FROM PULLMAN — WSU coach Ken Bone met with the media for about 12 minutes today. He talked about more than a few subjects. Here are the highlights.
— Don't expect Mike Ladd to make his return against Washington on Sunday. It sounds like the senior guard will miss his fifth consecutive game. Bone described Ladd's status as “doubtful. Like, very doubtful,” leaving open the slight — very slight — chance that he could return. But it doesn't sound like that's going to happen.
At this point, Bone said, the Cougars are just hoping Ladd's left knee is healed and that he's on the path to recovery. There's no real timetable for his return. Bone said last week, remember, that while he's not yet preparing for the possibility of Ladd missing the rest of the season, the thought has at least crossed his mind.
— A heated atmosphere is expected on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Bone said, but he's not too concerned about winning for the sake of the rivalry. He's concerned about winning for the sake of winning.
Asked if beating the Huskies could help salvage the season, Bone said “any win right now would help salvage the season, whether it’s Washington or the following week against USC or UCLA or in the conference tournament. Any win right now would be sweet.”
— I asked Bone if he's seen progress in Washington's high-post offense — a concept that takes some getting used to — since the Cougars faced it in early January.
“That was two months ago, but I felt like when they were here they executed the high post offense fairly well and down the stretch they were able to execute some things and get the ball inside,” Bone said. “Against Arizona, Arizona State, every team presents its own issues and in-game strategies against what the other team does, and with the personnel that Arizona has, and Arizona State — speaking of those two, their last two games — they were able to take some things away from Washington within the high post offense. But the offense is very versatile and they’ve got a great coaching staff and they figure out different ways to score.”
— The biggest takeaway from that game against Washington — a 68-63 loss in Pullman on Jan. 5 — was the Huskies' defense of Brock Motum. UW forward Desmond Simmons was assigned to Motum for much of the game, and he did everything he could to keep Motum from catching the ball. It worked, for the most part, as Motum finished with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting in 39 minutes.
WSU is preparing this week for a similar defensive tactic.
“Whether they do it or not, we will prepare for it,” Bone said. “Prior to the Washington game, we had Jackson State in there, Fresno State, Buffalo, Idaho State. I’m not sure that prepared us for a Pac-12 game against a team like Washington and the way they guarded Brock. I think here we are two months down the road, we’ll be more prepared for if they’re denying him the ball.”
— Speaking of Motum, he mentioned after Saturday's loss to Arizona — in which he scored 20 points and had more success getting to the rim than he has in quite a while — that he felt he “lost his way” in recent weeks as he settled for jumpers and mainly scored from the perimeter.
Bone said Motum knows he needs to be more versatile, and he was last week against Arizona State and Arizona.
“I think on the road trip he had a taste of success doing a little bit of everything to score,” Bone said. “He was able to get to the free throw line — didn’t shoot a great percentage — but he was able to get to the free throw line. Got to the rim on penetration, he posted up, he shot from the perimeter. That’s more what we need out of Brock, to be that versatile scorer.”
— Bone said Saturday he was pleased with the effort of freshman forward Brett Boese, who saw the court for the first time since Feb. 7. Boese has only played in three Pac-12 games this season. I asked Bone what he needs to see out of the Spokane native in order for him to earn some more playing time.
“If he made all his shots, he’d play more,” Bone joked. “Brett’s kind of that tweener right now. He can play a little bit as a three but he can also play the four spot. With that said, it’s hard to be in that position your first year because you’ve had to learn two positions. He’s sometimes overmatched at being a four because now he’s trying to guard a bigger, stronger, more athletic guy, like a Solomon Hill, for instance. But if you put him at the three it could be a challenge for him defensively.
“The other night the reason he played was we really felt we needed some perimeter shooting and we could get some decent shots out there, decent looks, and we figured give him a shot. He’s been doing a good job in practice for a long time and give him an opportunity to get out there. And I love the way he played. He went out and played with a tremendous amount of confidence. He didn’t hesitate a bit.
“First time he got the ball he was really open from about 17 feet out in the first half and then in the second half, first time he touched it in the second half he had a 3 and he fired it and got it. I liked the fact he went in and was not hesitant in front of 14,000 people and No. 12 team in the country, it didn’t really seem to bother him a bit, so that was great to see.”
— Bone was asked whether he thinks the program has taken a step back this season, or if there are certain areas in which WSU has become stronger that could pay off in the immediate future.
“I think without a doubt we’ve taken a step back, wins and losses. That’s the reality. We don’t have as many wins as we did last year or the year before, so we’ve taken a step back in regards to our winning percentage. But if you’re sitting in our office, in the basketball office with us coaches, you see growth in some areas that are critical for the future of the program.”
“Start with character. I think the character of our guys carries over to the way they play and that has nothing to do with making baskets or getting a rebound, but their attitude toward each other, coachability, the fact that they’re responsible, dependable, showing great discipline. A lot of those characteristics are going to contribute to success down the road. And the fact that you look at the three guards that’ll start, they’re all sophomores. Royce (Woolridge), DaVonte (Lacy) and Dexter (Kernich-Drew) are all sophomores right now and D.J.’s (Shelton) received valuable minutes this year, he’s a guy that we’ve actually changed his role from being more of a post guy to like a stretch-4, a big who can step out and stretch the defense by being a threat to shoot it. He’s a very good passer. He’s one of our best ball handlers. And I think the experience that some of these guys are getting, along with guys we have coming in next year, guys that are already here at school that are around, we like the pieces that are there.”