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Tough early schedule will show what’s in store for Washington State Cougars

Guard DaVonte Lacy, center, is one of two returning starters for WSU, along with senior Brock Motum. (Associated Press)
Guard DaVonte Lacy, center, is one of two returning starters for WSU, along with senior Brock Motum. (Associated Press)

They know what to expect from Brock Motum. That much, at least, is certain.

Otherwise, the Washington State men’s basketball team leaves much to the imagination. Four seniors are gone from last year’s team, as well as dismissed starting point guard Reggie Moore.

The promise of WSU’s unknowns, then, is what the Cougars are banking on now.

Motum, the Pac-12 leading scorer last year at 18 points per game, returns for his senior season as one of the top players in the league. DaVonte Lacy is WSU’s only other returning full-time starter.

And in the absence of a secondary scorer like Moore or departed senior Faisal Aden, coach Ken Bone admits that “we’re going to need a little bit from everybody.”

The Cougars will be tested early with a trip to Kansas City, where they’ll play perennial power Kansas on Nov. 19 in the CBE Classic, and either Texas A&M or Saint Louis the following day.

A home game against Gonzaga awaits on Dec. 5.

WSU will use those games, as well as the rest of its preleague schedule, to gauge where it’s at in several areas.

Can transfer Royce Woolridge handle the point guard duties? He’ll get help from Lacy and senior guard Mike Ladd, but it appears Woolridge will get first crack as WSU’s primary ball-handler.

“He’s still learning,” Motum said of the redshirt sophomore, who practiced with WSU last season while sitting out. “Obviously, Reggie had three years under his belt of offense and stuff, and Royce is still new to the system, so he’s just learning the tendencies of the guys he’s playing with. I think that’ll come with experience.”

Bone and Motum both laud Woolridge’s defensive ability.

“The defense was something in high school people said I couldn’t do,” said Woolridge, who was a three-star recruit before committing to Kansas as a high-schooler. “So I’ve really been working on my defense the past couple years.”

And who, besides Motum, will pick up the scoring slack left behind by Aden and Moore, especially with Motum likely to see a bevy of double-teams this season?

“There’s a few of them that want to be that guy,” coach Ken Bone said. “But I really think there’s just a number of guys that probably average about the same amount of points. D.J. Shelton, Dexter (Kernich-Drew), Royce, Mike Ladd, DaVonte Lacy – all those guys are capable of averaging 7 to 10-11 points a game, and there’s a lot of good teams that get by with a balanced scoring attack. And I think that’s what we’ll probably have after Brock.”

“I feel like we have the weapons and the shooters to punish them if they do (key on him),” Motum said.

The aforementioned have shown promise at times, though never consistently. Bone hopes that with Ladd healthy – he played most of last season with a damaged ligament in his thumb – the senior from Seattle can provide a scoring lift.

Ladd’s contributions were limited to defense and rebounding last season, his reputed smooth shooting motion thrown off by the injury.

“Last year, I was playing with a messed up thumb basically the whole season, so I couldn’t really do much,” Ladd said. “This season, I’m back like I never left.”

So is Lacy, who became a fixture in WSU’s lineup as a freshman last season. Dexter Kernich-Drew, an athletic sophomore, could also contribute in the backcourt. Shelton, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, is Motum’s most likely companion in the starting frountcourt, though freshman Richard Longrus could see minutes, too, along with 6-foot-7 shooting specialist Brett Boese.

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