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Archive for April, 2008

Weaver looking like a fringe first-rounder

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 29, 2008

Now that the deadline has passed for underclassmen to declare for the draft, both the 2008-09 college seasons and the 2008 NBA Draft are starting to take shape. This is still pretty preliminary, as a number of players who declared could still come back for their senior seasons, but we’re starting to get an idea of what “experts” think of where these guys will get drafted.

If you’re curious, Kyle Weaver is looking like a fringe first-rounder, according to DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net. I’d love to tell you what Chad Ford at ESPN.com thinks, since he generally seems to be a little more in tune with what teams actually might do, but all of his content is Insider. If anyone has access to that info, post it in the comments. There are other ones out there, too, but most of them have yet to reflect the guys that actually didn’t declare.

These projections can fluctuate pretty wildly in the next couple of months, based both off of performances at pre-draft camps and team needs/preferences, but it tells you what you need to know about how people are viewing Weaver’s skill set: He’s a winner who projects to point guard at the NBA level with his smarts, passing ability and defensive length. More or less the kind of guy that can help out a team that doesn’t need him to carry the mail, the kind of team found at the bottom of the first round.

I’m no draft expert, but that would seem to be the high end for Weaver, barring a spectacular showing at a pre-draft camp. The guys in front of him on the board are guys not likely to head back to college thanks to their potential, and of course, we all know what a premium the NBA places on potential in the draft over actual proven abilities.

Getting into the first round would be huge for Weaver. The difference between the 30th overall pick and the 31st? Two years guaranteed at just under $1 million each with team options for the third and fourth years vs. the prospect of a non-guaranteed contract.

As for Derrick Low? He had some well-publicized difficulties at the Portsmouth Invitational draft camp, and isn’t on anyone’s radar as even a second round pick at the moment. But that could change, too, with a good showing at another camp.

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Posted in Around the 'Net, NBA Draft | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Another first for WSU basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 26, 2008

It’s been nothing but a series of firsts for the WSU basketball program thanks to Dick and Tony Bennett.

Ready for another one?

Rivals.com recently released its final Top 150 list, and guess what? Two future Cougs are on it: Klay Thompson and Michael Harthun. That’s never happened before.

We keep talking about just how great this 2008 recruiting class is, and to be fair, it’s all just speculation at this point — ask any UW fan who has watched Lorenzo Romar rake in top 20 classes year after year, or ask any Coug fan what they think of that 2004 class these days. But it’s fun to talk about, nonetheless.

When the first portion of that class was announced, it was a widely held belief that Michael Harthun was the jewel, WSU’s first top 100 recruit since recruiting services such as Scout.com, Rivals.com and Scouts, Inc. started putting lists together. He’s currently ranked No. 96 by Scout.com, No. 100 by Scouts, Inc. and No. 118 on that Rivals.com list.

Harthun might well still turn out to be the best of this impressive class, but a huge senior season has propelled Thompson (above) right past him in nearly everyone’s eyes — a “late bloomer” in recruiting speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Stanford hits a home run

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 26, 2008

If you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby really did hit the ball out of the park with his hire of Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins, who is reported to be Trent Johnson’s successor. This is the guy who’s been Mike Kzyzewski’s top assistant for 11 years, most of that spent as his top recruiter at a university whose admissions standards are similar to Stanford’s.

Of course, you never really know how a lifetime assistant is going to do as the head guy — hellloooooo, Paul Graham! — but I think this is a great hire. I’ve often wondered why Dawkins has never gotten a shot as a head man, and the thought has been that he was just patiently waiting for the right opportunity. He elected not to go the Jeff Capel route, assisting Coach K for a few years then parlaying a few years at a small college (VCU) into a bigger job (Oklahoma).

It looks like that patience has been rewarded. He’s learned from the best, and he won’t get a better fit than this.

And I stand by what I wrote Thursday: Bowlsby will end up looking like the smart guy in all of this.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Pac-10 Stuff | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Finally, a major non-conference opponent

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 24, 2008

The rumors have been circulating for months that the Cougs were on the verge of upgrading their non-conference schedule, and they finally were confirmed yesterday: WSU will travel to Louisiana State next year in the first game of what appears to be a true home-and-home series with the Tigers.

How long has this agreement been in the works? Given the rumblings we heard all year, we can safely assume this was being discussed long before Trent Johnson took the job. However, since coaches pretty much have all veto power over the schedule, it probably didn’t hurt that Johnson is now the coach, given his four years in the Pac-10.

Much like the recruiting class Tony Bennett signed this year, this piece of scheduling also represents just how far this program has come.

