1 Wings must step up. Forward Brock Motum is gone and he took his 18.7 points per game with him. That’s nearly 30 percent of last season’s scoring that the Cougars will need to replace, and the burden of filling Motum’s sizable shoes will fall largely on WSU’s wing players. Royce Woolridge and DaVonte Lacey averaged 11.0 and 10.5 points per game last season, respectively, and will need get those numbers up a tick. A dark horse to score more points is 6-foot-7 junior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew. The Australian is a capable shooter and a gifted athlete. If he can put those skills together he could assume some of his departed countryman’s scoring load.
2 Improve rebounding. The Cougars finished dead last in rebounding a season ago and Motum was their leading rebounder. If WSU is to find success this season the team will need to do a much better job of corralling missed shots. The backcourt has size and can contribute to the effort, and sophomore Junior Longrus was active on the boards in WSU’s exhibition game against Central Washington, collecting 10 in 22 minutes.
3 Quick frosh progress. Que Johnson has yet to play a college basketball game. In fact, he hasn’t played any organized basketball in two years after sitting out last season. But the Cougars are counting on the heralded freshman to provide energy and a scoring punch. Coach Ken Bone has spoken highly of Johnson and newcomers Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu. All will be counted on to contribute this season.
4 Find a point guard. The team took a big hit when junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn left following a suspension in September, as he was going to be the true point guard the team desperately needs. Both Lacy and Woolridge can play the position, but appear more comfortable in an off-guard role.
5 Maintain focus. The Cougars were picked by a wide margin to finish last in the Pac-12 media poll, and there will likely be grumblings from WSU fans unless the team goes on a tear. The Cougars can’t let low attendance or external expectations distract them from their goals.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.