Published November 01, 2012
PULLMAN, Wash. – The cupboard isn't completely bare for Washington State, not with Pac-12 leading scorer Brock Motum returning for his senior year.
But the Cougars have few other returning players with experience.
Guard Davonte Lacy is the only other starter back, and only Mike Ladd and D.J. Shelton saw any significant playing time last season.
Coach Ken Bone sees the lack of experience as an opportunity, not as a problem.
"I've been in this situation before over the years, where you are kind of looked at as an underdog, and you don't have this and you don't have that," Bone said. "A lot of times those are the groups that pull together as a team and maximize their talent."
Chief among things the Cougars don't have is a point guard, after senior Reggie Moore was recently kicked off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. Moore, a three-year starter, was the second-leading returning scorer at 10.2 points per game and led the Pac-12 with 5.2 assists per game.
In his place will be Lacy (8.5 points per game) and Royce Woolridge, a transfer from Kansas who red-shirted last season. Neither is a true point guard.
"Defensively he will give us a lift," Bone said of the 6-foot-3 Woolridge.
The most talented player is likely to be Motum, who led the Pac-12 with an average of 18 points per game last season. The 6-foot-10 forward made 55 percent of his field goals, and added 6.4 rebounds per game
Bone needs Motum, an All-Pac-12 first team selection, to provide some leadership.
"He's not a rah-rah guy," Bone said.
"He's going to have to take another step on the defensive end and with his rebounding to help us out," Bone said. "He will score points."
Last season, Washington State advanced to the championship round of the College Basketball Invitational before falling in the series 2-1 to Pittsburgh. They also tied for eighth in the Pac-12 with Oregon State with a 7-11 league mark.
Their 19-18 overall record marked the team's sixth-straight winning season, the longest such streak since 1991-96.
But lost to graduation were productive players like Marcus Capers, Faisal Aden and Abe Lodwick. Patrick Simon and Mike Harthun transferred.
That means players like Woolridge, Ladd, Shelton, Dominic Ballard and Dexter Kernich-Drew must do more.
Bone said one way to accomplish that is to instill more confidence in those players.
"Making sure everybody understands that we can be successful, that we have some talented players on the floor," Bone said of his top priority.
Bone likes the way the Cougars bonded during a five-game tour of Australia in August. He doesn't think the loss of Moore will hurt the offense, and may improve the defense.
Top recruit Demarquise Johnson was ruled academically ineligible to play this season, but is enrolled at WSU and could play next year, Bone said.
Washington State added freshmen Brett Boese and Richard Longrus this season. They also picked up transfers Jordan Railey and James Hunter and walk-on Keaton Hayenga.
Ladd averaged 5.4 points and three rebounds last season in limited playing time before he was injured. He's been named a team captain for the second consecutive year, and Bone expects him to bring leadership to the program.
Shelton averaged 4.7 points and 2.9 rebounds.
"He's definitely gotten bigger and stronger, and that could equate into playing more physical basketball, which we need," Bone said.