Washington State men find their spark in freshman Reggie Moore
Moore has become the Cougars' starting point guard and their toughest-minded player. He is the best freshman point guard in the state and maybe the best in conference.
Seattle Times staff columnist
PULLMAN — The coaching staff felt uneasy about this game against California.
Washington State was coming off a 25-point shellacking at Arizona State, and the players had followed that up with two listless practices.
Sixteen games into this first season under Ken Bone, these very young Cougars — they start four sophomores and freshman point guard Reggie Moore — were looking and playing and practicing tired.
"Our energy level hasn't been what I thought it would be," Bone said after Thursday's 93-88 loss to Cal. "I can't say we're worn out or we've hit the wall, because I thought we played extremely hard those last 32 minutes. We just weren't ready from the start."
After Arizona State and after those two practices, the coaches knew they needed a spark to get the Cougars out of their midwinter slump. A spark from the crimson-covered students or one of WSU's lightning-strike shooters. Somebody or bodies had to pull them out of their corkscrewing descent.
But before they could find that spark, as quick as a blitz, the Cougars were smothered in threes from Cal's trio of treymakers: Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher.
"I did not have my guys ready to go," Bone said. "If we were we wouldn't have had that much of a lackadaisical beginning to the game."
The senior Bears treymakers threw haymakers. They made six of their first seven threes in a dizzying first eight minutes and took Cal to a 28-8 lead.
"We saw a number of upperclassmen (from Cal) who were playing like they knew what was at stake," Bone said of the Bears' withering start. "We had it handed to us that first eight minutes. For whatever reason we didn't come out really ready to go."
It is at moments like this that a new coach learns about his young team. Bone called two quick timeouts in those first eight minutes, looking to slow down Cal's rush.
And then he found his spark.
Coming out of Rainier Beach, Moore had committed to go to Fresno State. Then he second-guessed his decision, spent last year at a prep school, Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, and came to WSU as Bone's first recruit.
While at Rainier Beach, Moore wasn't even considered the best point guard in the state. That was Bellarmine's Abdul Gaddy, who is a freshman at Washington. And coming to Washington State, Moore wasn't expected to be the best freshman guard in Pullman. That was Xavier Thames, a recruit out of Sacramento, lured to the Palouse by Bone's predecessor, Tony Bennett.
But Moore has become the Cougars' starting point guard and their toughest-minded player. He is the best freshman point guard in the state and maybe the best in conference.
And he was the spark Bone was seeking on this desperate night.
Moore finished with 25 points and five assists in 29 stout minutes. It wasn't enough, but his game was a harbinger of the future of Cougars basketball under Ken Bone.
"He's giving us more than I thought he would when he first arrived," said Bone, whose Cougs are 12-5, 2-3 in the Pac-10. "But after about 10 practices we kind of figured out, 'You know what, he's pretty good.' "
In the middle of the first half Thursday, Moore started making plays. He swiped the ball from Randle and scored. He drove into the teeth of Cal's physical man-to-man defense and converted on the drive. He hit two treys, including one in the final 21 seconds of the half to cut the Cal lead to 41-37.
Of all the Cougars, the 6-foot-1 Moore seems the most comfortable in Bone's system. He was built to attack.
"We don't have a lot of kids like him," said Bone, the former Seattle Pacific coach who came to WSU after taking Portland State to consecutive NCAA tournaments. "He's a tough nut. He's fearless, and we need that."
But this is a new coach, with a young team, learning a radically new, much-faster-tempo system. Change doesn't happen quickly. The Cougars already are ahead of their plan.
"It would be really nice to have a couple more seniors, or at least a couple more upperclassmen," Bone said, "but we don't. But I think all in all, looking at the big picture, our guys are doing a good job."
And in freshman Reggie Moore, the Cougars have found their spark and their future.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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