5” 190 lbs, Westwind Prep Academy, Phoenix, AZ – Johnson hails from the central Arizona power Westwind Prep. While primarily a shooting guard, Johnson is very explosive off the dribble and can slash and score with ease inside the paint, something the Cougars have been missing the past few seasons. That being said, his intensity and on-court toughness does draw some question marks. If he is going to earn major minutes as a freshman in the rotation, Johnson needs to move better without the ball instead of just waiting for it to come to him. This kid is a legitimate player that will surely make an impact by the time he’s done in Pullman. After all, he didn’t earn offers from UNLV, Gonzaga, and Washington for nothing.
Keaton Hayenga, Junior, Small Forward, 6’5” 209 lbs, Bellevue College – Hayenga averaged 17.7 PPG in 2010-11 with the Bellevue Bulldogs, tied for the team’s best. He was undoubtedly the team’s best all-around player, leading Bellevue to a 23-7 record. Due to the lack of forwards on the Cougar roster, Hayenga could find himself playing significant minutes behind Brock Motum and D.J. Shelton. The one knock on the incoming junior would be his size. The Cougars always have enough guards who can shoot the ball or small forwards that also have range. They usually rely on one forward to be a type of enforcer in the middle, someone who can shut down any thoughts of putting up a shot in the paint. It remains to be seen if Hayenga can be that lane-clogger.
Richard Longrus, Jr., Freshman, Small Forward, 6’6” 210 lbs, Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland, CA – Although slightly bigger than Hayenga, Longrus fits into the small forward that can handle the ball role. With that said, it’s going to be a while until he sees the floor consistently. There is a logjam of wings on the current roster, all of which are good scorers. Longrus’ offensive skill-set is limited to say the least, which will likely lead to him watching and learning for most of his freshman season. The Cougars upcoming trip to Australia could be helpful in determine just how ready he is for big-time basketball.
Brett Boese, Freshman, Small Forward, 6’6” 205 lbs, Shadle Park High School, Spokane, WA – Depite growing up with Gonzaga virtually in his backyard, Boese’s dream was to play basketball at Washington State. He’ll get that chance, mainly due to his terrific shooting ability. Boese could be one of the purest shooters on the roster his freshman season, but once again, the logjam at the position and youth will keep him from making big contributions. One of the knocks on the small forward/wing is that he likes to force up shots, even when being pressured heavily. That should change now that he’s in Pullman, where he won’t be the only one on the floor that can make a big-time shot.
James Hunter, Sophomore, Forward, 6’9” 250 lbs, Gillette College – Hunter brings some much-needed height and size into Pullman. While he won’t get much of a chance in 2012-13, expect Hunter and Shelton to man a ferocious frontcourt for the 2013-14 season and beyond. Hunter’s specialty is shot-blocking, something the Cougars have sorely missed in the past few seasons. He’s not a great athlete, however, which is why he won’t see much playing time this year. Still, Hunter is a good pick for a sleeper player to have a huge impact by the time he graduates.
Dominic Ballard, Redshirt Freshman, Guard, 6’4” 199 lbs, Bothell High School, Bothell, WA – Ballard was the KingCo Conference’s second-leading scorer in his senior season, which gave him a small amount of hype heading into Washington State as a freshman. But with Faisal Aden, Reggie Moore, DaVonte Lacy, etc. all in front of him on the depth chart, Ballard redshirted last year. Unfortunately, Moore and Lacy are back, as are guys like Mike Ladd and Dexter Kernich-Drew that didn’t see a ton of action last season. Throw in the additions of Woolridge and Johnson, Ballard will be hard-pressed to see much action in 2012-13. When he does see the court, expect Ballard to take on an Xavier Thames-like role, a guard that can get into the lane and dish to an open wing.
Bryce Leavitt, Freshman, Guard, 6’4” 184 lbs, Kennewick High School, Kennewick, WA – Leavitt will enroll at Washington State as a preferred walk-on. Being the fourth guard on the list of newcomers, he will likely use the 2012-13 season as a redshirt year.