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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Rodrigo de la Fuente

Posted by Jeff Nusser on December 17, 2007

Periodically, we’ll try and track down some information on former Cougs from the recent past (read: Since I began college at WSU in 1995). Today’s subject is a man who made a short splash on the Palouse, only to take off too soon from a team that was already embarrassingly short on talent.

Rodrigo de la Fuente, a Spaniard, stood out as one of Kevin Eastman’s few decent recruits in his shockingly awful tenure at WSU. He was pretty much everything we stereotype about European players — he was a so-so shooter but a smart player, solid passer, and did a lot of the little things that help teams win. At 6-foot-6, he also was an excellent defender on the wing.

Too bad he stuck around for less than two years. After a solid campaign in 1996-97, he left the program midway through the next season — he was averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists — to seize an opportunity to return to Spain and play for FC Barcelona. De la Fuente was never looked at as a superstar in Pullman, but he parlayed his talent into a long career in Spain. He had played his entire professional career for FC Barcelona until this year, as he now plays for Benetton in Italy.

The highlight of his career overseas appears to be a silver medal finish with the Spanish national team at the 2003 European Championships. He also won numerous national championships. And it appears his M.O. didn’t change when he got to Spain, averaging 7.2 points and 3.3 rebounds over his career, but was named the league defensive player of the year in 2003-04.

But when all is said and done, anyone who attended a game in Pullman in which de la Fuente played will remember him best for this: The way Glenn Johnson used to say is name. You just had to be there.

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6 Responses to “WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Rodrigo de la Fuente”

  1. Jo~Jo said

    Hey Nuss,

    Where is J-Mike?

  2. CougNut said

    “Eastman’s few decent recruits in his shockingly awful tenure at WSU”, now I’m no Eastman fan, but history tells us that he was not really shockingly awful as a coach.

    Eastman’s had NIT teams in 1995-96 and his 1996-97 team was 18-11 and defeated Gonzaga 92-73 in the first round of the NIT in Pullman. WSU was eliminated from the tournament with an 82-73 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln.

    His five year record was 69-78 not good but hardly shockingly terrible.

  3. Nuss said

    I say “shockingly awful” in this context: He took a program that Kelvin Sampson had stocked with talent and built into a winner and absolutely ran it into the ground with a total inability to recruit to Pullman — Paul Graham’s failures were due in large part to the program being virtually devoid of Pac-10 talent. (Secondary to that was Graham’s condescending and dictatorial nature.)

    The guy could coach, no doubt — Eastman’s NIT teams, with the talent left over from the previous regime, were evidence of that, as is the fact that he’s now an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. And he was one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, as he always made time for an interview with me.

    But the depths this program sank to can largely be attributed to him. His inability to build on the foundation Sampson provided was, in mind, “shocking.”

  4. Jo~Jo said

    The program was in total shambles when Eastman left. Graham didn’t stand a chance because he kept trying to turn academically ineligable criminals into Pac-10 basketball players. And, I seem to remember watching his game plans look like something a group of fourth graders would run. Honestly, Nalin Soud runs a more complex offense … and defense for that matter, than Coach Graham.

  5. MikeR said

    The program was in total shambles when Eastman left. Graham didn’t stand a chance because he kept trying to turn academically ineligable criminals into Pac-10 basketball players. And, I seem to remember watching his game plans look like something a group of fourth graders would run.

    100 percent correct. If Eastman burnt the program to the ground (which he did), Graham peed on the ashes, dumped them in an Indian burial ground, and then lit them on fire again.

    There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not completely astonished at the transformation of this program from where it was in the late ’90s and early ’00s. I remember joyfully storming the court in 2000 when we beat Cal to get to 1-14 in Pac-10 play. Now, we have a top 10 team that’s a legit threat to win the Pac-10 and play deep into March. Go figure.

  6. Nuss said

    You should be astonished. This rarely happens anywhere — a football parallel might be Rutgers of the past couple of years. It’s easy to use the “they built it the right way” line, but there are lots of guys who try to build it the right way at perennial losers, and they never go anywhere. I think there has to be a certain amount of luck involved with the great coaching and the fact that luck actually bestowed itself on our collective Cougar brow … well, perhaps that’s the most astonishing thing of all!

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