Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington State Cougars

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Washington State Cougars.

Strengths: This category starts and ends with senior forward Brock Motum. The Australian lefty led the Pac-12 in scoring in 2011-12 and took home the title of most improved player in the conference, but it will be interesting to see how he performs without the team’s best guard to draw some attention on the perimeter. Motum was able to handle just about any big man in league play last year, taking opponents both inside and out. He became famous for some incredible, off-balance jumpers, reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki with some of his shots. With the dismissal of Reggie Moore, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge will start the year at combo guard. Big things are expected of the former Jayhawk, who may just be the best shooter Washington State can put on the roster.

Weaknesses: Behind Motum and Woolridge, it’s tough to look at the Cougars and point out a guy that oozes confidence. Sure, guys like DaVonté Lacy and D.J. Shelton are solid athletes, but it’s going to be a long year when you’re counting on them for big-time production. Ken Bone does have some interesting newcomers to play around with, but what roles they fit into and how much they can immediately contribute will be tough to figure out. Gillette Junior College transfer James Hunter looks to be a banger that will start the year at power forward, but the Cougs are awfully thin after that for someone who can bang on the glass. Shelton and Hunter better not be on the bench at the same time, because things could get ugly down there for Wazzu.

James Hunter (15) Will Have To Avoid The Bench In 2012-13 For The Cougars To Have A Rebounding Presence In The Post (credit: Gillette College)

Non-Conference Tests: The Cougars will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will all come in a row away from home in late November. Washington State will travel to Malibu to face Pepperdine on November 16, and while the Waves might struggle this season, not many teams venture into Firestone Fieldhouse and come out with an easy win. Just three days later the Cougars will go into the Sprint Center and play a top 5 Kansas squad in front of what will be a 99% Jayhawk-friendly crowd. Less than 24 hours later they’ll play on the same court against either Saint Louis or Texas A&M, two teams that are at least NIT locks this season. Finally, the Cougs get a three game reprieve before having to take on in-state rival Gonzaga on December 5 in Pullman.

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Washington State Week: Kansas Transfer Leads Large Set Of Newcomers

Posted 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.

Woolridge’s Explosiveness Off The Dribble Will Have Opponents Scrambling This Season (credit: Jerry Wang)

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.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on May 20th, 2012

  1. Not only do rosters begin to solidify this time of year, but coaching staffs do as well. Washington State made a big change earlier in the week by demoting assistant coach Jeff Hironaka. As the article points out, Hironaka has seemed close to landing a head coaching job somewhere around the nation the past couple years. His ability to teach and develop players made him one of the top basketball IQ assistants in the conference, but weaknesses in recruiting led to his eventual demotion to the title of director of player development and special assistant to the head coach. With the move solely motivated by recruiting, head coach Ken Bone will look to add an assistant in the coming weeks that has recruiting contacts around the country. Hironaka can no longer recruit off-campus or give instruction during games, but his salary will remain the same.
  2. Sticking on the Palouse, the Cougars learned on Thursday that center Richard Peters out of Westwind Prep International did not qualify academically to make it to Washington State, and will instead pursue a junior college. However, this did not come with much surprise to the Cougar coaching staff. In anticipation of Peters not qualifying, Bone signed a pair of transfer centers in Jordan Railey and James Hunter in recent weeks. In addition to Railey and Hunter, signees for next season include guard Demarquise Johnson and forwards Richard Longrus and Brett Boese.
  3. Oregon State received great news earlier this week when it received an signed letter of intent from small forward Victor Robbins. Robbins was not pursued hard by the Beavers until after Jared Cunningham announced he would forgo his senior season, but the three-star out of Compton High saw a hole to fill and decided to spurn offers from Gonzaga, Washington, and Georgia. Robbins will be the first in line to fill the small forward/shooting guard role left by Cunningham, and his signing will free up shooting guard Roberto Nelson to work solely on his shot this summer.
  4. Robbins and the rest of the Beavers will start the 2012-13 season a little early by taking a summer trip to Spain and France. The trip will take place August 18-28, but most importantly the Beavers will receive 10 additional practices before flying to Europe. Those will be huge as the Beavers add four new players to this year’s roster (small forwards Robbins, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid, and center Maika Ostling), along with a pair of players (forward Daniel Gomis and guard Michael Moyer) who sat out the 2011-12 season. One player who won’t be making the trip is forward Rhys Murphy. Murphy requested and was granted a release from his scholarship, and while he intends to graduate from Oregon State, he is reportedly “exploring his options”. The move is an odd one as Murphy was in line to get solid minutes this season. Oregon State’s last foreign trip came prior to the 2007-08 season, when the Beavers traveled to Italy and posted a 2-2 record. Prior to the 2002-03 season, former head coach Jay John led Oregon State to a 4-1 record in Australia in his first year with team. This season, the Beavers plan to several games against “very good teams” according to head coach Craig Robinson. In addition to the basketball, Robinson says “We are hoping that we can get a nice sort of team-bonding experience out of it, as well as some cultural nuances that the guys can look back on as great memories.” The Beavers have been known to incorporate basketball road trips with cultural/educational experiences, as last season the Beavers visited New York City and Washington D.C. in the middle of an 11-day East Coast trip.
  5. In other scheduling news, Arizona State will be playing real, official basketball games in the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. The other seven teams in the field are Creighton, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Florida A&M, Cornell, Presbyterian, and Longwood. Before all eight teams head to Vegas, the four small/mid-major schools will play a pair of games at the four power conference teams. While in Vegas, the four lower schools will play a two-round tournament, as will the four power conference teams. The only known game for the Sun Devils so far is that Cornell will be traveling to Wells Fargo arena for one of the regional games. Cornell will also travel to Wisconsin.
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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 11th, 2012

