FROM PULLMAN -- It's amazing what a couple of wins can do for the amount of media attention a team receives. For example, there were just two people listening to Ken Bone's Tuesday comments last week. Today? Four, plus a whole bunch of questions on the Pac-12 call. Read on for a summary of both.
Much of the conversation on both calls centered around the play of Faisal Aden, who was named Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Even Bone was a little surprised by that. The coach said after Saturday's game (in response to a question about whether Aden is closer to earning his starting job back) that the senior guard needs to play well in other areas besides just scoring. I asked Bone today what he meant by that. Most importantly, he said, is Aden's assist/turnover ratio, which was not great over the weekend (he had five turnovers and zero assists in Saturday's game). Aden can be a good passer when he puts his mind to it, Bone said, but he often becomes too locked in to his mindset of being a scorer. Still, Bone said that if any changes to the starting lineup are made this week -- it's something he's discussed but still undecided on -- those changes would involve either Aden, Abe Lodwick, or both. Part of the problem with making changes, of course, is that you have to remove someone else. The Cougars obviously aren't going to go without Reggie Moore running the point, or demote DaVonte Lacy with the way he's been playing. Marcus Capers is the team's best perimeter defender. Charlie Enquist provides size that Lodwick can't. So there are some tough decisions to be made there, for sure. ... Bone said he thinks last weekend could be a turning point for Aden, and was impressed that he was able to score as many points as he did without making a 3-pointer (and without even attempting one in Saturday's game). ... The Cougars' opponent this weekend, Arizona, doesn't have a ton of size, which made me wonder whether WSU might use a smaller lineup again, as it did in the second half of the California game. Bone said it's not quite that simple since Arizona guards differently than Cal, but that "when you put Abe Lodwick in the lineup instead of Charlie, it adds a different dimension. It’s not always a positive dimension because Charlie’s long and tall and he can add some things inside that at times Abe has a difficult time doing, but on the offensive end, we can extend the defense a little bit, opens up driving opportunities for guys and if they leave Abe alone, he’s obviously a really good threat from three." ... Bone compared Arizona to Washington, in that they have "a team loaded with talent," then mentioned experienced players like Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry, Brendan Lavender and Kyle Fogg. "They’ve got some really, really good pieces." ... I asked Bone what traits his teams have possessed in the past that allowed them to be successful on the road. "Toughness, mental toughness. And that comes with experience and I think when I say experience, not just age and number of games under their belt, but experience winning games on the road." Asked whether he thinks the Cougars are closer to being that kind of team, Bone said, "I think this team has been pretty mature and playing with good experience on the road. We have won a couple games on the road this year and so I think in those games, we showed a good level of maturity and just how to handle situations being on the road." ... Bone said the attitude at Monday's practice wasn't bad, but that it needs to be better today as the team prepares to head on the road. The team is traveling to Spokane tonight, then taking an early flight to the desert tomorrow. ... A questioner asked Bone if he saw any similarities between the season Lodwick is having and the season Nikola Koprovica had as a senior. Bone said that yes, the two are similar, in that as seniors, "they just finally get to a point where, hey, I just need to go play and relax and have fun. This is it. And I think that’s where Abe’s at. Whether he starts or not is not an issue. He’s never brought it up to me. He’s never brought up how many minutes he’s playing or anything." ... Mike Ladd is again doubtful to play this week, though he's getting his thumb reexamined today and Bone will know more then.
The main topic of conversation on Bone's Pac-12 call was, of course, Aden. ... Bone said Aden has never shown a bad attitude about coming off the bench -- though he acknowledged that players sometimes approach such subjects differently around friends and teammates than around coaches -- and said that Aden understands his role, as well as what he has to do to keep earning minutes. To that end, Bone reiterated that he's never placed a whole lot of emphasis on who starts and plays the first three or four minutes of the game -- it's more about who plays the most minutes overall, and who's on the floor at the end of games. Bone said Aden might have played more this weekend than he did sometimes when he was starting. Besides, it's "extremely valuable" for the Cougars to have some scoring coming off the bench, because "we have two starters that combined don’t average more than six or seven points a game, so we’ve got to get some points somewhere. So in our situation it’s extremely important." ... Bone also addressed Aden's background, saying he's shown a knack for being able to make it on his own with little family support in the area, and that the WSU community has done a good job of embracing him and making him feel at home. ... Bone was asked if his team is where he thought they'd be at this point. He said that for the most part, yes, with a few exceptions (one of them being Ladd's disappointing, injury-plagued season that hasn't allowed him to contribute the way Bone had hoped). "In time I think a team finds its own identity, and now it’s getting closer to the end of January, I think we’ve moved forward, we are who we are and I think our guys are starting to adapt to that."
All for now.