Respectable mediocrity. That is how I think about last year’s team, which finished 19-18 overall and 7-11 in the conference, good enough for an 8th place finish. The defining memory of the 2011-2012 WSU team was definitely the game they played against Washington at Hec Ed. The Huskies were listless in the first half, while Brock Motum methodically scored again and again. That led to a 31-25 WSU lead at half. But then, partway into the 2nd half, Terrence Ross lit on fire and scored 26 of his 30 total points in that second half. The defining image of that defining memory is definitely Terrence Ross hanging on the rim after a thunderous dunk, the comeback complete. Washington won 75-65.
I think that loss is fairly representative of the Cougars role in the conference. They are solid, and sometimes even dangerous, but they also have a low ceiling due to a lack of high level talent. When Washington played lazy, the Cougars put themselves in position to win, but they were helpless once the star power of an NBA-caliber player like Terrence Ross began to shine. I think that idea is still applicable this year. The Cougars are not going to be terrible, but they also have pretty much no chance of winning the conference.
Now, that isn’t to say I necessarily expect this year’s incarnation of the Cougars to be as good as what we saw last year. The loss of Reggie Moore, who was kicked off of the team, and Faisal Aiden to graduation leave a total of 24.7 point per game to be made up, and that is just the lost scoring production of two players. Several others graduated. So, what head coach Ken Bone has now is one star player, Brock Motum, one fairly proven guard in Davonte Lacy, and a ton of players that need to step up. I trust that Bone will put together a competitive team, but there isn’t a lot of potential for conference-storming success.
2012-2013 Recruiting Class
Demarquise Johnson 6’5″ 185
Definitely the highest rated member of the 2012 recruiting class for WSU, Johnson is a four star small forward that is ranked 17th by Rivals at his position and 85th overall in the country for the class of 2012. Unfortunately for the Cougars, he was only a partial qualifier academically, so he will not play this season. I would imagine he probably would have logged significant minutes, or even started, if he had been able to get his academics in order.
Brett Boese 6’7″ 210
Here is a more typical WSU recruit. A three star power forward from Shadle Park High in Spokane. A local product that doesn’t have a lot of buzz, but who could certainly be developed into a solid player down the road.
Richard Longrus 6’7″ 205
Another 6’7″ power forward, this one a three star prospect from Oakland, California. Worth mentioning that he played on the same AAU team, the Oakland Soldiers, as 2013 super-recruit and UW target Aaron Gordon. Rivals lists him as having had offers from Colorado and even UCLA, so a little more hype around this guy.
Richard Peters 6’9″ 260
This big center from Westwind Prep in Phoenix is a three star prospect, but appears to have had offers from a slew of different programs, according to Rivals, including Washington, Missouri, and Indiana. That sort of size can be invaluable, and against a team like Washington that will likely be playing more of a straight up power forward at the five after N’Diaye graduates, Peters represents a possible mismatch in a few years.
James Hunter 6’10″ 238
Well, not a lot is known about this JUCO transfer from Gilette College in Wyoming other than that he is super tall. Not ranked by Rivals, so I would guess this is more of a shot in the dark based on size and potential, but that doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a good player. Worth noting that WSU really loaded up on the big men with this class. Two centers, two power forwards, and the lone small forward.
Moore was not a great player at WSU. He shot an atrocious 36% from the field last year, and 5.2 assists per game were good, but not astonishing. Point guards run the offense, if they do their job correctly, they will log some assists. But, he was a valuable player. Not only did he have three years of starting experience, but he also played the position that values experience the most. The fact that he was kicked off the team definitely hurts the Cougars a lot this year because a player that was not being groomed to run the team this season will now have to be pressed into duty.
Fadin’ Aiden, as he was often called, was a solid scoring guard in both his years at WSU. He averaged 14.5 points per game last season before he tore his ACL midway through his senior year, ending his career as a Cougar. So, while Ken Bone and the team have been carrying on without Aiden playing for some time, it felt right to discuss him here for any readers who just weren’t sure if he would be coming back this year. He isn’t, which is too bad because his hair was wonderful.
I’m really not trying to be derogatory when I say that I look at Motum and see a quintessential WSU player. The guy isn’t super flashy, and he wasn’t a highly sought after recruit, but he is hard working and extremely effective. Mainly effective as a scorer, Motum averaged exactly 18 points a game last year, while chipping in 6.4 rebounds and just under 2 assists a game. A very efficient post scorer, Motum also managed to shoot 39.7% from three point land, which, considering the fact that he is 6’10″ and 245 pounds, makes him a headache to guard. Whether or not the Cougars have a successful year, look for Motum to score nearly 20 points a game while shooting over 50% from the field.
A sophomore guard coming straight out of Tacoma, Lacy is an athletic and dynamic scorer that averaged 8.5 points a game last season. I would say he is almost certainly going to see an expanded role this year with the loss of so many solid scorers, so don’t be surprised if he averages 14 or 15 points next year. What will really be worth keeping an eye on is Lacy’s shooting percentages. While his 34.7% from three point range is respectable, the 38.9% shooting from the field is not. If Lacy can average double digit scoring while shooting more like 45% from the field, he will be a huge asset to Ken Bone.
Just as I discussed above, I have a fair amount of confidence in the idea that, while Ken Bone is coaching, the Cougars will not be atrocious. However, I do think that the loss of most of their scoring power and veteran leadership to graduation or dismissal will prevent WSU from being much better than a .400 team that finishes below the middle of the conference. They won’t be last, but I don’t think they’ll be much better than 7th or 8th, either. However watch out for Royce Woolridge, the sophomore transfer from Kansas that will be taking over for Moore as the starting point guard. If he turns out to be a gem that no one really saw coming, it could significantly alter the trajectory of this team. As is, I don’t see that as particularly likely.
Thanks for reading. More team previews, from John Chase and I, as the preseason winds down.