PULLMAN – Asked to reflect on Washington State’s 2011-12 men’s basketball season, coach Ken Bone couldn’t help but start with the injuries.
There was Abe Lodwick’s stress fracture in his foot. Faisal Aden’s concussion. Mike Ladd’s ligament damage in his right thumb. Aden’s torn ACL in his left knee. Ladd’s re-injury of his thumb. And, toward the end, Brock Motum’s sprained ankle.
Those moving parts – plus the adjustment to the losses of Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, defensive inconsistencies and problems keeping opponents off the offensive glass – resulted in an inconsistent season that ended last week with a loss to Pittsburgh in the championship series of the College Basketball Invitational.
Still, Bone doesn’t consider this year to be a disappointment. Far from it, in fact, after WSU finished 19-18 for its sixth consecutive winning season.
“From my standpoint and the other coaches on the staff, we enjoyed this group of guys immensely,” Bone said Thursday at his season-ending press conference. “Even at the end when we didn’t get a chance to go to the tournament we all talked about and dreamed about going to, we made the best of a situation and it gave the seniors a chance to extend their careers, and they performed well right down to the last game. And it gave some other guys an opportunity to keep playing and gain some valuable minutes that hopefully leads into next year.”
Those seniors scored 30.4 percent of WSU’s points this season, although Aden, the best scorer of that group, played in fewer than half the team’s games and was lost for the season after injuring his knee against Arizona on Jan. 26.
So the Cougars lose Aden, defensive ace Marcus Capers, and veteran leaders Abe Lodwick and Charlie Enquist.
But they will, in all likelihood, return leading scorer Motum, who led the conference in scoring at 18 points per game. Bone said he met with Motum on Thursday afternoon to discuss the 6-foot-10 forward’s plans for next season, and he’s confident Motum will return to school for his senior year.
Though Motum meant more to his team as a scorer than any other player in the conference, Bone said the Aussie still has room for improvement.
“We feel as a staff that he can become stronger, have a stronger base, especially down low with his legs so he’s not getting pushed as much,” Bone said. “Then also continuing to develop his inside game. He’s definitely a guy to catch it 15 feet out, bury the shot, get to the rim, even shoot the 3, but he could be more multi- dimensional as a scorer if we could post him up a bit more.”
Starting point guard Reggie Moore, who led the league in assists this season, will be a senior. DaVonte Lacy, who had a strong start to his college career before struggling to score as much later in the season, will be expected to improve his ball-handling as a sophomore and could be a fixture in the starting lineup. Assuming Ladd’s thumb heals properly – surgery shouldn’t be necessary, Bone said – he could provide more of an offensive spark, too.
Beyond that, WSU will need help from some more unknown commodities. One of those is 6-foot-3 combo guard Royce Woolridge, who redshirted this season after transferring from Kansas. Bone said Woolridge, who will be a sophomore, has the quickness and shooting ability to help WSU immediately.
The Cougars also welcome a four-player recruiting class, although the most heralded player of that group, 6-foot-5 guard Demarquise Johnson, is still trying to get eligible.
So is 6-11 center Richard Peters, who, like Johnson, attended Westwind Prep in Phoenix before both players were sent home when the school decided it could no longer fund their scholarships, Bone said. Johnson has been working out with a trainer in Tacoma. Peters is working out in Toronto.
Brett Boese, a 6-7 shooting forward from Shadle Park in Spokane, and Richard Longrus, a 6-7 power forward from the Bay Area, are expected to qualify without issue.
Asked about Johnson and Peters’ chances at eligibility, Bone said, “I’m confident that it’s going to be close. I know they’re working hard and doing what they need to do.”
Johnson, a scoring guard who chose WSU over offers from Washington and Gonzaga, told The Spokesman-Review in February that he was still seeking a qualifying SAT score and planned to take the test again in March.
Bone said the Cougars are in talks with multiple recruits and could add a player to the signing class. WSU filled its scholarship allotment by awarding one to Will DiIorio in December, although Bone said it expires at the end of the current semester and he won’t know until things shake out in the spring whether DiIorio will still be on scholarship next season.
As of now, Bone said, no defections are expected. He singled out guard Dexter Kernich-Drew and forwards Patrick Simon and D.J. Shelton as players who could play a more significant role next season.
“We like the group we have right now,” Bone said. “We like what we have, so it’s going to have to be the exact fit if we’re going to add anybody else to the program.”