PULLMAN – When Will DiIorio and D.J. Shelton wake up Sunday morning they’ll begin the transition to life after college basketball. They will still have practices to attend and a game to prepare for – though that part of their life is also in its waning stages – but they’ll never again step onto Friel Court to play competitively.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” DiIorio said. “I have to find a hobby.”
Tonight’s game against UCLA (23-7, 12-5 Pac-12) is Washington State’s regular-season finale and final home game. That means it will be senior night for the two WSU veterans, who will be honored before tipoff.
“I’m really going to miss this place,” Shelton said. “I’ve got a lot of good memories here and I just kind of got used to it. It felt like home, like I was going to be playing in Beasley forever. But it’s got to end and I think it is going to be hard for me.”
It could also be the last home game for Ken Bone with athletic director Bill Moos saying he has yet to make a decision on the coach’s future.
Shelton has been one of WSU’s biggest bright spots. After struggling early, the junior-college transfer has averaged 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play.
Besides his improvement on the court, Bone says that Shelton’s character has grown to match his game.
“In all the years I’ve coached, he might be one of the most improved people,” Bone said.
The Cougars (9-20, 2-15) upset the Bruins last year in the final week of the regular season and hope to pull it off again. Though the Cougars have struggled this year and are on an eight-game losing streak, Bone has called this year’s team one of his tightest-knit groups.
“Even when we’re not winning we’re still a good team,” Shelton said. “I love everybody on this team and the staff, everybody in the organization. They’re all good character dudes and the coaches don’t hate us because we lose, we don’t hate us because we lose, so even the next day after a loss is easy.”
When DiIorio leaves so too will WSU’s last link to the more prosperous days of Klay Thompson, who led the Cougars to the NIT semifinals in DiIorio’s freshman season.
“Freshman year we had a great time. We had a really good team then,” DiIorio said. “We had a lot of packed houses, which I’ll never forget.”