FROM PULLMAN — Another Tuesday, another couple of interviews with Cougars coach Ken Bone. This one is very Mike Ladd-oriented. Bet you can't guess what I'm writing about this week.
If you guessed that we're writing about Mike Ladd this week, you're right. And so too is someone else, based on the line of questioning today. … I asked Bone what his expectations were for Ladd when he decided to take him as a transfer. He said he expected Ladd to add “toughness, intensity” and give the Cougars another 3-point shooter who could also defend well. Since returning from injury, Bone said, that's pretty much what Ladd has provided. Bone also said Ladd looked more comfortable on the offensive end last weekend. … As for staying in shape, Bone said that since Ladd's injury was to his thumb, he was still able to condition himself properly while he was out. But it's still taken the past few weeks for him to really get back into playing shape. … The coach had “high praise” — as Andy Samberg playing Nicholas Cage on Saturday Night Live would say — for the way Ladd handled sitting out, saying he continued to participate in every meeting and film session. “He was very mobile, he was out there at midcourt quite often, in huddles, hearing what’s going on. I’ve got to believe that helped his comeback,” Bone said. … Also noted was that Ladd was voted a team captain prior to this season, which was a first for Bone, who said he's never had a player chosen as a captain who hadn't played before. “I think that says a lot about his character and work ethic and how the guys respected what he was doing in preparation for our season,” Bone said. … Can you guess where the Cougars need to make the biggest adjustment against Arizona this time around? Defensively, perhaps? WSU allowed 85 points to Arizona in that Jan. 26 loss. “We’re not going to win many games — if any more games — if we can’t hold people to a lower score than tha,” Bone said. … Arizona enters the game on a roll, winners of four consecutive games. Bone said the Wildcats have “at least two of the best rebounders in the conference,” singling out forwards Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill, as well as “a couple of the best 3-point shooters in the conference.” Is that all? … I asked if perhaps Arizona might enter Thursday's game with its collective eyes trained slightly ahead to Saturday's showdown at Washington. Bone said that is always a possibility, but that, “I think with Arizona, their focus has been very good. He’s (Sean Miller) got those guys playing extremely well right now, and I think they’ve been able to turn some of those young kids into — I’m not going to say veterans, but seasoned freshmen, I guess. They’re playing good basketball, and they know what’s at stake. They can’t come in here and overlook us. But yeah, the big game of the week for them and Washington will be Saturday, just because of the records,” Bone said. Perhaps Arizona learned its lesson last week, when 11th-place Utah gave it a scare before the Wildcats hung on for a 70-61 win. … Bone said he hasn't thought yet about any potential postseason tournaments. He'll do that after WSU's last game in the Pac-12 tournament, whenever that winds up being. “Hopefully we’re in the tournament. The ultimate would be the NCAA tournament, maybe the NIT tournament. It would be great to keep playing.” He referenced appearances in the CBI by Oregon State and Oregon the past couple seasons, saying that playing that many games after the regular season ends can help bridge the gap between the season and spring activities. “It’s hard to turn down an opportunity to go into postseason play,” Bone said, though the Cougars did that in his first season, declining an invite to the CBI after finishing 16-15 and in last place in the Pac-10. “Our team was worn out, we were not playing very good basketball the last month and our students were not here,” Bone said. “It was spring break and we figured it just didn’t look like a good situation at that time.” If the Cougars finish this season on a strong enough note to merit consideration for one of the newer postseason tournaments, perhaps their thinking would be different. … Bone was asked about Reggie Moore's maturation and progression as a player. He said that despite the numbers, he thinks Moore is a much better basketball player than he was as a freshman, and certainly a better defender. … Bone was asked an interesting question about whether the Cougars need a consistent scoring complement to Brock Motum, or whether it doesn't matter who it is so long as somebody steps up each night. He said there doesn't appear to be a clear-cut No. 2 option for WSU with Faisal Aden out, but that if they can get eight or nine points per night from Abe Lodwick, DaVonte Lacy, Marcus Capers and Moore, they'll be in pretty good shape. “There’s just a lot of good things about having parity within your scoring,” Bone said. … There's a chance the Cougars could charter more road trips for basketball once the Pac-12 TV money kicks in, Bone said, but they haven't had many discussions about that recently.
All for now.