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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?”

Well, let’s start with the two no-brainers: Taylor Rochestie will man the point and Aron Baynes will anchor the middle. Barring some kind of injury, those two are set in stone.

Close to a lock is Caleb Forrest, if for no other reason than there isn’t another competent big man with any experience on the roster. As we saw this year, Forrest is a capable rebounder, defender and shooter out to about 18 feet. If he truly wants to maximize his contribution to the team guarantee his spot in the starting five for his senior year, he needs to add some bulk between now and November — this team needs a secondary post defender and rebounder to compliment Baynes in the absence of Robbie Cowgill, and Forrest got shoved around far too often last year for my liking. However, he’s likely in the lineup even if he doesn’t improve one iota, out of sheer necessity.

The other two spots are a little more tricky. As Grady noted in his e-mail to me, experience is probably going to carry a lot of weight, especially early on. But with Tony Bennett being the master mixologist that he is, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that Nik Koprivica and Daven Harmeling start. There are downsides to each being in the starting lineup. Koprivica is a horrific shooter — don’t give me any of that crap about his knee bothering him; he was shooting under 30 percent from 3 two years ago before his knee injury — and Harmeling is a fairly good sized defensive liability, despite his shooting prowess. Both are relatively one dimensional, which usually spells “bench player.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bennett mix one of the newcomers in, especially a kid like Klay Thompson, who’s long and does a lot of things on the floor, including shoot from long range. If he can pick up the defense quickly, you might see him running next to Rochestie sooner rather than later. Michael Harthun might be in the mix, too, if he wows the staff with shooting ability right away. That’s the one thing that could push him into the starting lineup, especially if Bennett elects not to go with Harmeling.

Don’t sleep on Abe Lodwick either. By most accounts, he improved a ton during his redshirt season. I’m not that familiar with his skill set, having not seen him play, but described him as having a “silky-smooth shooting touch” coming out of high school. If he’s a good shooter, he could jump into that 2-guard role next to Rochestie.

So, after all that, here’s my starting five:

G – Taylor Rochestie
G – Nik Koprivica
G/F – Abe Lodwick
F – Caleb Forrest
C – Aron Baynes

Ultimately, Bennett’s track record suggests he’ll value experience over raw talent. If Lodwick truly can shoot, I think he gets the nod. He’s 6-foot-7 and can rebound, which gives Bennett the freedom to start Koprivica for his defensive strength and rebounding ability from the guard position. For the third consecutive year, Harmeling is the first guy off the bench.

The young guys will get plenty of run though, I think. I really see this as a team that might end up going eight or nine deep with all the talent coming in, using a lot of interchangeable parts throughout the year. I really only see one guy on this team playing 35 minutes a night, and that’s Rochestie. (I think Bennett would like Baynes to play 35 minutes, but I think we’re all realistic about the likelihood of that.) Don’t be surprised one bit if Bennett uses his bench more next year — a lot more — than in either of his first two years. He’ll have a lot of different parts, all talented, that can all do different things

One final question, this one from Phil:

“For the 2009 class, Bennett seems to have zeroed in on two point guards – Thames and Morris – and two centers – Anthony Stover and Trevor Williams. By my count, he has only 3 scholarships to work with. Kind of a tight squeeze. Can the school offer four guys when only 3 scholarships exist?”

Let me start by first saying that my answer will only address the scholarship issue — I don’t even pretend to know the inner workings of the recruiting process. If the guys at or say that’s who we’re after, then that’s probably who we’re after.

As for the scholarships, it’s definitely not uncommon for a school to chase down more guys than they have scholarships for. Remember, we’re dealing with 17- and 18-year-old kids whose life-long decisions can be changed by such important considerations as whether they like their girlfriend on a given day.

There is a belief with coaches that these things tend to work themselves out. Usually, one of those targets ends up going somewhere else and it gets sorted out that way. Maybe one of the big men commits, and the other decides he’d rather go somewhere else.

