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Tentative schedule released

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 16, 2008

WSU has yet to officially release the 2008-09 schedule, but you can find a tentative version via the Pac-10; Vince Grippi says that open spot on Dec. 20 is going to be Idaho, subject to administrative approval. Stadium Way has a nice first take on it here; I’ll have my thoughts on it when the official schedule is released next week.

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Posted in News | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Weaver makes NBA ‘debut’ this afternoon

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 12, 2008

The broadcast schedule is up online for the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, and if you have a broadband connection, you can catch Kyle Weaver’s first game with the Charlotte Bobcats today at 3 p.m. PT. — all you have to do is become an NBA.com “All-Access” member (which is free). The video from each game also is archived to watch later here if you can’t catch it today.

Derrick Low made his debut yesterday with the Dallas Mavericks, but played only three minutes. He did shoot 1-for-2 and dish out a pair of assists, but here’s to hoping he can get some more minutes to show what he can do.

To track how each does, Weaver has his own summer league page here, while Low’s summer league page is here.

Posted in News | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Jennings definitely heading to Europe

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 9, 2008

As pointed out by Coug1990, Brandon Jennings is indeed heading over to Europe for his (presumably) one season out of high school before heading to the NBA.

We’ve covered at length what this means for the Cougs, but the bigger question is what it means for college basketball. There will be a lot of of hand wringing about it — and I’ll post a bevy of links at the end of the post for your perusal — but I ultimately think it means very little, to be honest.

Think about it this way: Are guys like Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose instant stars signing mega endorsement deals the moment they declare for the draft if they spend their one year out of high school off the hoops radar in Europe?

Not a chance.

The elite players benefit tremendously from the exposure they get to the general American public in NCAA basketball. While they might make more in the short term in salary by heading to Europe — it’s been reported that Jennings’ salary would likely be between $100,000 and $300,000 next year — they stand to gain much more in the long term by taking it in the shorts financially for that one year at a university. Most guys will understand this, if they’ve got any brain at all.

The story might be a little different for the guys who aren’t top-level prospects, since they weren’t likely to get the kind of hype of an Oden or Durant anyway, but the reality is that almost all of these guys view themselves as Oden or Durant. And since they do, they’ll continue to go to college because they will want to have the one big year that will land them that No. 1 pick and endorsement riches beyond their dreams. Consider the story of Rose, who wasn’t even a lock for the No. 1 pick at the end of the season. Now, the hype is larger than life, thanks to his magical run through the NCAA Tournament.

One final thought. These guys absolutely crave attention; top-level basketball recruits have been coddled and worshiped since their junior high days, having been told they’re special pretty much everyday. They feed off the adoration. So, there’s a part of me that thinks Jennings is doing this simply because of the coverage that comes along with being the first. People will follow him to see how he does, given the novelty factor — it’s a unique way to generate hype and market himself.

But the second, third or 10th guy to go over there? No one will care as they watch their favorite college teams or fill out their brackets. And once they see a couple of guys head overseas where they’re viewed as just some snot-nosed kid from the States who isn’t ready to play with men, they’ll quickly realize college basketball is a much better means to their ends than European professional leagues.

Anyway, onto the hand wringing — starting with the one guy who has a well-reasoned agreement:

  • Mike DeCourcey, The Sporting News: “College basketball does not need Jennings to thrive. Arizona will miss him, certainly. The Wildcats might have been fashioned into a national title contender with another elite pro prospect on their roster. But to suggest his experience might lead to a flood of high school players moving to Europe is naive, and to declare that such a flood would irreparably damage NCAA basketball is ludicrous.”
  • Gary Parrish, CBS Sports.com: “Forget what it means to Arizona or Lute Olson. What it means to college basketball in general is what has the industry buzzing, because coaches will now have to approach the recruitment of elite prospects like they used to approach the recruitment of elite prospects, which is to say with great caution and the understanding that there’s a decent chance they’ll never enroll.”
  • Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: “Will he be able to help a top European club over the next year — when he would be a college freshman? It will be a trick for him to get a big deal in Europe, where teams face a lot of pressure to win now, play very intricate offenses, and prefer to develop point guards over several years.”
  • Jeff Goodman, Foxsports.com: “I don’t expect an influx of players to go this route, because frankly, there’s only a couple of kids each year at the highest level who would even explore this avenue.”
  • Lute Olsen, Arizona coach: “We as coaches warned the NCAA about this when it was first put in place. It’s going to turn into a bigger mess.” He advocates a system similar to baseball’s, where players either come straight out or are bound to go to school for two or three years.
  • Jason Whitlock, Foxsports.com: “Maybe Brandon Jennings will go down in history as the young man who forced the NCAA to honestly deal with the hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality of its rules.”