It’s not just that someone is willing to play us; after all, you might remember that we regularly appeared as sacrificial lambs on other major conference opponents’ schedules in the down years. It’s that LSU is playing us because the Tigers wanted to strengthen their schedule — it is benefiting them to play the Washington State University Cougars because of the level of excellence the program has reached. Heady stuff.

The game is scheduled for Dec. 27 in Baton Rouge, right before each team is scheduled to begin the conference slate, which makes a lot of sense for the Cougars. We all figure the Cougs will be counting substantially on the freshmen to contribute, and giving them a taste of major conference competition — on the road — before Pac-10 play should be just about perfect.

What can the Cougs expect to see down there? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Breakdowns, News, Schedule | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Casto it is

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 23, 2008

Obviously, I’m a bit late to the DeAngelo-Casto-signed-a-letter-of-intent party — thanks in no small part to spending five days in Anaheim, Calif., with 23 of my students at a national student journalism convention with 4,300 teenagers, then spending the past two days getting caught back up at work — but I still have some quick thoughts for you all. Better late than never, right?

First of all, now that Casto has signed that LOI, here’s to hoping he clears the necessary academic hurdles. Our frontcourt has just one good rebounder coming back (Aron Baynes), and while Casto is far from a finished offensive product, he’s long, athletic and clearly has a nose for the basketball — both in terms of rebounding a blocking shots.

If Casto can qualify, there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be called upon to contribute right away. The only true frontcourt players returning who figure to be fixtures in the Cougs’ regular rotation next season will be Baynes and Caleb Forrest. Baynes is a great rebounder; Forrest is not. The rest of the frontcourt prospects include 6-7 Daven Harmeling (perimeter player), 6-7 Abe Lodwick (lightweight), 6-8 James Watson (freshman) and 6-10 Fabian Boeke (injured and ineligible all last year).

He won’t start, and he might not play more than 15-20 minutes a game. But clearly, Casto brings an element to the table that none of these other guys do, and that will be worth something — especially once the team gets into Pac-10 play and size becomes more of a premium.

But that’s not what has me most excited about this signing. What’s got me fired up is the talent in this six-man class. This certainly is the most talented class inked by the school in some time, if not ever. It’s a well-rounded class that features a solid mix of frontcourt and backcourt players, each of whom brings something a little bit different to the table, and there is not one — not even one — throw away prospect in the class.

Not one guy was signed just to fill out a roster spot. Not one guy was signed with the hope that someday he develops and pans out. No projects to be found.

Beyond that, four of these six guys are from the west, and Casto is the Washington 4A player of the year. We’re no longer having to scour the globe for guys other schools have never seen; we’re beating schools in our own conference to guys.

Those two things, my friends, say as much about where this program is going as anything else. Exciting times.

Posted in News, Recruiting | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Spring signing period starts tomorrow

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 15, 2008

It’s been eerily quiet since the end of the season, and that should change tomorrow. Although, there’s a chance it might not.

The spring signing period begins tomorrow, meaning we might finally have an answer as to who’s going to use that scholarship vacated by Stephen Sauls. There’s no news around as to which way Paul McCoy is leaning, and there is no more news of substance related to DeAngelo Casto. As far as the recruiting services are concerned, there aren’t any other players on the Cougs’ radar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

If a letter of intent comes into the basketball offices, then we’ll know something right away. But if it doesn’t, there’s a chance this could drag on for some time — especially if they’re truly waiting on Casto to qualify — as the open signing period lasts for a month. And until something happens, the coaching staff can’t really comment, unless they want to come out and say they’re giving that scholarship to a current player such as Enquist or Rochestie. But they haven’t done that yet, so it would seem rather obvious that they are trying to use that scholarship to strengthen the team.

So, tomorrow could be fun, but it could also be real boring. If something happens, we’ll have some thoughts for you.

Posted in Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Your Casto update

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 10, 2008

You can find a link to the DeAngelo Casto “story” in today’s Spokesman-Review, which we referenced in yesterday’s post, here.

Casto is enthusiastic about coming to WSU, but his coach is much more measured in his comments. Honestly, the more I read about him and about the situation, the more I wouldn’t get my hopes up that he ever ends up in Pullman. Just a gut feeling.

Somebody commenting at SportsLink compared him to J.T. Diedrichs, the talented running back from Ballard who committed to WSU but never made it to school. Seems like an apt comparison, at least initially.

Posted in News, Recruiting | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Sauls out, Casto in?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

Little-used guard Stephen Sauls, still suffering from the aftereffects of a concussion, has been granted a release from his scholarship so he can pursue opportunities closer to his home in Texas.

