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WSU’s Moore ready for Huskies


COUGARS

One game this week. In Seattle. Against UW. A place Reggie Moore would have been happy to attend coming out of Rainier Beach High, when he didn’t feel he wanted to leave home. But he had already committed to Fresno State, was stuck and went to a prep school in New Hampshire. Now he’s in Pullman. We talked with Moore this week and we have a piece for tomorrow’s paper. Read on for the story.

••••••••••

• Here’s the feature …

PULLMAN – Really, Reggie Moore even being at Washington State was iffy at best.

If Lute Olson was still at Arizona, Moore might be sporting a purple W Saturday instead of wearing crimson.

If Olson, the legendary Wildcat coach, hadn’t decided to call it quits last season, Abdul Gaddy would probably be in Tucson.

If Gaddy, a star at Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep who wanted to play for Olson, had honored his first – or second – commitment to UA, there would have been a scholarship for another guard at UW.

If there had been a scholarship, it probably would have been made available to Moore. And the freshman, who grew up in Seattle wanting to be a Dawg, would have been hard-pressed to say no.

“Coming out of high school, I really did want to play at UW,” said Moore this week, as the Cougars (14-6 overall and 4-4 in Pac-10 play) prepare to head across the state to play in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

But he never got that chance.

“The issue with us with Reggie was just (guards) Isaiah Thomas, Abdul Gaddy and Venoy Overton, all underclassmen as he was coming in because, obviously, we would have loved to have Reggie,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, sounding a little wistful about Moore’s eventual path.

There are other ifs, of course, that led Moore to Pullman, where he has been an instant starter – and sensation.

If he hadn’t prematurely signed with Fresno State in the early signing period, he might have been an Oregon or UW recruit after blossoming as a senior at Rainier Beach High.

If the Bulldogs had let him out of his letter-of-intent, he wouldn’t have had to attend a year of prep school in New Hampshire, an experience that improved his game and proved to himself he could live away from Seattle.

And, if coach Tony Bennett hadn’t left WSU last April, opening the door for Ken Bone and his higher-octane offensive philosophy, Moore wouldn’t have been a good fit at WSU.

“I never pictured myself coming here,” Moore said, smiling. “I was really close to committing to Oregon after my visit there, but my mother told me to wait. I came here and I liked it a lot.”

Smiling is one thing Moore does often. Gregarious and open, Moore smiles when talking about his basketball, smiles when talking about his teammates, smiles when talking about the weather.

There’s lot to smile about.

“It’s fun,” Moore said of his freshman season, “especially getting into the paint and passing out for those 3s seeing Nik (Koprivica) drain those and Klay (Thompson) drain those. That’s a great feeling, especially that USC game.”

Last Thursday Moore took over down the stretch, leading the Cougars to a road win despite a 15-point second-half deficit. His play led to USC coach Kevin O’Neill labeling him the best point guard in the conference.

“I called my mom as soon as I heard that and I told her,” Moore said, smiling again. “I couldn’t believe that.”

When Bone took over at WSU last April, he didn’t believe he had the right point guard. Enter Moore, cousin to former Oregon star Aaron Brooks, still looking for a place to play somewhat close to home.

The Ducks were in the picture. But Brooks didn’t push.

“He was just like ‘as long as you’re in the Pac-10, you’re fine,’ really,” Moore said. “He said when I committed to Wazzu, it was a perfect decision.”

With Bone knocking, Moore asked a summer playing partner for advice. Former Husky and current New York Knick Nate Robinson told him to go play for Bone, an assistant at UW when Robinson was there.

“He just said coach Bone is a real cool coach and a real cool guy,” Moore said. “He’d probably be real fun to play for.”

Moore has started all but one game – he was late for a bus in Alaska and was held out a couple minutes – and is averaging 14.4 points and 4.6 assists a game. The former has risen to 17.0 and the latter dropped to 3.8 in Pac-10 play as he’s grown more assertive looking for his shot.

It’s a change Romar will see first hand Saturday.

“Reggie is an outstanding basketball player,” Romar said. “I wouldn’t have predicted that he would have put up the numbers that he’s put up at this point. But he was certainly capable.”

And Moore will get to see first hand what the UW fans do to opposing players.

“They’re going to be on me pretty tough,” he acknowledged.

Will the whole experience affect him?

“It’s a little bit different,” Bone said, “playing Washington, a place Reggie’s very familiar with and has followed Husky basketball a long time. I’m sure it will be a special night for him and hopefully he performs well.”

“I’ve been thinking about that all week,” Moore said. “Of course, anybody that goes back home wants to score 50. I just got to play the game like I’ve been playing all season, just make sure I’m not forcing anything.”

•••

• And a note we have …

Klay Thompson has been the go-to guy offensively for Washington State all season. The 6-foot-6 sophomore wing is still the sixth-leading scorer in the nation (at 22.3 points per game) and leads the Pac-10. But recently Thompson has seen his scoring average (18.3 in conference) and shooting percentages drop.

In the eight Pac-10 games, Thompson is shooting 39.5 percent from the floor after hitting 48 percent when conference play started.

The drop has been more precipitous beyond the arc, where Thompson’s shooting percentage has fallen from 45.9 in pre-conference play to 25 percent in the Pac-10. He has hit 9 of his last 38 3-pointers.

“He’s a better shooter than that,” WSU coach Ken Bone said of Thompson’s Pac-10 numbers.

And the Cougars need him to be.

“If we make some 3s, it tends to really open up some other things try to do,” Bone said.

•••

WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS

RECORD: 4-4 Pac-10, 14-6 overall

COMING UP: Saturday at Washington, 12:30 p.m., FSN.

OUTLOOK: There are seemingly two University of Washington teams. There is the one that plays at the road, lacking passion defensively and continuity on offense, winless in six games. Then there’s the home Huskies, 13-1, including Tuesday’s explosive 123-76 rout of Seattle U. That’s the team the Cougars face Saturday, the one coach Ken Bone calls “very, very, very good.” Quincy Pondexter leads UW, averaging 19.9 points a game, though that number has jumped to 27 in his last three home games. The Huskies’ three guards, Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, will present a challenge to WSU out front on both ends.

•••

• That’s all for now, except for another football item I forgot when I did the Seattle game piece. Walk-on offensive lineman Mike Bruce, from Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, has transferred to NAIA power Carroll College in Montana. Bruce will have three years of eligibility at Carroll. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …


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