WSU coach Ken Bone says Cougars will play faster
Bone took over in Pullman after Tony Bennett left for Virginia job. The roster this year is young, and everybody must adjust to Bone's wish to play faster. Among other things, that means a keener sense of shot selection, more players getting to the offensive boards and in general, staying on the run.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PULLMAN — For most of his existence, Ken Bone has been a city kid and then a city guy. Now, in the epitome of a college town, that has changed.
"When I've been at other schools, I haven't gotten that involved in the other sports," he said. "Here, if there's a volleyball match or soccer game, that's what's going on that day. Everybody kind of rallies around whatever's going on here."
He paused and gave out a little laugh.
"I just hope they rally around us," he said.
Bone takes over the men's basketball program at Washington State, following one of the most engrossing stories in the school's history — the emergence from retirement of respected Dick Bennett, a handoff to his son Tony, a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008, and in sum, half the NCAA tournament victories (three) in WSU annals on the younger Bennett's watch.
But Bennett left abruptly for Virginia last spring, and WSU turned to Bone, a Seattle-bred coach who had become an obvious choice after leading Portland State to its first two NCAA appearances. Before that, Bone coached successfully at Seattle Pacific (1990-2002) and under Lorenzo Romar at Washington.
Bennett left Bone some parts, but hardly a bulging cupboard. One player, guard Nik Koprivica, constitutes the entire junior and senior classes.
The roster will thus be young, and everybody must adjust to Bone's wish to play faster. Among other things, that means a keener sense of shot selection, more players getting to the offensive boards and in general, staying on the run.
"I think the kids were used to playing at a slower pace in every facet," he says. "We are continually stopping them and saying, 'This needs to be a sprint. Not just run fast or jog, but a sprint.' "
In sophomores DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson, the Cougars have, respectively, a warrior inside and possibly the best pure shooter in the Pac-10.
Little is settled around them, though. Beyond Casto, the next-most experienced frontcourt player is 6-foot-10 Kings High product Charlie Enquist, who saw all of 15 minutes in Pac-10 games last year.
In the backcourt, the Cougars have athletically gifted but offensively limited Marcus Capers, and Bone says of two freshmen guards, Reggie Moore (Rainier Beach) and Xavier Thames: "There's a chance they both could start."
Moore is a dynamic athlete, Thames a bigger and perhaps less flashy guard.
The utilization of Capers is an important piece for WSU. He has the length and quickness to fit Bone's style, but Bone wants him handling the ball less than he did at times under Bennett. At the same time, because Capers isn't a shooting threat, Bone thinks he might flourish more in an open-court setting.
Two others who could help from the perimeter are Oregonian sophomores Abe Lodwick and Mike Harthun. Lodwick has a promising stroke but hit only three of 28 threes last year, playing sparingly.
Lodwick says he worked extensively in the summer, making as many as 600 shots in a day.
Upon his hiring, Bone scrambled successfully to retain most of Bennett's incoming freshman class, including Thames and Australian forward Brock Motum, and he added Moore, once a committed recruit to Fresno State, as well.
Motum, a product of Brisbane, is nothing if not loyal. He committed to Bennett's regime when he was 16, without visiting WSU.
He got a 1 a.m. call from Bennett and learned he was leaving, but shortly after, hosted Bone and WSU assistant Ben Johnson in Brisbane and re-upped.
Motum is a skilled, if slender, forward, who figures to play a lot.
"Sure, it was a big deal because of the coaching change," he says, "but coach Bone explained his style of play, but I thought that suited me as well, if not better, than coach Bennett's style."
Media covering the Pac-10 begrudged the Cougars an eighth-place vote. Not only is this a young team, there's a question of who might lead it, with the departure of senior guard Taylor Rochestie.
One candidate is Lodwick, if he's a key part of the playing rotation. He helped rally the troops during the transition period last spring.
"Pretty quickly, I saw this as an opportunity," he says, "both as a team leader and to improve my game."
Referring to the coaching change, he says, "It's not something I even think about anymore. Coach Bone is our coach and I couldn't be happier."
Any transformation to or from the Bennetts is likely to be gradual. Indeed, Bone says, "It probably took a good year and a half at Portland State until the team understood what I was trying to do. There are some subtle changes you can't just make overnight."
And some obvious ones, like a fast break.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org