WSU HOOPS

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Archive for May, 2008

Cougs pick up rumored guard as a walk-on

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 26, 2008

I know most of you don’t normally come here for breaking news reporting, but it just so happens you’re getting some from this intrepid reporter on this beautiful Memorial Day.

About a week and a half ago, a rumor started circulating that the Cougs were showing an unknown guard around campus.

That unknown guard turned out to be John Allen of Mountlake Terrace High School, and it also turns out that he has decided to attend WSU as a walk-on, according to his former coach at Mountlake Terrace High School.

“John choose WSU over (Western Washington) and will be an invited walk-on for next year’s team and competing for a spot in the rotation,” MTHS head coach Nalin Sood said via e-mail. “Coug coach Ben Johnson was the main recruiter of John and has promised him one thing: The opportunity to compete.

The candor and honesty that Ben presented during this entire proceess was exceptional and proved to me that they are different and do things the right way. No false promises or guarantees; just that they like John, they think he has the skills to help them out, but he has to step up and prove it on the court.”

Allen’s route to WSU has been a crazy one. The 6-foot-1 guard started out at Shorewood High School but transferred to Mountlake Terrace for his junior year, where he was a second-team all-Wesco South selection after averaging 16 points — including a career high and school record 39 in one game. He headed into his senior season as a two-star rated guard by Scout.com.

But then the wheels came off. According to a source at the school, Allen had earlier repeated the eighth grade and in the eyes of the WIAA had exhausted his high school eligibility. Subsequent appeals were rejected, and Allen dropped off the high school basketball scene — and the recruiting map. My source said Allen didn’t get the support of the Edmonds School District athletic department. Allen continued to play AAU ball, but drew little interest from schools.

So, what kind of a player are the Cougs getting? Could he really compete for a spot in the rotation as a walk-on freshman?

My source — who’s been around the school for a long time, has watched a lot of basketball and is not normally given to hyperbole — used a lot of hyperbolic language in describing Allen, saying he’s among the best shooting guards he’s seen at the high school level and that Allen’s the best player he’s seen at Mountlake Terrace.

Now, as an alum, I can tell you that MTHS hasn’t exactly been a Division I basketball factory, but that last statement includes Seamus Boxley, who led the Hawks to a 20-0 regular season and No. 1 state ranking in 2000, went on to be a four-year starter and two-time defensive player of the year at Portland State, and is now playing professionally in Germany. High praise indeed.

Sood said Allen “can do things that one cannot teach. He is good, but he must get the cerebral part of the game down and a full understanding of the WSU system offensively and defensively. Like all their players, it will be between the ears and not the arms and legs for him to get minutes.”

And that last part resonates the most true. Everyone knows the kind of talent that is coming in with this recruiting class, but as Thomas Abercrombie proved, there is a heck of a lot more to contributing at WSU than just being physically talented. However, there is a well-documented need on this team for a back-up point guard. There is some thought that either Michael Harthun or Klay Thompson can pull it off for the few minutes a game when Taylor Rochestie is not on the floor, but neither even pretends to be a point guard.

If Allen can learn the systems quickly, proves he can play defense and shows he can take care of the basketball, he might get a few minutes spelling Rochestie.

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

Get excited, Seattle fans!

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 23, 2008

The AP is reporting the Cougs’ opponent in the Hardwood Classic at KeyArena is …

(Drumroll please …)

Montana State.

Commence collective yawn … now.

For those keeping track, here have been WSU’s opponents in Seattle:

  • 2008: Montana State
  • 2007: The Citadel
  • 2006: San Diego State
  • 2005: Utah

If you’re a Seattleite and this is your one and only shot to see the team live, I guess the sixth-place Big Sky team is better than the 324th rated team in the Pomeroy Ratings. But I have to wonder how much longer this game is going to continue if we can’t do any better than the junk teams we’ve lured so far. The reason Gonzaga has been so successful with this format is because they’ve gotten some quality opponents over the years. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to do that.

Perhaps, teams would rather play that game on ESPN rather than that piece of crap, three-letter regional network?

Hat tip to Vince Grippi over at SportsLink.

(UPDATE: Great take on the situation over at Stadium Way.)

Posted in News | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

MAILBAG: APR, the starting five, and recruiting

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 19, 2008

Welcome to our first edition of the mailbag, where I will attempt to answer your inquisitive questions with my awesome ability to speculate despite a total lack of access to any kind of insider information!