Posted in Around the 'Net, NBA Draft, News | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Jennings a lock for Europe?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 8, 2008

We’ll be writing up some more detailed updates of each Pac-10 team before too long — I swear! — but I wanted to pass along this little tidbit I ran across, because I think it has a lot of impact on the Cougs.

According to this report in the New York Times, no one thinks Arizona super recruit Brandon Jennings will actually set another foot in Tucson.

Jennings is having difficulty qualifying academically for admission, which has led him to publicly bandy about the idea of playing his (presumably) one season out of high school in Europe. He’s even floated the idea of heading to Europe even if he does qualify.

Why does that matter to us?

Just as Cal figured to be fighting with the Cougs to get into the top half of the Pac-10 and watched their effort to do that take a major hit when Ryan Anderson decided to stay in the NBA draft — a wise decision for sure (and I think New Jersey got an absolute steal late in the first round with him) — Arizona is another team in that situation.

The Wildcats did get a boost when Chase Budinger decided to return to school, but that’s been about all the good news there has been. Lute Olson’s return has been filled with drama, including the exodus of the coach-in-waiting, Kevin O’Neill, and assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, which led to the decommitting of top prospect Emmanuel Negedu. The recruiting class is weaker overall than what generally lands in Tuscon.

The Wildcats do have a very good core in Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, and if Jennings arrives, it might really be the return of Arizona to truly elite status, as Olson predicts. Jennings is just the kind of fast-paced point guard Olson loves. But if Jennings doesn’t make it, the Wildcats will have major problems at the point, with the departure of Jarryd Bayless and the graduation of Jawann McClellan.

Wise, who isn’t a natural point, would probably have to slide over. That wouldn’t necessarily be a huge problem for a lot of teams, but Olson promised on his return to get away from O’Neill’s defense-first mentality and get back to “Wildcat basketball,” which means running and running and running. Can Wise do that for them? I doubt it.

So, Wildcat fans will continue holding their collective breath. Probably in futility, if you believe that report.

Curious what all the hype is about? You can seen Jennings in action on a video after the jump. Keep in mind, it’s that cruddy AAU ball that allows players to do pretty much anything they want all game long, but you can clearly see the physical tools. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Weaver lands in a great spot; Low faces uphill battle

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 4, 2008

Man, it’s been a lot harder finding time to do this than I thought it would — who knew a teacher on “vacation” could be so busy? Hope you all are barbecuing and enjoying your 4th!

Anyway, onto Kyle Weaver. As I checked in periodically with the draft as it unfolded last week, I found myself getting anxious for Weaver. It became clear pretty quickly that he wasn’t going to go in the first round — especially as guys such as CDR and DeAndre Jordan dropped like rocks — so mostly I was just rooting for him to go to a situation where he had a better than even chance of making a roster.

I think he found that when he was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Outside of being drafted in the first round, going to Charlotte is probably one of the better situations Weaver could have asked for. First of all, let’s start with the Bobcats’ new coach, Larry Brown. After his awful experience in New York, he’s desperate for redemption in Charlotte. He’ll have no patience for shenanigans, or players who make stupid mistakes or have no interest in playing defense.

Weaver is about as free of pretentiousness as a player gets, and we all know how smart he is on offense and how hard he works on defense. He just seems to be exactly the kind of player Brown loves, and while Weaver likely won’t get a guaranteed contract, I’d be pretty shocked if he doesn’t make Charlotte’s roster. The backcourt is a bit crowded there, but this is a team that is probably going to move some parts. Expect Derek Anderson to be gone, and there’s rampant speculation that Raymond Felton is going to be traded after drafting D.J. Augustin.

You can read a great story that focuses exclusively on Weaver here, from his hometown paper. Excellent quotes.

Weaver will get the first chance to show what he can do at the Las Vegas summer league, starting July 11. I’m assuming some of that league’s games will be on NBATV, but there’s not TV schedule out there yet. I’ll pass it along if it looks like Weaver’s going to be on TV.

As for Derrick Low, you all know he didn’t get drafted. He’ll be in that same summer league with Weaver, playing for the Dallas Mavericks, and he’s got a very, very uphill battle to make that roster. But you never know. He also could catch someone else’s eye if it looks like he’s not going to stick with the Mavs.

