Cougars are making changes, on and off the court
Washington State coach Ken Bone is trying to change the culture of his team. Last season ended with an NIT loss and three marijuana arrests. "We don't want people to look at our basketball team like that," said junior guard Reggie Moore.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Schedule highlights• The Cougars, who blew out Gonzaga last year, open in the Zags' gym Monday night.
• WSU gets Oklahoma in the first round of the 76 Classic on Nov. 24.
• The league openers Dec. 29 and 31 against the Oregon schools — at Spokane Arena — will be telltale.
PULLMAN — Ken Bone and his Washington State basketball staff have lately done some notable recruiting for 2012-13, including the commitment of a 6-foot-5 guard, Demarquise Johnson, who was sought by Washington and Gonzaga.
Before that, though, came another addition to the program that grew from the Cougars' fretful 2010-11 season marked by three unrelated marijuana busts.
Bone enlisted the counsel of Dr. Sharon Stoll, director of the Center for Ethics at the University of Idaho, a nationally recognized figure in the area of moral development in competition.
They had lunch over the summer, Stoll explained her program, and Bone said, "That's exactly what we need."
From the time the Cougars ended their season last March with an ugly semifinal loss to Wichita State in the NIT in New York, Bone has tried to impose a change in culture. He believes Stoll's series of character-building sessions has been effective.
"We had a talk at that time," Bone said, referring to the aftermath of the blowout in New York. " 'If you're going to be in the program, this is the way it's going to be.' We're trying to have a culture of excellence, on and off the court.
"They've embraced that idea. Our guys have been involved in almost everything they can possibly be involved in, to reach out to the community. They're in a position to be role models and they need to understand that."
This, after a bumpy, up-and-down year in which the Cougars seemed capable of the NCAA tournament on some nights, and crashing lows on others. Their image took a hit, partly because of problems off the floor.
"We don't want that image on us," said junior guard Reggie Moore, who along with Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto — both now departed — was the object of a pot citation. "We don't want people to look at WSU like that, and we don't want people to look at our basketball team like that."
The prolific Thompson was a lottery pick and Casto was a dependable defensive force inside, and both leave significant holes. Thompson, No. 11 pick overall by Golden State, is awaiting the end of the NBA lockout, and Casto left a year early and is playing in Turkey.
What's left is a perimeter-oriented team with some obvious firepower, but major concerns about its inside game.
The forecourt will be manned chiefly by Aussie junior Brock Motum, from whom Bone wants more scoring; fifth-year senior Abe Lodwick, often playing out of position at the "four" spot (and now battling a foot sprain); JC transfer D.J. Shelton, who is offensively limited; and veteran Charlie Enquist of Kings High School, who will have to provide appreciable minutes.
"Charlie's a fifth-year senior, and he knows how to play," said Bone. "He's better than people realize."
That said, Bone conceded, "It's definitely going to be a challenge in the post."
On nights the Cougars hold their own inside, they'll present teams problems with their quickness and scoring outside. For one, Moore, bothered all year by a small fracture in his wrist, is healthy.
"Klay would come to me and say, 'I know you got one hand; I couldn't even imagine playing like that,' " Moore said. "It was a lot of frustration."
"I notice him being a lot more like his freshman year," Bone said. "Last year, he was afraid to drive it to the rim."
There's also Faisal Aden, a free-flowing, offense-oriented player; Fresno State transfer guard Mike Ladd, an ex-Rainier Beach High teammate of Moore; and freshman Davonte Lacy from Curtis High, a solidly built guard who will play major minutes.
Bone says with Thompson gone, Aden has more of a green light to shoot. He likes Lacy's skills, and would like to see Ladd, who averaged 10 points a game at Fresno State, be more of a factor in the paint.
"If we don't have a post presence out of our bigs, maybe we can get it out of our guards," Bone said.
Marcus Capers, the athletic but offensively minimal guard, will play a lot, while Dexter Kernich-Drew, a 6-6 Aussie forward expected to contribute, has been bothered by a thumb injury.
In style, Bone wants much the same as he's implemented his first two years — pushing the ball offensively and both man and zone defenses.
Not much will be expected publicly from the Cougars in 2011-12, which isn't necessarily the view inside. Media covering the Pac-12 slot the Cougars in a tie for 10th with Colorado.
"I just feel people who rate us haven't even seen us play yet," said Ladd. "They're in for a big surprise."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
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