WSU basketball focuses on positives
PULLMAN – From an outsider’s perspective, it has been a somewhat tumultuous – and, to be sure, busy – offseason for the Washington State basketball team.
There have been personnel changes, most notably the dismissal of senior point guard Reggie Moore in late September. There was a coaching change, with the addition of assistant Ray Lopes, and former assistant Jeff Hironaka moving to a role as director of player development. And a pair of players who signed with the Cougars in November were ruled ineligible to play this season.
But fourth-year coach Ken Bone is all smiles in his office on a late-September afternoon, embracing the positives as WSU prepares to begin practices on Friday for the upcoming season.
He likes the way his team bonded during a five-game tour of Australia in August. He doesn’t think the loss of Moore, WSU’s only true point guard, will dramatically affect the way the Cougars run their offense. And though star recruit Demarquise “Que” Johnson was ruled ineligible to play this season, Bone said he’s thrilled that Johnson is enrolled at WSU with the opportunity to play next year.
“It’s a disappointment that Reggie won’t be here this year,” Bone said. “But other than that …”
Still, there will be questions about how the Cougars will replace Moore, who led the Pac-12 last season in assists but was booted from the team recently for an undisclosed violation of team policy.
Bone declined to comment on the rule Moore violated, though Moore told The Spokesman-Review’s Vince Grippi in a written statement that he “made a costly mistake” and wanted to apologize to WSU fans for his actions.
“He was one of my closest friends, if not my closest friend,” sophomore guard DaVonte Lacy said. “I wouldn’t have made it last year without him. It hurts, but it is what it is. You can’t really do anything about it now.”
“It’s never fun to see somebody have to depart the program,” said Bone, who landed an oral commitment from Moore as his first recruit at WSU in 2009. “But you move on. We have a lot of other good players and we will tweak some things here and there.”
Those tweaks might include an offense that doesn’t feature a true point guard, Bone said, though the Cougars often run their offense out of two-guard fronts anyway.
Sophomores Lacy and Royce Woolridge, along with senior Mike Ladd, seem logical replacements.
“We’re all D-1 athletes,” Lacy said. “So I can trust Dex (Kernnich-Drew), Mike, me, Dominic Ballard, Royce – I can trust any of them. Not one person has to step up. I just think the whole team has to step up.”
“I’m not sure you just take a guy and say, ‘OK, you’re the new point guard,’ unless that guy truly is a point guard,” Bone said. “We’ll be creative. Maybe Brock (Motum) will bring the ball up the court. Maybe Mike Ladd will. I don’t know yet. It’ll come down to what we’re trying to accomplish, what we’re running and what makes sense.”
Motum returns for his senior season as the Pac-12’s defending scoring champion and is one of two returning starters for the Cougars. Lacy is the other.
The roster has been slightly retooled. WSU added three freshmen (Johnson, shooting guard Brett Boese and forward Richard Longrus) and four transfers (centers Jordan Railey and James Hunter, former Oregon guard Brett Kingma and walk-on Bellevue transfer Keaton Hayenga), and also added freshman walk-on Bryce Leavitt.
“Once fall practice starts, that will form better dynamics and the chemistry will come along because we’ll spend a lot of time in the gym together,” Motum said. “Going to Australia helped. When real games start and start to count, we’ll click a lot better.”
WSU begins practice Friday with a 9 p.m. fan event at Beasley Coliseum.