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Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

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 »

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.

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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 ( 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.

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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

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 »

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? 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, and Scouts, Inc. started putting lists together. He’s currently ranked No. 96 by, No. 100 by Scouts, Inc. and No. 118 on that 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 »

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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 »

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Pac-10 recruiting wrap-up

Posted by Jeff Nusser on November 15, 2007

The Pac-10 did little to hurt its reputation as potentially the toughest conference in the nation yesterday with four top 15 recruiting classes. Here’s a quick roundup of the action from around the league, in order of’s class rankings. The national ranking is in parentheses.

Remember, this is only the early signing period. While the bulk of the recruits sign now, there always are a few high-profile stragglers that make their way to the late signing period. It was thought that the Cougs wouldn’t have any late period scholarships available last year, and they ended up with three thanks to transfers.

UCLA (1)

  • The jewel: Jrue Holliday is an athletic, heady player a number of services had ranked as the best guard in the country. says he’s a winning machine who can pass, score and defend — precisely the kind of guy coach Ben Howland loves. After a few so-so recruiting classes (by UCLA standards), a pair of Final Four appearances in Westwood have got the highest profile players starting to buy into Howland’s no-nonsense approach. That is a dang scary thought for the rest of the Pac-10. Said Holliday: “Coach Howland made it to the Final Four two years in a row. That’s hard to come by. Arron Afflalo is in the league now. Jordan Farmar. I know he can make NBA players and that’s what I’m trying to do. He thinks I can be one.”
  • Local take: The LA Times

Read the rest of this entry »

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