Mike R. wonders about the effect of Thomas Abercrombie’s departure on the team’s APR:

“Perhaps this should be a mailbag question (feel free to answer it then), but what kind of impact will this have on our APR score? Obviously, it’s not as bad when guys leave while in good academic standing, but will this still have a negative impact?”

In a word, yes, it will have a negative impact. But it will be minimal.

The important thing to remember is that while any departure from the program does hurt you a little bit, it only really hurts you a lot when the guy leaves the program academically ineligible or having not made what the NCAA deems as satisfactory progress towards a degree. (Vince Grippi does a great job explaining it here.) We have no reason to believe that was the case with Abercrombie.

And even then, that’s only if the average of the previous four years is below 925. This basketball program is going to soar well over that 925 mark next year, thanks to the abysmally low score in Dick Bennett’s first year finally leaving the four-year average. Even if Abercrombie did leave the program ineligible, chances are good there would be no penalty, anyway. It’s this progress that’s allowed Bennett to take a chance on a talented guy like DeAngelo Casto, who might be a litle bit of a question mark in the classroom. If he doesn’t pan out, no harm, no foul.

Grady over at Stadium Way wonders about the starters in 2008-09:

“Hey, I’ll bite on that mailbag request. What do you think the starting five will be for the Cougs next year?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Mailbag | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Ask and ye shall receive (unfortunately)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 15, 2008

Just one day after lamenting there’s been no WSU basketball news to speak of, the team announced yesterday that Thomas Abercrombie is leaving to pursue professional opportunities back in his homeland of New Zealand.

I’m disappointed, but hardly surprised. His athleticism turned him into somewhat of an urban legend around the program — for his entire redshirt year, all anyone heard was how high the coaching staff was on this long lanky kid who kept destroying people in practice and needed just a little more seasoning before taking the Pac-10 by storm — but he never came close to living up to the hype.

In an offensive and defensive system that relies heavily on precision, it was obvious to even this untrained eye that he was consistently out of position on most possessions. The athleticism was evident in the minutes he got this year, but equally evident was that he didn’t really have any clue how to play Bennett basketball. That’s a pretty huge problem.

Some guys “get” the Bennett system, some guys don’t. It takes a different kind of basketball IQ to play for a guy like Tony Bennett, and while I don’t know anything about Abercrombie personally, one can make a reasonable claim that after two years in the program — one a redshirt in which his sole job was to learn how to play in the system — he should have been a lot farther along in his development than he was. With a six-man recruiting class coming in that includes three guys who basically play his same position, the writing was on the wall.

The thing I’m most sad about, from a purely selfish perspective, is that he’s heading back to New Zealand. I would have loved to see him transfer to another school and watch what he could do in a system that really played to his strengths, one that allowed him to just lock guys down one-on-one on defense and get out and run and run and run on offense.

But it’s not about me, it’s about him, and I feel sad for Abercrombie that it turned out this way. Without that redshirt year, he would have had just two years of eligibility remaining and would have essentially endured two out of three years with no competitive basketball. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that either, not 7,000 miles from home. It’s time for him to get on with his basketball career, and in the right situation, I’m sure he can have a nice one back home.

In the end, it became a numbers game for a guy that never quite seemed to fit. Keep that in mind next time you’re going nuts over the next “can’t miss” recruit — this is just another example of the kind of wacky circumstances that can keep a kid from fulfilling his potential in a program.

Oh, and by the way: Still looking for mailbag questions. I’ve gotten a few already, and I’ll be working on it over the weekend. Continue to fire away here.

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

All quiet on the WSU HOOPS front

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 13, 2008

It’s been a week since my last post, and honestly, there’s very little going on right now. I’ve still got some longer posts I’m kicking around/working on that are more big picture things, but nothing ready for publishing yet.

What I’d like to do is steal a little idea from my friend Grady over at Stadium Way, and solicit some e-mails for a mailbag post. Got a question that’s been burning you up? Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts with all.

Posted in Misc. Blog Stuff | 1 Comment »

Team unaffected by low NCAA APR score

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 6, 2008

The NCAA made some waves today when it released its yearly report on Annual Progress Rates — a four-year rolling rate designed to measure both retention of athletes and their progress toward a degree. Despite having one of the lowest APRs in the WSU athletic department, the basketball team avoided the penalties that befell the football team.

