Newness abounds in Coug basketball
PULLMAN – Everywhere you look there is something new surrounding the Washington State men’s basketball program.
The practice facility has been remodeled, with giant images of the players adorning the walls, a refurbished floor and the fight song ringing the courts. There are new uniforms, a new scoreboard going up in Beasley Coliseum and new signage everywhere.
And, not to be forgotten, there are a couple of new gaps in the lineup, where Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto used to be.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” WSU coach Ken Bone said about the upcoming season. “Any time you lose a couple players of that caliber, what they were able to provide for this program the last few years, it’s really, really hard to replace.”
The new accoutrements are fine with Bone, about to enter his third year as the Cougars’ head coach. But it’s the changes on the court that are really his responsibility.
With Thompson leaving after his junior year – he was taken 11th overall in the NBA draft by Golden State – and Casto doing the same – he is playing in Turkey – WSU lost 33.6 points and 12 rebounds a game – and more.
“There is a level of confidence when kids step on the court and, when they look to their left or right, they see DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson,” Bone said. “That gives the other kids a tremendous amount of confidence … .”
The process of filling the gaps has already begun, weeks before Midnight Madness and practices begin for real.
The Cougars, like every NCAA school, get together on a limited basis for individual and team workouts in preparation for the start of practice Oct. 14.
“It is beginning to take shape,” Bone said of his new-look, yet battle-tested, team. “I don’t think we’ve spent quite enough time together yet, but I do like what I’m seeing.”
The Cougars return starters at point guard in Reggie Moore (9.1 points, 3.4 assists), small forward with Marcus Capers (5.8 points, 4.4 rebounds) and power forward in Abe Lodwick (3.5 points, 4.1 rebounds), along with main reserves Faisal Aden (12.7 points) and Brock Motum (7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds).
“I’m not as concerned about being able to put the points on the board,” Bone said. “ … But can we defend and rebound?”
Though Thompson was undeniable the star last season, when WSU went 22-13 and made the NIT semifinals, Bone sees Casto’s skills as harder to replace. The 6-foot-8 center led WSU in rebounding, blocked shots and defensive presence in the paint.
“The first guy people talk about is losing Klay Thompson, but I think we’re fine at the guard spot,” Bone said. “What DeAngelo Casto brought is really hard to replace.”
The 6-10 Motum will get first crack at the starting spot, with junior college transfer D.J. Shelton, also 6-10, and 6-8 sophomore Patrick Simon having to help as well.
Replacing Thompson will be a team effort, though Bone has been impressed with the energy of Fresno State transfer Mike Ladd in practice.
“His effort every day is what we need,” Bone said of the 6-5 Ladd. “It’s infectious. Other kids just feed off of that.”
Bone also praised Aden’s improved work ethic on and off the court and likes what he sees in freshman DaVonte Lacy (6-3) and redshirt freshman Dexter Kernich-Drew (6-6).
There’s one other area in which Bone feels there have been major changes in the offseason. Last year, three Cougars – Thompson, Casto and Moore – were cited for marijuana infractions, causing untold team chemistry problems.
Bone made it an offseason priority to change the culture. The Cougars who spent the summer in Pullman not only did basketball workouts and weightlifting, they also volunteered for multiple community projects.
Though the coaching staff initiated the process, Bone said, the players ran with it.
“In probably any business you need good character to persevere,” Bone said. “We had some issues last year that we think we’ve done a great job of cleaning up.”