PULLMAN – Tasked with coaching 13 of the Pac-12’s best basketball players, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak chose to share playing time equally, subbing in five new players every time the opposing team scored seven points.
That equal distribution of minutes made it difficult for any one of the Pac-12 All-Stars to emerge as a statistical leader during the team’s three-game summer tour of China.
But Washington State’s DaVonte Lacy found another way to distinguish himself among his highly-decorated teammates.
“He was a guy that – we didn’t have any official captain, but he pretty much separated himself from a lot of guys with the group,” Krystkowiak said.
As WSU’s go-to guy last season, it is a role Lacy is familiar with. For the Cougars, he was one of the conference’s most productive scorers despite playing on the Pac-12’s most offensively challenged team.
“I think him having some success, statistically at least, he kind of had the instant credibility of having had some success in our league,” Krystkowiak said. “The more time I spent with him the more impressed I was.”
The team spent 10 days in China playing games against professional local teams including a finale against the Shanghai Sharks, which are owned by former NBA All-Star Yao Ming, who addressed the Americans prior to the game.
The tour also served to strengthen ties and rivalries between the players.
“It was fun to play with some of the guys that you play against,” Lacy said. “Just see how they play and how they get ready for games and talk about their programs and what they like, what they don’t like and just compare it to your program and stuff like that. You build relationships.”
The trip consisted of athletic and academic events as part of the Pac-12’s Globalization Initiative, which seeks to promote goodwill through student-athlete exchanges and sport.
The team went 3-0 on the trip, including a tense 71-68 victory over the Sharks, and then spent three days touring the country, seeing the Great Wall of China, the Shanghai Tower, local markets and a Buddhist temple.
Lacy, who led the Cougars last season with a 19.4 points per game average, has tried to add a post game and some midrange isolation moves to his repertoire this summer. But he used the trip as an opportunity to work on facets of his game other than scoring.
“I wasn’t the primary scorer so I had to do other things. I wasn’t looked to like I am here to just go out and score like last year, they (the Cougars) needed me to do that,” Lacy said.
“They (the Pac-12 team) didn’t need me to do that, they needed other things. I think I rebounded pretty well. I think I shot the ball pretty well and got everyone involved.”
Lacy scored 23 points over three games, while collecting 10 rebounds and seven assists.