Posted in NBA Draft, News | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Weaver lands in a great spot; Low faces uphill battle

Point guard commits, big night for a couple of Cougs

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 26, 2008

Xavier ThamesGeez, I’m without Internet for a couple of days and look what happens? The Cougs pick up a commit for the 2009 class, three-star point guard Xavier Thames.

Obviously I’ve never seen the guy, but equally obvious is that he fills a huge need for this team with Taylor Rochestie graduating at the end of this season. Thames is a big point guard, 6-foot-3 to 6-4, depending on the reports you read. And if you listen to his dad, defense is not a problem for this guy.

Here are some thoughts from Grippi:

“Thames is different. According to people I’ve talked with, he’s the kind of athletic, gifted, smart guy the Cougars have struggled to get interested in their program in the past. He’s dad’s quote about the recent success of the Cougars helping in his son’s decision was telling. An 8-24 team has trouble attracting a player like this these days.”

You can decide for yourself how good he is: He’s got his own Web site, and also his own page of video highlights. Pretty awesome, based on these highlights.

My guess would be that this will just about do it for guards for this class, assuming the verbal commitments hold up. The Cougs might try to pick up another point guard, but with Thames and Anthony Brown (a shooting guard from Shadle Park) set to join the 2008 class already heavy on perimeter players, look for the Cougs to focus heavily on adding some bulk to the frontcourt.

Moving onto tonight’s action, we’ll see what happens with Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low. Your guess is as good as mine where these two might go. Weaver could sneak into the end of the first round if someone really likes him, or he could go mid- to late-second round. Low could go in the second round or not at all. When you’re outside the lottery, it really comes down to whether a particular team really likes you. It might be something as small as something you did in a workout that made the team go, “Oooooh!”

We’ll weigh in on the picks and their futures tomorrow.

Posted in News, Recruiting | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Point guard commits, big night for a couple of Cougs

2008-09 Pac-10 season finally starts to take shape

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 16, 2008

Some have wondered why I haven’t done any kind of comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming Pac-10 basketball season, and the reason is simple.

I was waiting for today.

Decision day came and went, and we now know that Ryan Anderson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are staying in the draft, while Chase Budinger is coming back to school. Of those three decisions, Anderson staying in the draft seems to have the greatest impact on the Cougs, who figured to be passed by the Bears this season with Anderson. Now, that team goes back to the drawing board a bit under Mike Montgomery.

I’ll have some real-deal breakdowns starting next week, so be on the lookout for those. I’ve just got to get done with the school year before I’ll have time for all that.

Posted in NBA Draft, News | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

A great day for the future of the Pac-10

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 10, 2008

Tom Hansen, of “worst commissioner in the country” fame, is going to retire from his post at the top of the Pac-10 at the end of next year. I could not be more ecstatic that the conference can finally now move out of the early ’80s and enter the 21st century with the rest of the BCS.

Hansen takes a lot of pot shots for a lot of things — most notably the hideous television contracts for football and basketball — and almost all of that criticism is fair. But don’t tell him that. In his mind, he’s merely carrying out the wishes of the institution presidents who sign his paycheck.

For example …

“Hansen said ESPN has never really been a viable option ‘because they have never had available time slots because of their other commitments that would fit our scheduling patterns. And because they didn’t have good time slots, they never wanted to make an attractive financial offer. … They would have given us Monday nights at 9 p.m., but some of our academic heads and presidents were not the least bit interested in that.’ ”

What he neglects to mention, of course, is that there’s no room on ESPN for the Pac-10 because when ESPN started becoming a major player in both college football and basketball, Hansen, rather than seeing an opportunity and aggressively pursuing a television contract with a national cable broadcaster, sat on the sidelines while more progressive commissioners passed him by.

In the other parts of the interview with the Times’ Bob Condotta, Hansen goes on to explain why the Pac-10 plays in just one New Year’s Day bowl game: “There are already four games (that morning) so the networks are either already taken or going against three other bowls, so (the presidents) are not interested in that.” Never mind the fact that it seems to be good enough for the other BCS conferences who seem to be thriving despite the morning “competition.” He also said that the presidents love the Holiday Bowl, and the conference’s strategy is to grow its smaller bowls into bigger bowls: “We think the Emerald Bowl (in San Francisco) will grow quite a bit in stature.”

So, let me get this straight: He loves the Holiday Bowl, where our second place team — which more often than not gets shafted from the BCS bowl picture thanks to a chronic lack of exposure — takes on the fourth place team from the Big 12? Or the Sun Bowl, where our third place team takes on the fifth place Big 12 team? Or the Emerald Bowl, where we take on the SEVENTH place ACC team?