Or, maybe a scholarship opens up due to an unexpected injury or transfer (a la Stephen Sauls).

The dirty little secret of scholarships, of course, is that a program can yank one from a player at any time it sees fit, so that’s always an option, too. (It doesn’t happen often — after all, if you make a habit of breaking promises, recruits stop coming — but it does happen. Chris Henry played without a scholarship this year, for example.)

And, worst case scenario, you offer a kid, he accepts, and you have pull the offer to get things to fit before letters are signed. Again, you don’t want to do that often, because breaking promises is never a good way to get recruits to buy what you’re selling on the recruiting trail, but it does happen — a lot more often than you think, and usually at the “big-time” programs.

Bottom line? Until those letters get faxed in, recruiting is a fluid situation, full of uncertainty.

That was fun! Let’s do this mailbag thing again. Send your questions to me here, or leave them around the site, and I’ll put together responses.


12 Responses to “MAILBAG: APR, the starting five, and recruiting”

  1. Ptowncoug said

    Actually I believe we have 4 schollies freed up for next year. Baynes, Forrest, Harmeling and Abercrombie. 2008’s schollie for Abercrombie will likely go to Charlie “I’m living the walkon dream” Enquist who has found himself a scholarship again, unless they give it to Rochestie.
    The starting 5 issue is difficult. The 5 you presented above really does not bode well offensively, even if Lodwick can step it up a notch. I think we will need scoring from Rochestie, so I wonder if Harthun will get a long look in order to free up Rochestie a bit more offensively. And I simply don’t have enough on Boehke to get a feel if he will be a better fit than Forrest.
    I figure Capers, Watson and Witherall will RS with Casto and Thompson definitely getting PT.
    Thus, here are my 5
    1. Roch
    2. Harthun
    3. Lodwick
    4. Forrest
    5. Baynes
    and the bench is likely:
    Harmeling, Casto, Boehke, Nik, Thompson, Enquist

  2. BillG said

    Four to give but Brown, the Shadle Park wing has already accepted a scholarship. I would expect the offers to Thames and Morris are on a “first-come-first-serve basis. The first one to accept takes the offer for the other off the table for the other. Might be the same type of deal for the 2 bigs. By all accounts, Thames is really having a good spring.

    Also on the recruiting front, Bellarmine has a 6-2 SG that has a WSU. He’s similar to Niel Derricke as an athlete (for those that go back a ways) with a lot more skills and a much better shot. Very active, good defense, pretty much the whole package. WSU is interested but hard to say how much interest he has in WSU at this point although I have read he likes Bennett.

    Seems like they take a point, a post/big, and best available.

    Coming out of high school I heard a Scout on the radio say Lodwick is in range when he crosses half-court. He wasn’t joking around. The question for Lodwick will probably be what position? Is he quick enough for the 2? Explosive enough for the 3? I have heard confidence is not a problem which in his case is a good attribute. May be a taller and slightly more rounded Mike Roll (UCLA) who was ready to come to WSU before UCLA stepped in.

    I’m having a hard time figuring out who starts and who gets the most minutes. It is great DeAngelo Casto qualified. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Witherill and Watson redshirt now.

    OK, I know this is way too long of a post but there is some talk that WSU might pick up a PG out of Mount Lake Terrace on the boards. Sounds legit. I believe his name is John (?) Allen. Thought of as a solid mid-major by Scout but would come as a walk-on to WSU.

    Great to talk about WSU hoops in MAY!

  3. Ptowncoug said

    Oh I have such a great Neil Derrick story, but I will refrain as I fear I may be reprimanded by this site and/or embarass ND.
    You are right with Brown, and I assume we are not into pulling schollie offers once the kid commits to us. Of course, we assume his academics are all in order to be qualified as well.
    Too bad we don’t have a trip this year.
    Also, I wanted us not to forget that Abercrombie played for his country’s national team. At least I think that is correct. So the kid does have talent. Something just wasn’t clicking.

