As we creep closer to November 1st when Washington State men’s basketball takes the court to open the 2013-14 season, Coach Ken Bone and junior guard DaVonté Lacy talked hoops at the Pac-12 Media Day Thursday morning.
It should come as no surprise the Cougs are picked to finish 12th in the conference by the Pac-12 media. WSU is coming off a disappointing 13-19 season and slumped to 4-14 in league play, what else would you expect? Oh. And for additional challenge, Coach Bone will have to replace the scoring production of the Pac-12 leader the past two years in Brock Motum.
There was no mention of point guard Danny Lawhorn, a JC transfer, who was expected to see plenty of playing time running the WSU offense. Makes sense since Lawhorn left school shortly after being suspended for violating team rules. (complete story here)
Take heart Cougar Nation. Bone did specifically mention junior center Jordan Railey, another player counted on to contribute big minutes in the post. Railey is currently suspended from participating in practice for violating team rules. Obviously his mistake has provided a teachable moment rather than something more serious.
When defining why he believes there will be improved results this coming season, Coach Bone responded, “Love the (team’s) work ethic , the attitude and the coachability that these guys bring.”
Additionally, Bone seemed excited to talk about the new assistant coach he added to replace Ben Johnson who moved back to Australia over the off-season.
“We added Rod Jensen who spent a lot of time at Boise State as an assistant coach and then a head coach. He’s had a couple of other stops along the way. He’s brought a new ingredient to our program and an a very up tempo, aggressive style of defense which I think the players are excited about.”
Just how aggressive the Cougar D will be this year is a big question because of rule changes designed to increase scoring. Basically, fouls will be whistled when guarding an opponent by using a forearm, two hands or continually placing one hand on a player.
“I’m talking about denial defense,” explained Bone, “and on-the-ball pressure and hopefully not using our hands a whole lot and fouling.”
Washington State’s record last year might fool some. They were in a lot of games deep into the second half only to lack the ability to finish strong to earn a win.
“I’m hoping that we have better poise going down the stretch,” Bone said when reflected on the past season. He went on to remind us that dismissed point guard Reggie Moore had been counted on to deliver a strong senior campaign.
“With (Moore’s) departure, we were not prepared to just throw some other guys out there. During the course of the year you hope your guys improve and I think they did improve. Bottom line is we did not win some of the close games.”
Never one to shrink away from responsibility, Bone continued, “A lot of that is on me as the head coach. Hopefully we’ll win more this year than last year.”
Fulfilling the obligatory interest in player reaction to being picked to finish last in the Pac-12, Lacy was asked about his take on the poll.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s something we might have to listen to, but we don’t have to subscribe to it. We can run with it and use that as a stepping stone like a chip on our shoulder. I don’t really pay attention to it.”
Looking around the conference, it appears Pac-12 basketball will continue rejuvenation. Coach Bone sounded like Commissioner Larry Scott by pointing out two of the five teams who went to the NCAA tournament last year advanced to the Sweet 16. Expect that number to increase according to Bone.
“I think our league is very good and it’s just getting better.”
The feeling around Cougar Nation is an expectation WSU men’s basketball is getting better as well.