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Tuesday, August 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Seniors don’t let circumstances split them

WSU’s Daven Harmeling lofts a 3-pointer Saturday at KeyArena.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU’s Daven Harmeling lofts a 3-pointer Saturday at KeyArena. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
COUGARS

As the season has worn on, the Cougars' rotation has changed. One of the casualties of the change has been the playing time of Daven Harmeling (pictured above in an AP photo), who didn't play Thursday. On the link we have an unedited version of a feature that will appear in tomorrow's S-R. Read on.
••••••••••

• Before we get to the feature advance, a couple of quick notes. Marcus Capers' parents surprised him today by showing up, coming all the way from Florida to pay their son a visit. They were among a large group of visitors at today's practice. ... Assistant coach Ben Johnson is a dad for the first time. His wife, Nicky, gave birth to their daughter yesterday. ... Harmeling has one of his better games last season at USC, hitting 5 of 7 3-pointers and scoring a team-high 19 points. ... USC leading scorer Dwight Lewis missed the UW game with an ankle sprain. His availability for Saturday is still up in the air. Maybe he would like to sit. The Cougars have held the opposition's leading scorer below their average 13 times this year. Darren Collison was the latest, with his eight points nearly seven below his season average. ... The Cougars made 36 consecutive free throws over three games until Aron Baynes missed the second of two with 9:29 left against UCLA.

• OK, here's the story …

PULLMAN – Caleb Forrest and Daven Harmeling share a friendship common on basketball teams around the world.

It's built upon hour after hour in an arena together, founded on the court but cemented off.

And now these two Washington State seniors are sharing a position, splitting playing time but not the bonds between them.

Harmeling, in his fifth year at WSU, began the season as the Cougars starting power forward. But the sharp-shooter – the 6-foot-8 Grand Junction, Colo., native came into the season having converted 39 percent of his career 3-point attempts – has struggled with his shot – he's hit just 2 of 14 attempts in Pac-10 play, including 1 of 10 from beyond the arc – and his minutes have diminished.

Against UCLA on Thursday night, Harmeling didn't get off the bench, the first time in his memory he was healthy enough to play and didn't.

His usual 15 minutes or so have in large part gone to Forrest, another 6-8 senior from Colorado, though only in his fourth year since leaving Pagosa Springs.

Forrest is averaging 26 minutes in Pac-10 play, more than double his career average coming into the season. When the Cougars (11-7, 3-3) take Friel Court against USC (12-6, 3-3) this afternoon, it will be Forrest starting and Harmeling waiting his turn.

Is it tough to take minutes from a close friend?

"It would be if he wasn't so happy for me," Forrest answered. "We talk a lot about just being proud of each other."

And no one was prouder of Forrest's performance against UCLA – a career-high 19 points in 31 minutes – than Harmeling.

"Last night, after the game, it meant a lot to me to hear him after the game say 'I'm so proud of you,' " Forrest said.

Though Harmeling wants to contribute more than just support, the fact Forrest is picking up the slack makes the task of sitting easier.

"If I could pick anyone to give that type of game to, in terms of how well he played," Harmeling said, "it would be Caleb, just because he deserves it."

Forrest has earned praise from WSU coach Tony Bennett, though, at 223 pounds, he's not the most intimidating of power forwards.

"Are you saying he doesn't strike the fear of God in those people when they look at him," Bennett joked when asked if Forrest gets overlooked by most defenses. "He's a scorer, he just has a nose for the basket. ... He's got heart. He's one of the toughest kids I've been around."

And one of the most patient.

Besides Harmeling, Forrest also was stuck behind Robbie Cowgill the past three years.

"I knew until he graduated I wasn't really going to get that many minutes," Forrest said of Cowgill, who did just that after last season. "He was better at that position than I was, because we played the same position."

Harmeling split his time between the power forward and small forward last season, coming off the bench to supply offense from either spot. But the Cougars have more depth at the wing, with 6-4 freshman Marcus Capers emerging as the starter at the small forward, backed up by junior Nik Koprivica.

It was Capers who missed a late 3-pointer against UCLA, a shot that would have given WSU an upset of the 13th-ranked Bruins. The first person off the bench to console Capers was Harmeling, who missed a possible game winner against Vanderbilt two years ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I've been in that spot, missing shots like that before," Harmeling said. "I told him, 'you think that stinks, try doing into an NCAA Tournament to keep a team from a Sweet Sixteen.' I've been there and I know what that feels like."

And he knows what it feels like to contribute to WSU's success. And everyone, including Harmeling, is sure he will again.

"At some point, whether it's (today) or two weeks from tomorrow or at the Pac-10 Tournament, wherever it is, I know I'll get a chance somewhere down the road," he said. "I'm just trying to stay mentally prepared to hear my name called and, if I do, just to play with confidence, playing in a way that will help the team."

"Certainly he'll have his chances," Bennett added. "He's struggled a little bit with his shot, that's no secret to anybody ... but he's always a shot away from going on a tear."

"I'm waiting for that," Forrest concurred, "and I know it's going to come sometime soon because of the type of player Daven is. He's going to get it on track and start going off on people."

•••

• That's it for a Friday night. We'll have our usual 12 or 13 posts tomorrow (just kidding). Till then ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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