With fifth-ranked Arizona in town for tonight’s Pacific-10 Conference basketball game at the Arena, Washington State hardly has time to wallow in its misfortune.
But the problems are hard to ignore, even with two years of practice.
“Obviously, everyone’s talking about what could have been with Rodrigo de la Fuente, Beau Archibald and Ron Selleaze,” WSU coach Kevin Eastman said Wednesday from his hotel room at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, where the team stayed as it prepared for Arizona. “But those guys aren’t here, so we’re not even worrying about that.”
De la Fuente’s abrupt departure Sunday to a Spanish professional league was the latest jolt to a program that has endured one crisis after another.
Since starting point guard Donminic Ellison was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons before last season, Eastman has seen three of his top recruits leave the program.
The prolonged departure of Tavares Mack provided another twist.
“We’ve just had some crazy situations, certainly unparalleled situations in my coaching experience,” Eastman said. Archibald, a 6-foot-6 wing, left WSU after his father died of cancer last year. He has since enrolled at Utah Valley College in Orem, not far from the family home in Provo.
His energy and athleticism are sorely missed.
Selleaze signed with WSU last winter and went on to average 16 points and eight rebounds at Fresno (Calif.) City College, but his letter of intent became void when he flunked out of summer school in August.
The 6-6, 200-pound wing attributed his academic troubles to the challenges of supporting an extended family in Oakland, Calif.
At roughly the same time, his JC coach, Steve Cleveland, was taking the head coaching job at BYU. Selleaze promptly followed Cleveland to Provo, where he has emerged as BYU’s best player.
Selleaze had 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a recent game against Ohio State, numbers sure to make Eastman wince.
“You can’t control whatever happened with Ron Selleaze, a situation which I refuse to comment on,” Eastman said, clearly rankled. “You can’t control the death of a parent. And you can’t control Rodrigo making a lot more money that a helluva lot of people in this hotel right now.”
Even with de la Fuente, who was averaging 16.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game, Pac-10 coaches predicted a ninth-place finish for WSU this season.
“I think we should be optimistic, in all reality,” forward Steve Slotemaker said Monday night, after the Cougars suffered an 82-76 loss at Washington. “We had spurts of good play. I mean, we hate to lose, but why just go in the dumps and give up?”
Arizona riding high
Arizona may have won the national championship last season, but the Wildcats finished just fifth in the Pac-10 as UCLA claimed its third straight conference crown.
The Wildcats (11-3, 2-0 Pac-10) took a major step toward dethroning the Bruins when they beat UCLA 87-75 last week.
“This year, our experience showed when it got down to getting it done in the final 10 minutes,” said Arizona coach Lute Olson, whose team had lost five of six against the Bruins.
The final 10 minutes probably won’t mean much against WSU. The Cougars (7-5, 0-1) have lost 24 straight against Arizona.
Michael Dickerson, Mike Bibby and Miles Simon present severe matchup problems for a WSU team that averages 20 turnovers per game.
“We have to hope we can keep their quickness from running wild,” Eastman said.
Around the conference
Dickerson spent New Year’s Eve in McKale Center, working on his shooting… . Arizona had a 27-0 run against Kansas State and a 17-0 run against USC… . Little-known USC guard Gary Johnson burned Arizona for 30 points and eight assists while playing 40 minutes, but the Wildcats won 91-72… . Arizona State, which went 10-20 last season, already has 11 wins under interim coach Don Newman… . Ex-Cal guard Randy Duck, now playing pro ball in Macedonia, returned home to Texas over Christmas and made a side visit to the Bay Area to watch his old team. Asked to describe his three-month playing stint in Bulgaria last fall before moving on to Macedonia, Duck said, “That was like prison.” … One year after making the Sweet 16, California can’t make a shot. The Bears have shot less than 42 percent seven times in nine games. Their starting center, Kenyon Jones, picked up two fouls in the first 3 minutes of each half during a recent loss to Oregon… . Oregon sophomore Mike McShane, a liability last season, showed promise against Cal. His line: eight points, seven assists, one turnover… . Oregon 7-footer Mike Carson will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery Dec. 31 to repair a torn cartilage in his left knee… . Oregon State committed 15 first-half turnovers against the Cal zone, prompting some cogent analysis from center Terrill Woods: “We panicked and threw the ball away like scared puppies.”
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