Coach Ken Bone spoke with a positive tone Tuesday morning discussing the outlook for Cougar basketball this coming season.
Washington State will begin their official play this coming Friday, November 1st at 8pm when they host Division II Central Washington, of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in an exhibition contest.
Cougar Nation hopes the only similarity between this team and last year’s squad is limited to the point guard situation.
Last year Coach Bone dismissed a three year starter, senior Reggie Moore going into fall practice. Without a legitimate point guard left on the roster, Royce Woolridge was called upon to run the WSU offense. Once in a while on-the-job training works out just fine. In this instance, not so much.
Once again Bone will begin the season with junior Woolridge playing out of position at point guard. Royce can be a natural scorer from either outside or driving to the hoop. However, with a year of experience under his belt, playing the point should come more naturally to him this year.
“Royce is probably our best ball handler,” said Bone.
One area which has surprised the WSU head man thus far is improved defense in the paint. “A month and a half ago, I was really, really concerned about our post defense.”
With Jordan Railey taking over at center, the 7′ transfer from Iowa State will be counted on for help under the boards.
“I do think we’ll be better this year than we were last year at guarding the post. I’m happy about that.” The combination of Railey, senior D.J. Shelton and freshman Josh Hawkinson have Coach Bone confident the Cougs can compete in a conference loaded with talented big men up front. He cited Shelton as reason to expect WSU to do a better job on the glass.
Talking about the progress of Railey, who missed significant practice time while suspended for a team rule violation, Bone doesn’t expect the big guy to see any playing time Friday.
Taking a page from Coach Mike Leach, Bone described the status of Railey, “I don’t think Jordan will be playing quite yet. He’s doing a good job. He’s taking care of business. He’s doing everything we asked him to do, but I don’t foresee him playing this Friday.”
As for the status of Railey for the season opener, “I’m not sure yet.”
Trying to maximize the skill set of his roster, Coach Bone will employ a defensive scheme to put more full court pressure on the ball. He’s pleased players have embraced the change. “They seem pretty enthusiastic about getting out and pressuring the ball and deny passing lanes.”
Adding Coach Rod Jensen to the WSU staff as a defensive specialist facilitates a smooth transition to a style of play much different than a season ago. Jensen was one of the main reasons Boise State was successful over the span of 19-years dating back to 1983.
Though the Cougs have only scrimmaged once, Bone spoke of the energy guys are playing with in the new defense. They see what can happen as a result of the effort needed to press the entire court. Turnovers and opportunities for fast break buckets in transition reward effective pressure ‘D’.
Another question mark would be the status of reshirt freshman Que Johnson who has missed some practice time due to a foot injury. Good news on this front. “He’ll be out there (Friday). He’ll be playing,” said Bone. He went on to say Johnson isn’t 100% healthy yet, but getting very close to full speed.
The biggest question is whether or not the Cougs will take a step forward this year.
Picked by media covering the Pac-12 to finish dead last in the conference, Washington State would like to surprise some folks.
We’ll get a look at where this team is at and the possibilities of what to look forward to when they return to Friel Court Friday night.
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- The Cougs begin this season with three captains, all selected by Coach Ken Bone. They are Royce Woolridge, junior DaVonté Lacy and senior Will DiIorio. “All three of those guys do an outstanding job of reaching other guys on our team,” explains Bone. Why three? “I guess I just didn’t want to leave one of them out.” Bone hinted that he is thinking about adding a fourth captain. “I’m strongly considering adding DJ Shelton, which would be the most captains I’ve ever had on a team.” Four? “There’s no limit as far as I know.”
- Speaking of DiIorio, Coach Bone offered a heartfelt thumbnail sketch of what makes the former walk-on a special part of this team. “Will is very much appreciated and respected by everybody in our program. He’s kind of that glue guy that does the little things that might not show up on the stat sheet. But he does a lot of little things to help us be a better team. And he’s just a great kid. He’s been here for three years and he’s a senior now. He’s been absolutely zero maintenance in any way. Great role model. Great representative for our program and our institution wherever he is. We’re very proud of what he’s done and what he continues to do for our program.”