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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars sign play-making guard

Washington State finished off its recruiting class in advance of the 2007-08 season Monday, signing a Houston native to a letter of intent.

Stephen Sauls, who spent this academic year at Air Force’s prep school, decided to sign with the Cougars instead of continuing on with the Falcons. Sauls, a 6-foot-3 point guard, also had offers from Saint Louis and Colorado, where former Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik recently took the top job.

“The military life, I couldn’t stand it, man. … It was a good place to be, but it just wasn’t for me,” said Sauls, who committed to the Cougars after a weekend visit, calling head coach Tony Bennett before he got back home from the trip. “I can just see myself fitting in and excelling.”

An Air Force assistant alerted WSU during the season that Sauls was planning to go elsewhere, prompting the Cougars to take a look at the 195-pound guard. And when the Air Force staff moved to Colorado, it ended up losing out on Sauls largely because of that tip.

“When Mac (Hopson) and Chris (Matthews) left, I went up and saw him and really liked him,” said WSU assistant Matt Woodley. “Good length, a real good defender and a good playmaker off the dribble. He’s a good passer. He’ll fit right in with our team.”

Sauls will likely have the upcoming year to learn in limited minutes, with the Cougars returning at least three guards who played significant minutes last season. Sauls does fill the last spot vacated by those two April transfers, Hopson and Matthews, and now WSU is at its scholarship limit for the upcoming season.

“He addresses a need for out team with his playmaking ability and defensive mindset,” Bennett said in a statement. “Hopefully, his year at the Air Force Prep Academy has prepared him for the rigors of being a successful student-athlete. Once he met our players and saw the campus, he knew Washington State was the place for him.”

Sauls led the prep academy team in assists and was the second-leading scorer with better than 13 points a game.

“They have guards coming back, but their guards are more scoring-oriented,” Sauls said of WSU. “They brought me in to run the point; to orchestrate.”