With only a day until Washington State risks its three-game winning streak against UCLA, the WSU players who will be introduced by Glenn Johnson are still up in the air. That, other notes from Tuesday’s practice, and a bunch of links all await you. Read on.
• We’ll start this morning with some thoughts on who will start against the 13th-ranked Bruins (13-4, 4-1 in Pac-10 play). Aron Baynes, Taylor Rochestie and Klay Thompson are a given. Those three are the core of WSU’s lineup. But the other two spots are still up in the air. “You look at who you’re playing, what you need and you go with that,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said Tuesday. “We have a core group of guys and they are all going to play.” That group includes, besides those mentioned above, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Nik Koprivica and freshmen Marcus Capers and DeAngelo Casto. “You just look at how we match up, who played well the last game, who practiced well and go from there.” There’s one other element dealing with the freshmen, Bennett said. “With young kids, you always wonder how they’ll handle it,” he said. “I thought DeAngelo was a little overly amped (in his first start at Oregon State) and picked up a couple fouls.” So who will start Thursday? There were no clues at practice Tuesday, with only the big three in the white starting jerseys and every one else wearing crimson.
In case you’re wondering, if Bennett ever gets tossed from a game, a la Ernie Kent last Saturday and Craig Robinson a couple of weeks ago, then assistant Ben Johnson would be the designated head coach, according to Bennett. “They’re all capable,” Bennett said. “Ben’s the oldest. They would probably all do it together as far as I’m concerned. It hasn’t happened yet, and hopefully it won’t.” … Bennett also singled out the two seniors, Baynes and Rochestie, for special praise. “They know how important our seniors have to be with this mix of young kids,” Bennett said. “A lot of times we have three freshmen on the floor. They sense (how important they are). As the season’s progressed, when they’ve had off games, they’ve seen how that’s affected us. We haven’t been able to be successful. They realize that. They’re just selling out. There’s no other way for this team. Every guy has to sell out.” … There were a lot of questions concerning the 28 consecutive free throws against Oregon, with more than one aimed at learning the Cougars’ “secret.” “We probably do what everybody else does,” Bennett said after explaining WSU (11-6, 3-2) shoots lots of free throws in practice, with everyone charted for accountability, different drills rotated through as to not make them stale, pressure added through competition and a lot of shooting while the players are tired. “Trust me, there’s no market cornered here.” … Pullman is becoming quite a travel destination. Over Christmas break Koprivica’s parents visited from Serbia, Nick Witherall’s dad was in town and Rochestie was visited by his mom and brother. Tuesday, Aron Baynes’ first basketball coach, Aaron Fearne, who coached Baynes’ club in Cairns, Australia, was at Beasley taking in practice. Afterward, Baynes, Johnson and Bennett all sat together talking basketball.
• Now on to the links. What’s ahead this week in the Pac-10? Well, Nick Daschel had this preview and his picks at Buster Sports. It was also Pac-10 notebook day at the P-I, the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times, all of which had some WSU mention. Finally, on the basketball front, with UCLA coming to Pullman tomorrow, there is some consternation in LA about the Bruin offense. Sounds familiar to me. The Bruins seem upset to have lost to ASU, and that worries Bennett. “They’ll be ornery,” Bennett said. “They’re coming off a loss and that’s always a problem. You have to be tough and it really becomes an emphasis to not beat yourself, because if you start turning it over, or allowing them some second-chance points or getting out in transition, they’ll really make you pay.” All those things were emphasized at practice, with special attention put on being ready for UCLA’s tough defense.
• Switching gears, we have a couple of football – and other sports – notes. First I wanted to call your attention to this wire story out of the Bay Area. If Stanford is looking to drop sports because of the economy, every other school is struggling too, because the school prides itself on having more team opportunities than anyone else in the Pac-10, and at least as many as anyone around the nation. … Daschel also has a look at football over the next five years. Though I’m not convinced he’s right, the thoughts are interesting. … And finally, did a lot of checking around yesterday and it seems the winter workouts are going according to plan. Talked with a couple of players and coaches, with the players expressing the view the weight training has been a bit, er, a bit tough. But in a good way. There are still too many players walking around showing the after effects of surgery, guys like Micah Hannam and Tyson Pencer (shoulders) and others. But there is also an optimism born of increased expectations and improved planning. Add in a couple new players walking the halls, especially receiver Johnny Forzani, who we predict will be a starter at some point next season, and there’s a different feeling this January. … And we’ll close with this. Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Kevin Greene, a San Francisco defensive end who told the Cougars it was between them and USC, picked the Trojans yesterday. Though Greene decided to head south, just having this talent considering coming to Pullman may be an indicator WSU is moving in the right direction.
• That’s it for this morning. We’ll be back in the evening with the unedited version of our feature that will run in tomorrow’s S-R. Till then …