This is a move that has been speculated for some time, and most people are hoping the scholarship goes to DeAngelo Casto, an athletic big man from Ferris HS in Spokane who was the state player of the year.

He would certainly seem to be the best fit for the team, considering WSU’s already guard-heavy 2008 class. But with all the hype surrounding him, the Spokesman’s Vince Grippi has been strangely silent most of the year about Casto’s chances of playing for WSU next season, which I think should tell us something, since Casto played in the paper’s town.

Grippi says there are a number of options available for the scholarship, none of which, in his estimation, point to Casto:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Why is it so hard to believe Bennett?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

Seth Kolloen over at Enjoy the Enjoyment offers a Husky fan/outsider’s view on Tony Bennett today in response to what Vince Grippi and I have written, saying he’s “completely shocked” that Bennett didn’t jump ship for another program.

“Now I’m not the national media, but, frankly, I don’t believe it either. Maybe I’m just pessimistic about human nature, but when you tell me someone is ‘different,’ it’s tough for me to take. The list of coaches, politicians, preachers, etc, etc, etc, who’ve professed one thing and done the complete opposite when the pressure got too great is beyond my ability to enumerate.”

Now, before you rail about him being a Husky fan and make some snide comment about anybody who’s not a Coug always being shocked that anyone wants to spend any time in Pullman, I’ll tell you this: Kolloen is always even-handed in his assessments of the Cougs, and, to be fair, he is correct in stating that there are so few examples of guys not chasing the bigger job that the skepticism is warranted.

However, for as hard as it is for Kolloen to believe Bennett’s different, it’s just as difficult for me to understand why it’s so hard for some people to comprehend that a guy — in fact, any person, not just Bennett — wouldn’t necessarily want to jump at the first “good” thing that comes calling. While Bennett’s not the egomaniac that a lot of other coaches are, he does ooze self confidence. And if you believe in your own abilities and think you’re good at something, why would you:

  1. Presume that you “can’t” be as successful as you want to be where you’re at before you’ve even really had a chance to try?
  2. Presume that you’re never going to reach the level of success you’ve had so far and therefore aren’t going to have an opportunity to move on to another great job at some point in the future when the timing is better?

I think Bennett truly believes he can create a long-term winner at WSU, and he wants to find out for himself that he can’t win a national championship here no matter what anyone else says. And I’m sure he believes that when it’s time to move on, it’ll be the right time, and there will be a great job that presents the appropriate challenge right there waiting for him.

The bottom line is that I think we Cougs are in a great position. He’s going to build this program for a couple of more years and either fall in love with Pullman — again hard for anyone who’s never gone to WSU to understand, but it happens more often than they think — and stay for a long time, or build a very good program that is ready made for the next coach.

Either way, we win.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Why is it so hard to believe Bennett?

Go read Vince Grippi this morning

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

If you don’t make the Spokesman-Review’s SportsLink a regular part of your reading, make sure you cruise on over there and check out this piece by Vince Grippi this morning.

Normally, Grippi just writes a little bit of analysis on different things, then passes along a bunch of links. This morning, though, he wrote an extended post on his thoughts on Tony Bennett. It pretty much fleshes out a lot of his personal perspective and feelings about Bennett and the coaching carousel, which he has been hinting about the entire season:

“It’s a vicious circle born out of the money college coaches make today and the vagabond existence most of them lead. But Bennett is about as far from a vagabond as you can find, and the money? Well, he is still shocked anyone would want to pay him nearly a million dollars a year to do his job. And those two elements are what most in the national media, who try to play kingmaker, don’t understand. They think Bennett is like everyone else, ready to jump at a ‘better job’ that offers more money and a chance to win the national championship.

“They don’t get a guy who thinks about his family first, second, third, ad infinitum. They don’t get a guy who is more than satisfied with the money he’s earning. They don’t get a guy who wants to win a national title, but at this point in his life welcomes the challenge of trying to win one with a certain type of player, players he can attract to Pullman. He’s different than the coaches they are used to dealing with, so they try to shove him into the coach-form they are used to. And it doesn’t work.”

It’s a great, great piece that reiterates what I’ve been saying ad nauseam this season: That Tony Bennett is different from other coaches, that his priorities aren’t the same as other coaches, and that this constant media speculation is born out of most reporters’ complete inability to comprehend that. My opinion was based solely off of outsider observations, just reading quotes and knowing a little bit about his value system. Grippi’s is based off of actual conversations, both on and off the record.

Will the national media ever believe Bennett? Probably not.

But is it more important that the national media believe him, or that we believe him? I’ll go for the latter. And that’s good enough for me.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Go read Vince Grippi this morning