  4. Nuss said

    You all need to know that getting a kid from Mountlake Terrace HS on the squad would get a hearty endorsement from the authors of this blog — both Jo-Jo and I are proud alums of MTHS. Here is the kid BillG is talking about. Not a lot of meat there. He was second-team all-Wesco his junior year, but doesn’t look like he played there his senior year. Not much more other than that available. I’ll contact my “sources” and see what I can find out.

  5. Coug1990 said

    From the link that you provided, this is what had to say about him regarding an allstar type tournament he played in two years ago:

    “John Allen PG, West Side Hoops – One of the better point guards we saw today was this 5-foot-11 quickster from Mountlake Terrace (Wash.) High. Allen handled it well and got to the basketball at will against one of the better point guards in the class of 2009 (John Wall). Although his shot wasn’t necessarily on point he does have good-looking form and managed to hit a pair of threes. For the game he finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Allen is at least a solid mid-major prospect and surprisingly enough he barely has any interest from college programs.”

    Apparently, he played at several high schools and used up his eligibility after his junior year and was not granted an extra year, so he did not play as a senior.

  6. Ptowncoug said

    Does Mountlake have that big Loew’s theatre? I was blown away that you could buy chicken strips at the theatre! My wife is from Edmonds and parents reside in Mukilteo now.

  7. Nuss said

    It’s honestly been a while since I’ve been back to kick it in the hood, but I do remember when the Mountlake 9 went in. That’s the one at the Lake Forest Park exit off I-5. It was a big dang deal back in like 1993.

    Dang, I’m old.

  8. BillG said

    From what I have read online, John Allen didn’t play last year because it was his fifth year. I believe he applied to play and it was denied. May have had an injury in there as well.

    Abercrombie just didn’t seem to play with confidence. The ability was there but as was said, it just didn’t click for him. It’s too bad. Good student and I have heard he is a great guy. I hope things work better for him closer to home.

  9. Gabe said

    I never saw John play but my dad is the game announcer for Terrace High School, and he would call me after the games John’s junior year and absolutely rave about the guy. He could single handedly take over a game with his shot. As far as not playing last year, it had to do with him moving districts and schools. He appealed to the WIAA with what seemed to be a legitimate case, but they denied him another year of eligibility.

  10. Phil said

    A couple of the above entries predict Casto for Bennett’s 2008-09 rotation and relegate James Watson to redshirt. I would say “not so fast” on that prediction. Who is to say that Casto is better than Watson? It was 6′ 8″ Watson that the Bennett crew went after in order to install a shot blocker. Casto, who Vince points out has not cleared all hurdles on the way to eligibility, sounds more like an insurance policy. Watson is rated above Casto by, which has Watson as 38th PF in the class of 2008. Casto is below him, not ranked, but mentioned. It will be interesting to see how this plays out between those two, provided DeAngelo makes it to summer school beginning June 16th.
    Casto played in a tougher league in Washington than Watson faced in Oklahoma, but reports have it that when Watson played against top-flight competition, he raised his game level and dominated there, too. That’s why he made all-state, all-levels. He may end up red shirting after all, but I would say: let’s not sleep on Mr. Watson just yet. The kid has a lot of heart.

  11. Ptowncoug said

    I did take into consideration that Watson certainly has upped his game and has drawn rave reviews. However, his weight is just not there yet, I can’t see playing both Watson and Casto. Casto completely dominated teams when he wanted to. He is about 25-30lbs heavier than Watson as well.
    Casto, I believe, is college ready physically, but maybe not academically. We’ll see.

  12. Nuss said

    Let’s not forget this, either: As Thomas Abercrombie reminds us, there’s a lot more to playing for Tony Bennett than being physically gifted.

    It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if Casto was asked to redshirt if for nothing other than his own good — if they want to make sure he sees his senior year, it would be smart to make sure he has a successful first one, and that might just involve concentrating on the classroom. By the time basketball season rolls around, the coaching staff will have a pretty good handle on whether he’s ready to carry the load of both.

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