PULLMAN – There was a time, assistant coach Curtis Allen recalls, when Washington State’s recruiting presence on the west side of the state was so scant that many Seattle-area prospects weren’t interested in taking visits here.
Allen, who now recruits the Seattle area for the Cougars, was one of those recruits as a 2000 graduate of Wilson in Tacoma.
“Washington State wasn’t a popular choice,” said Allen, who decided to play his college ball at Washington, this week’s Cougars opponent on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. “Kids didn’t really want to go to school there. I was recruited by them, but I never took an official visit mainly because it just wasn’t the popular choice at that time.”
But things have changed under coach Ken Bone. When the Cougars travel to Seattle this weekend, they’ll do so with a roster that includes seven players from the Seattle/Tacoma area – four of which are key contributors, three of those recruited by Bone.
There’s Reggie Moore, a standout at Rainier Beach who committed to WSU via Brewster Academy shortly after Bone’s hiring in April of 2009. There’s Charlie Enquist, a starter from Edmonds who was a Tony Bennett recruit. Seattle native Mike Ladd transferred from Fresno State prior to last season. And freshman DaVonte Lacy has become a fixture in the starting lineup in his first year out of Curtis in Tacoma.
The pipeline makes sense, considering the West Side connections of Bone and assistants Jeff Hironaka and Allen, all of whom possess backgrounds rooted in the Northwest.
“I think that helps a lot when we go to schools and in living rooms, knowing that we’re from over there, and now we’re over here, and people trust us, and we can get some kids over here,” Allen said.
There are other reasons for the Seattle/Tacoma emphasis, too.
“It’s important because of locale,” Bone said. “It’s in the state of Washington, there’s a lot of Washington State alumni in that area that can help us in recruiting, and there’s a lot of talent over there.”
There is, and the list of Seattle-area NBA players – Jamal Crawford, Marvin Williams, Jason Terry, Spencer Hawes and recently retired Brandon Roy, to name only a handful – helps prove it. Lacy is the newest player to prove the same at WSU. He’s averaging 9.8 points in just more than 25 minutes per game as a freshman. He said it’s important that he’s doing it sooner rather than later, “so (coaches) can go back over to the West Side and say, ‘Look, I did this for him. You can be the next in line from the West Side.’”
That’s a wise relationship to establish, considering how tight the fraternity of Seattle-area basketball players remains. Ladd is a high-school teammate of Moore, who is a cousin of Seattle native and NBA player Aaron Brooks. Lacy is the cousin of former UW guard Isaiah Thomas, who is now with the Sacramento Kings, and is best friends with the younger brother of Huskies point guard Abdul Gaddy.
So Sunday’s game isn’t just for bragging rights in the state. It will also determine who gets to talk the most trash come the offseason, when summer leagues and open gyms in the Seattle area will feature former and current players with collegiate allegiances on both sides of the state.
WSU’s roster features more Seattle-area players than Washington’s for the second consecutive season.
Considering the West Side roots established by the Cougars’ current staff, that could develop into a trend.
“Having been here and spent a lot of time over here, I wish I would have at least come and checked it out (as a recruit),” Allen said. “I think when we do actually get kids over here, they really, really like it.”