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Posts Tagged ‘Washington State Cougars’

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 »

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

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 »

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 »

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 »