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Originally published April 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 15, 2009 at 11:58 AM

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High school guard Xavier Thames says he'll stick with Cougars

Sacramento-area player originally wanted out of letter-of-intent commitment when coach Tony Bennett left, but says now he wants to play for new coach Ken Bone.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington State basketball coach Ken Bone has secured a piece of WSU's immediate future with the affirmation of Sacramento-area point guard Xavier Thames to make good on his November letter of intent.

Thames' father Ray had indicated his son wanted a release from his letter when WSU coach Tony Bennett departed for Virginia on March 31. WSU denied the request, and Bone, hired last week, successfully recruited Thames back into the fold with a home visit Saturday along with assistant coach Ben Johnson, retained from Bennett's staff.

Thames said Tuesday he made his decision based on that meeting, Bone's up-tempo style of play, and "also the guys I'm going to have around me," mentioning freshmen DeAngelo Casto, Klay Thompson and Marcus Capers.

"It just felt like the best fit," Thames said.

Thames' retention is important for WSU, which graduates all-conference point guard Taylor Rochestie and doesn't return a true point guard. Thames, 6 feet 3, averaged 20.1 points and 3.7 assists.

Ray Thames said "several teams in the Pac-10" — which he declined to name — had expressed interest in his son on the rebound through an AAU coach.

John DuPont, Thames' coach at Pleasant Grove, said, "The one word I use to describe him is 'competitor.' He has the ball on a string. He's very special.

"He'll put people in the seats."

Meanwhile, 2010 recruit Patrick Simon of Ephrata, who committed to WSU as a ninth-grader in 2007, said Tuesday he has told Bone he is reopening his recruiting "because the whole program has kind of changed over there.

"I told him that with the intent that I'm still highly interested in WSU," said Simon, "but I just want to explore and see what else is out there."

Simon, ranked 12th among Scout.com's small forwards in that class, says he might listen to pitches from other Pac-10 schools and Gonzaga.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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