Oh, and let’s not forget that Hansen is the one who said the Pac-10 would walk away from the BCS if a plus-one bowl model were ever instituted, because that would lead to an inevitable playoff and the other bowls would either become irrelevant or disappear altogether — pretending in his delusional state that they haven’t already diminished in stature thanks to the current BCS system.

Seriously, folks, this is the guy who has been leading your conference. And I bristle at the notion that he can do little more than just carry out the whims of his presidents, although Bob Condotta seems to sympathize with Hansen.

“That last comment reiterates a point I made in my earlier post on Hansen — a lot of these things involve a lot more than him. He’s an easy one to blame for some of these things, but if the presidents don’t want to do it, it’s not going to get done. As he told me at one point today ‘I don’t speak as an individual, but I reflect the institutions’ views.’ ”

Agreed, Hansen does work for the presidents. But, through athletics, what the institutions want more than anything is to, in no specific order, 1) Make money for their university; and 2) Raise the profile of their universities, which adds to enrollments, donations and grants, resulting in … you guessed it — more money. For the presidents, and for everyone else.

I guarantee, any commissioner that does those two things well will have the support of the Pac-10 presidents. And a strong commissioner who sees himself as more than a shill for the presidents can do those things. But it takes guts. Hansen never had those guts; he viewed himself as someone with little more power than an impotent Bud Selig at the beginning of his Major League Baseball commissioner reign. He was never willing to take a risk, never willing to put his job on the line with a gutsy decision.

There’s something to be said for protecting your job, but don’t play it safe on the one hand and then say you’ve done a great job on the other hand by pointing out that the conference has won 200-plus national championships on your watch and try and take credit for it — as if your “leadership” had jack crap to do with Arizona State’s fastpitch championship. Puh-leeze.

This is designed to be a year-long search, hence the timing of the announcement. And the timing couldn’t have been better. The awful TV contracts for both sports run out at the same time in 2011-12, and while that’s still a few years away, it will give the new commissioner plenty of time to work a new deal that actually will benefit the conference. And bowl affiliations are often reworked from year to year, so there’s plenty of work that can be done there right away.

My greatest fear, though, is that the Pac-10 doesn’t see any need to deviate from what it’s been doing and will hire one of Hansen’s underlings to toe the party line. Here’s to hoping that these presidents are forward-thinking men — stop laughing! — who want to hire someone to take this conference into the future.

Hansen’s right that this is the conference of champions. The fact that it doesn’t get more money or recognition for that is a travesty for which he is directly responsible. Good riddance.

Posted in News | Tagged: , | 16 Comments »

Good weekend for Cougar basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 10, 2008

A few notes to pass along on this Tuesday, as my busy life is finally permitting me a few minutes to write. (And let me tell you, it feels goooooood to finally write again.)

CASTO APPEARS GOOD TO GO: First, as has been reported elsewhere, recruit DeAngelo Casto apparently has graduated from Ferris H.S. — the final reported hurdle in his odyssey to WSU. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that walking down the aisle doesn’t always necessarily mean everything is kosher, but the S-R’s Vince Grippi says a source tells him it looks like Casto is going to make it.

That’s great news for the Cougs. As we’ve discussed before, Casto brings an element of athleticism to this team that was sorely lacking after the departure of Ivory Clark.

If you’re curious what you’re getting, check out the video (hat tip to Stadium Way). What I want you to notice is that this guy is a work in progress, especially offensively — most of those moves (other than the dunks, which are impressive) aren’t going to have a snowball’s chance in the Pac-10. I wouldn’t expect much more than 10-15 energy, defense and rebounding minutes from him, as his offensive game is far from polished. But he’s a guy with a nose for the ball, and that’s great.

And if he develops as he looks like he could — both physically and skill-wise — the Cougs could have a massive gem on their hands.

TOP-FLIGHT PG ON THE RADAR: Xavier Thames, a 2009 three-star PG recruit (Scout.com) has narrowed his list down to WSU and Iowa State. I’m not surprised the Cougs are drawing interest from a very good point guard, since they’ll have pretty much an immediate opening at the point in 2009-10 with the graduation of Taylor Rochestie.

I’d be pretty shocked if they didn’t go after another ball-handler, as well, given how the most pressing needs for this class are simply point guard and big man thanks to the plethora of 2s and 3s secured in this current recruiting class.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting, Video | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Good weekend for Cougar basketball

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.

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