  1. We’re at that time of the year when we the rosters start to solidify. Most of the key recruits have made their picks, and teams are beginning to add the finishing touches to their recruiting classes. For instance this week Washington State added junior college big man James Hunter, a guy who will have three seasons of eligibility in Pullman. Hunter is a raw work-in-progress, but he is a good athlete who runs the floor well and could be a good body for the Cougs in future years. Meawhile, Oregon got a commitment from combo guard Willie Moore, the sixth player signed by Dana Altman so far this season. Moore had originally committed to Duquesne, but was released from his letter of intent after the Dukes fired head coach Ron Everhart.
  2. The signing of Moore leaves the Ducks with just one remaining scholarship for the 2012-13 season, and they’re certainly hoping that they get good news about their seventh signee of the year in the coming days, as power forward Anthony Bennett, rated the seventh-best recruit in this class (by ESPNU) is expected to choose between Oregon and UNLV. Oregon is also still in the mix for Chris Obekpa, a center ranked in the top 100 recruits as well, meaning that Moore’s signing likely indicates that the Ducks have received word that they’re unlikely to land one or both of those players. And while some in the UO community seem pleased that the Ducks at least outlasted Kentucky and Florida on Bennett’s list, taking second place in a recruiting battle is no win at all. Bennett is expected to announce his decision in the next week, although he is clearly in no hurry.
  3. The other bit of intrigue remaining in the summer are the landing spots for the multitude of transfers still uncommitted. For Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett, that decision is already in the books, as last weekend he announced his decision to transfer to Marquette. Lockett, who has already earned his degree in business communications, wanted to be closer to his mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer.
  4. Once all the 2012 commitments are complete, the next big thing around the conference will be the summer trips. UCLA announced its long-rumored trip to China this week, a venture that could accomplish plenty for both the team and the conference. Most important for the Bruins is the chance to get in extra work during the summer for a talented team chock-full of newcomers. Ben Howland will get a chance to put his team through 10 practices prior the team’s flight to China on August 21. Once there, the Bruins will play a handful of Chinese teams that are expected to be “the equivalent of NCAA competition,” according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. The team will likely also get a crack at the Chinese national team during its visit. The other benefit of the trip is the beginning of Scott’s master plan to take the Pac-12 brand to Asia. Scott expects that this will be the first of yearly trips by Pac-12 teams to China for similar summer events. Washington also announced it own plans for a summer international trip, with an itinerary that will take the Huskies to Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal. The visit to Senegal will be especially important, given that it is the home country of senior center Aziz N’Diaye. The Huskies will play one game in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, as well as putting on several basketball clinics elsewhere in the country.
  5. Lastly, a good story to read about. Utah senior guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was kicked off the Ute basketball team in January. But, instead of taking the easy route and quitting school, Watkins stuck around Salt Lake City and, last week, earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology. Watkins and his mom met with Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak prior to the ceremony and Watkins admits that, while it was hard to have basketball taken away from him, he harbors no ill will towards his former coach and still thinks of him as a “great coach.” Watkins now expects to pursue a professional basketball career overseas, and we here at RTC wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. It was a rough senior season basketball-wise for Watkins, but in the end, he finished off a major accomplishment. Well done, Josh.
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