PULLMAN – Isaac Bonton wasn’t totally shunned by the colleges in his home state.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard and former two-star prospect from Portland’s Parkrose High School did have one offer in the state of Oregon. It came from the WCC and the University of Portland.
But, no, nothing from the Pac-12 school in Eugene, or the one in Corvallis.
Suffice to say, nobody was happier about Washington State’s sweep of the Oregon schools – a 72-61 upset of the No. 8 Ducks on Thursday, followed by Saturday’s comfortable double-digit win over the Beavers, 86-79 – than the junior guard, who fittingly scored a career-high 34 points on Saturday with eight rebounds and eight assists to bring the Cougars back to .500 in Pac-12 play.
“He can just make plays with the ball,” teammate CJ Elleby said. “When you can do that and create so much, not only for yourself but for your teammates, you’re always a threat on the floor. Just to be able to have that kind of teammate, who can put pressure on the defense, I take us any game.
“This week, 2-0, home sweep. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Seated next to Elleby, Bonton couldn’t resist the urge to chime in: “Against the Oregon schools, too.”
“He has to make that clear,” freshman guard Noah Williams added. “Portland boy.”
Bonton followed the Ducks growing up and latched onto players like Tajuan Porter and Brandon Lincoln. His Parkrose teams also played in the state tournament at Matthew Knight Arena and Bonton said earlier this week he eyed UO as a school he’d like to play for. There wasn’t the same admiration for OSU, but Bonton occasionally traveled to Corvallis to play in open gyms.
“Personally, I feel some type of pride about the Northwest – Portland and even Seattle,” Bonton said. “I feel like we don’t get a lot of the credit we deserve. We have a lot of talent coming out of the top left of the country, so it’s kind of a chip on my shoulder having those schools overlook me and everything. But I’m really proud to be here and proud to be a Coug, and I think it shows.”
The former Montana State and Casper (Wyoming) Junior College guard played well against Oregon, scoring 12 points while contributing six assists. Bonton turned the ball over six times in that game, but that was partially offset by the defense he played on talented Ducks point guard Payton Pritchard, who had six turnovers of his own.
Bonton has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games and had at least 15 in six of those, recovering from an extended shooting slump early in the season during which he shot below 30% in his first 10 games as a Cougar. He’s shot at least 40% in five of the last eight games and picked a good time to go over 60%, with Klay Thompson in the building on the day WSU retired his jersey.
“I just see the work my boy puts in every day,” Williams said. “He’s in the gym before practice, he’s in the gym after practice and he really gets his shots up. It’s great to see when one of your teammates can heat up and get hot. Really he’s pulling 3s, I was telling him after the game, ‘Boy, you’re really pulling 3s from Klay range. You’re hooping. Hooping, bro. Keep on doing that.’”
Coach Kyle Smith said Bonton continued to grade out well in the analytics the Cougars use to measure players’ productivity on both ends of the floor and praised him for his diligent film study habits.
“Before every game, we sit down and watch 15 to 20 minutes worth, just 1-on-1 and we’ll keep doing that,” Smith said. “He was struggling earlier in the season. Analytically in practice, he was our best guy. So I said, that guy gets extra rope to try to figure it out and I’m glad he stayed with it. Today was a nice reward.”
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