We have an eclectic mix of links for you this morning, ranging from football to volleyball to basketball, past and present. Read on.
• I know I told you there wouldn’t be another post until tomorrow morning, but I decided, after seeing all the links, to go back on my word. Sorry. … Here’s the published version of our halfway story. … There was also Jim Meehan’s volleyball notebook in the S-R, leading off with WSU. … Former Cougar player Thomas Kelati is in camp with the Lakers. … And former WSU coach Tony Bennett is about ready to start his first season at Virginia. This is a darn good advance. By the way, another one I read earlier had WSU located in Corvallis, so I didn’t link that one. … Also, we have a story in tomorrow’s paper about the kickoff of basketball season. It covers all the Division I schools in the area, but, with all the changes in Pullman, leads with and highlights the Cougs. You can read the unedited version here and, of course, because it is running in Friday’s paper, any reference to tonight means Friday night …
PULLMAN – It’s quite obvious things are different around the Washington State University men’s basketball program.
Head coach Tony Bennett is gone to Virginia after three winning seasons, replaced by former Portland State coach Ken Bone.
Point guard Taylor Rochestie and post Aron Baynes are overseas, leaving behind a roster with one senior and no juniors.
And tonight, when WSU officially opens practice for the 2009-10 season, the Cougars will pair up with the women’s team for “Midnight Mayhem,” an open-to-the-public event featuring a 3-point contest, dunk competition, scrimmage and autograph session.
The event, scheduled for Bohler Gym at about 8:30 p.m., following the volleyball team’s Pac-10 match with USC, is something Bennett’s Cougars avoided like a zone.
It’s also the only major event this evening as the area’s Division I college basketball teams begin practice.
Gonzaga is coming off a 28-6 season. The Zags are holding their Kraziness in the Kennel on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. That event will feature a scrimmage that will allow the public to see Gonzaga’s seven newcomers for the first time. They’ll join returnees Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson and Robert Sacre in an attempt to earn GU’s 12th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Eastern Washington’s third-year coach Kirk Earlywine will put his shorthanded Eagles through their first official practice at 5 p.m., hoping to improve on last year’s 12-18 record and 6-10 and seventh-place finish in the Big Sky Conference.
Eastern returns five letterwinners, but two, starter Brandon Moore and reserve Gary Gibson, are unable to practice due to injuries.
Idaho, coming off a 17-16 season, opens practice with a closed session this evening at 5. The Vandals senior backcourt of point guard Mac Hopson and shooting guard Kashif Watson return, will be bolstered by the addition of University of the Pacific transfer Steffan Johnson, an all-Big West selection in 2007-08.
Washington State, also 17-16 last season, is flush with newcomers, including six freshmen, Bone and four other new faces in the coaches’ office.
“It’s been like it’s my first year,” said lone senior Nik Koprivicia of the fall workouts. “Most of the things are new … but new coaches, you’ve got to meet them, see who they are, first impressions, get adjusted to the way we’re going to work out.”
Bone, who took Portland State to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, will ask the Cougars to push the ball more offensively, while still playing an effective half-court defense that is slightly different than the Bennett model.
“The defense is a little bit different in regards to intensity,” Bone said last week. “Rebound expectations are different. Transition offense and defense are different.
“So far most everything we’ve done is at least a little different. Not a lot … we’re tweaking some things.”
Sophomore Klay Thompson, who along with DeAngelo Casto were members of the Pac-10’s All-Freshman team last season and the U.S. U19 FIBA World Championships team this summer, is expected to carry a large part of the WSU offense.
Thompson averaged 12.5 points last season despite shooting just 31 free throws in 33. The 6-foot-6 wing has added strength and ball-handling skills in the offseason in an effort to get to the rim – and the free-throw line – more often.
“Hopefully I can step it up,” he said. “I’m excited to take on the challenge. Taylor and Aron were our main threats last year, so it will be fun to take that role. That’s what I came here for.”
He knows, though, that assimilating all of the changes won’t be easy.
“It’s going to take some adjustment,” Thompson said, “but I think we’ll be fine. It will take some time.”
One change, however, was easy.
When Bone was asked if he wanted his team to participate in tonight’s event, he said it wasn’t his decision. It was the player’s. He let them vote. They said yes.
“I don’t know how (tonight) is going to look,” Koprivica said. “We’ve never had it. I’m pretty new about it. We’ll see. Something new, good to try.”
Just like the 2008-09 WSU season.
– Steve Bergum and Josh Wright contributed to this report.
• That’s it for today. We’ll be back Friday. Until then …