I found the low figure of 903 curious, given the reputation the Bennetts have for commitment to academic excellence. As it turns out, the only reason the number stands as high as it does is because the Bennetts are so awesome: The figure in Dick Bennett’s first season was abysmally low — 813, more than 100 points below the NCAA’s accepted standard of 925 — thanks to the remnants of the Paul Graham era. In the past three years, the team has posted scores of 938, 923 and 942, and will presumably rise safely above that 925 figure next year, making any future conversation about scholarship losses moot.

The team escaped penalty this year because all of the players who left the program in 2006-07, either through transfer or exhausted eligibility, were on track to graduate.

The only basketball team in the Pac-10 to lose scholarships was USC, which the Los Angeles Times reports was due to Lodrick Stewart, Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt not attending classes after the end of last season.

Honestly, that’s where I think this NCAA program gets it right. There’s got to be some accountability for players not interested in making progress toward graduation and for institutions who don’t make sure they are interested. This relatively new system, which is only just now fully taking shape, is infinitely better than the antiquated graduation rate system, which was the epitome of how statistics can be skewed to say just about anything you want.

But this APR system also underscores the continuing gap between the haves and the have-nots in the NCAA.

Consider: Of the 53 men’s basketball programs to receive sanctions, only six are teams from BCS conferences — USC, Kansas State, Purdue, Seton Hall, Colorado and South Carolina. BCS schools make up roughly 20 percent of all Division I basketball schools, yet comprised only 11 percent of sanctions.

Is it because BCS schools have a premium on academically committed athletes? Or could it be because they generally have far more resources at their disposal, such as small armies of tutors and counselors, to “ensure” students stay on track for graduation?

Just some food for thought.

Posted in Discussion, News | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

On Bennett’s raise

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 5, 2008

So, there seems to be quite a bit of consternation that despite Tony Bennett receiving a sizable raise from the university, the buyout clause in his contract is still “only” $500,000 or so. Even though that’s a number that’s uncharted territory for any WSU coach, it doesn’t appear to be giving people a lot of comfort right now.

I know this is part of the angst built into our Cougar DNA, but let me provide a little perspective.

The sense I get is that everyone is reading a little too much into this raise. My understanding, from everything I’ve read, is that this isn’t a total restructuring of his contract, as it was last year — it’s just a raise.

Now, a $200,000 raise naturally raises the eyebrows of you and me who need four-to-six years to make that kind of jack — the sheer number makes us think that’s a huge raise, especially when the total amount the school is handing out has now topped seven figures. But it’s not even close to the kind of raise he received last year. Think of it this way: This is the equivalent of going from $40,000 a year to $50,000 a year — a nice raise to be sure, but not earth-shattering stuff.

The thing to keep in mind is that this was a one-sided affair, coming from the school’s side. Although Tony did ask for some things at the conclusion of the season, such as raises for his assistants and charter flights for the team, Tony didn’t ask for a raise for himself. Had he asked for it, I think it’s fairly obvious they all might have entered into the kinds of negotiations that would also protect the school with a larger buyout. But that wasn’t the case. Restructuring a contract is a complicated legal process that, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure neither side had any interest in undertaking.

Dale Carnegie would tell you that one of the three fundamental techniques in handling people is to “give honest and sincere appreciation.” I think this is precisely that. This is the school saying, “We know you didn’t ask for this, but hey, you’ve done an awesome job, and we want to let you know how much we value you by rewarding you.”

In an ideal world, we’d absolutely love to have a larger buyout. But that’s going to require ripping up the current agreement and going back to the drawing board, and that wasn’t going to happen this year. So the school did what it could do to protect its investment: Try to keep its best employee happy — not because he asked for it, but because it was the best thing to do.

Posted in Discussion | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Bennett gets his raise

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 1, 2008

I guess I could just keep recycling that “another first for WSU basketball” headline in perpetuity.

The Seattle Times is reporting that the raise that was rumored from the moment Tony Bennett turned down Indiana has been finalized, and it’s a doozy.

How much of a doozy? How about $1 million per?

Count me among those Cougs who never thought we’d see a coach crack seven figures until pure inflation demanded it. But as AD Jim Sterk says in the story, Bennett is well worth it, and I’m glad the athletic department was able to pony up the cash the guy has earned.

A million bucks can buy a lot of super baskets at the Cougar Country Drive In, that’s for sure.

Posted in News | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »