If there was one thing Washington State basketball fans could count on the first two years of Ken Bone’s coaching career, it was Reggie Moore and Klay Thompson would be on the court. Together.
Thompson, the shooting guard, averaged nearly 35 minutes a game last season, a little more the year before. And Moore, at the point, was right around 33 minutes in both.
Throw in Marcus Capers at the other wing – he played almost 30 minutes a game last year as a junior – and there was precious little time for the reserves.
But that was so Pac-10.
When the 8-4 Cougars begin Pac-12 play Thursday night in the Spokane Arena, their backcourt will look different, and feature more names.
Moore and Capers are back and both still start. But with Thompson now in the NBA, WSU uses five and sometimes six players extensive minutes in its rotation out front.
“I think it’s a by-committee sort of thing,” Bone said Wednesday. “We have a group of guys who can play the one, two or three spots and give us good depth.”
The depth wasn’t something Bone was sure of heading into nonconference. The third-year coach knew what Moore, Capers and senior Faisal Aden – the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 points a game – could – and couldn’t – do. But transfer Mike Ladd, freshman DaVonté Lacy and redshirt freshman Dexter Kernich-Drew were unknowns.
The came Aden’s concussion – he missed three games – and Ladd’s sprained thumb – five.
“It gave guys like Dexter an opportunity,” Bone said. “We found that in certain situations, we have guys who can step in and help out.”
The Cougars didn’t miss a step, winning their last six games, which covered the time of the injuries. The most visible change was Lacy stepping into the starting lineup for Aden, where he remained when the senior returned, averaging about three more minutes a game. But six guards are all averaging more than 10 minutes a game.
Which lets Bone do some things differently.
“It allows us to turn the heat up defensively,” he said.
In their six-game winning streak, the Cougars have attacked more in their man-to-man defense. As a result, no one has shot better than Idaho’s 44 percent against them, with three opponents under 27 percent.
Moore, who is still averaging 31 minutes a game and leads the Pac-12 with 5.5 assists each night, sees some other positives in the situation.
“It’s good to know you can have someone come in and not fall off,” he said. “I remember last year and freshman year, me and Klay would be like, ‘We really can’t afford to sit down.’ You can definitely take a break on the bench this year and really get our energy up.”
Which leads to the question, were there times in the past when energy had to be saved?
“To be honest, you have to think about that if you want to perform at your best the last four minutes,” Moore said. “Against tough opponents, you have to be ready for the end of the game.”
Not anymore. There are more options.
“I like the fact there is a lot of parity there, you don’t have a Klay Thompson in the lineup but we’ve got a lot of guys that are interchangeable,” Bone said.
And he’s willing to interchange them.
“It allows us to hold guys accountable,” Bone said, pointing out another positive. “I felt like the first year, the second year, there were times that even when we weren’t doing the right things on the floor, I felt a little bit like we had to keep going with certain kids.
“If one guy is not doing the job, there is a guy sitting next to me who is ready and willing to go out and try to do the job.”