Five keys to success: WSU men
Motum must respond
to increased attention
Six-foot-10 senior Brock Motum dealt with more double-teams as last season wore on, but still managed to lead the Pac-12 in scoring with 18 points per game.
This season – especially with the loss of guards Faisal Aden and Reggie Moore – Motum is the Cougars’ only established scorer, so it figures that opponents will key on him even more.
He’s proved to be a clever scorer, and his unorthodox offensive style helps him solve different defensive approaches. That skill must evolve this year for WSU to be successful.
handle the pressure
With Moore gone, guards Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd will be expected to help bring the ball up the floor, likely by committee at times. None of those players are true point guards, with Woolridge being the closest. It’s likely opposing teams will try to pressure the Cougars more in the backcourt than in recent years, but if WSU proves early it can get the ball up and down the court regardless, teams might back off a little bit.
Where’s the scoring?
Coach Ken Bone said that behind Motum, he could see a scenario in which a handful of players average around the same number of points. Lacy has shown the ability to shoot well from 3-point range. Ladd is healthy again after suffering a concussion and playing through an injured thumb last season, and his offensive game is likely to improve as a result. Junior forward D.J. Shelton will be relied upon to score more, too. As with WSU’s point- guard situation, their scoring will be done by committee, too.
must stay healthy
The Cougars dealt with their share of injuries last year – Aden’s torn ACL, Ladd’s concussion/ thumb, Lacy’s wrist, Motum’s ankle – and the Cougars overcame them by receiving extra contributions from role players. This season, those role players aren’t as defined, and WSU lacks the depth to sustain the same number of injuries it did last year. It’s imperative that WSU’s starters stay injury-free, especially early as the inexperienced Cougars try to develop a rhythm.
Bring the freshmen along quickly
WSU was hoping to have high-scoring freshman guard Que Johnson available this season, but he didn’t get eligible. Still, WSU has a pair of freshmen – forwards Richard Longrus and Brett Boese – who could play quite a bit with the Cougars so short on experience. Longrus is a rugged player who rebounds well, and Boese (Shadle Park) developed his reputation in high school as a shooter. WSU will need both to mature fast to provide depth.