Hoops season just keeps on creepin'

I find myself having a tough time getting revved up for basketball season at the moment, because it still feels like we just started football season. But don't look now -- the first day of practice for the Coug hoopsters is three weeks from today.

That's right. Just 21 short days until the Cougs officially open their regular practice schedule. (They're allowed to practice two hours a week right now.)

Consequently, the news -- which just a couple of weeks ago was limited to drops of water -- has started to become a trickle.

First up, the Cougs picked up their third member of the class of 2009 when 6-foot-8, 210-pound power forward David Chadwick verbally committed to the Cougs a few days ago. You can check out the scout.com report here, while the ESPN/Scouts, Inc. report can be found here. In short, he's a skilled big man with a strong face up game, but not real physical yet.

The big thing is that everyone agrees that he's gotten better each and every year, which makes him sound like another typical Bennett recruit -- a high-character guy with lots of upside to develop in the Bennett system.

He kind of flew under the radar as a junior after breaking his hand and missing a lot of the season, which could be why scout.com only rated him a two-star recruit. ESPN is much higher on him after a strong summer, giving him an 88 grade and ranking him in their top 150. From afar, he strikes me as another one of those guys who commits early, blossoms as a senior and all of a sudden looks like a real steal of a signing.

Next, there have been a few changes to the basketball schedule, and the preliminary TV schedule has been released.

A few early games were moved around, as the Cougs now have an exhibition and four home cupcake games before heading to New Jersey for the first tests of the season in the Legends Classic. That's a good thing for this team, which will need some time to gel.

One odd quirk about the schedule I hadn't noticed until now: The Cougs don't play a true road game until December 21 -- at Idaho. In fact, in stark contrast to the last two years, the Cougs play 10 of their 12 nonconference games at either home, semi-home (KeyArena) or neutral sites. The only stiff challenge that is a true road game is LSU on Dec. 27. (Although, if we beat Mississippi State and Pitt beats Texas Tech in New Jersey, that surely will be a partisan Panther crowd.)

That's not necessarily a bad thing for such a young team, but it'll be interesting to see how truly ready they are for the hostile road environments they'll face in the Pac-10.

As for the TV schedule, there are 14 games already scheduled to be picked up, with the strong potential for more. Right now, your first chance to catch the team in action if you can't get to Pullman is Dec. 6 against Baylor. But I'd be pretty surprised if some of those early games weren't picked up regionally, and I'd be shocked if there wasn't a way to watch the Legends Classic. You'll also be able to catch the bulk of the Pac-10 games on TV.

And last, but certainly not least, we've got a cool little story at Cougfan.com by freelancer extraordinaire Howie Stalwick, who caught up with Daven Harmeling to get mini scouting reports on all the players. What's neat about it is Harmeling's frankness. Although he speaks pretty glowing of some guys, he's a little more or less glowing with certain guys, which allows you to read between the lines a bit.

Here are some of the more noteworthy observations by "Coach" Harmeling:

  • You can get a sense of how much he expects a guy to contribute from how much he says about them. His most effusive praise was reserved for DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson, calling Casto a "freak athlete" and Thompson "without question the best freshman I’ve seen since I’ve been here." I think we all know both are going to need to contribute significantly this year, and it sounds like both are ready to.
  • It sounds like Aron Baynes and Casto are going to form one salty front-line combo. On Casto: "Doesn’t back down from guys that are bigger than him, like Aron Baynes. He’s always banging with Baynes. He doesn’t take any crap from Baynes and vice versa." I like it.
  • Although considered more of a shooting guard in high school, don't be surprised if Michael Harthun becomes Taylor Rochestie's primary backup at the point for those few minutes a game Rochestie comes off the floor. (Rochestie was No. 96 nationally in percentage of minutes played last year.) Harmeling didn't really mention much about Harthun's ball-handling, but called him "very heady. Good decision maker." That's the most important thing for a point guard in the Bennett system.
  • He uses the word "upside" with a couple of guys -- Marcus Capers and James Watson -- which I would interpret, based off of his other comments about them, as code for "not ready to significantly contribute this year."
  • I remain unconvinced that Fabian Boeke is going to contribute anything of value this year, thanks to that balky back: “His back, every now and then, kind of flares up. He doesn’t play all the time. He’s very skilled. Once he learns how to adjust to the speed of the game and kind of gets back in game mode, because he’s been out so long, I think he’ll be all right.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
  • Those of you that didn't get off the Nikola Koprivica bandwagon after last year's disappointment might have some reason to smile this year: “His knee looks a lot better. He’s trimmed down a little bit. It seems like he’s moving better. He’s just improved. You can tell he’s more comfortable on his knee making cuts.” I thought he looked heavier last year, and if he's truly back to where he was two years ago, that could be a huge development -- as long as he's disavowed himself of the silly notion that he's a 3-point shooter.

One final note. You have to go over to the story if for no other reason than to look at Harmeling. He bulked up a little last year, but holy crap has he bulked up this year -- the guy looks like he ought to be playing tight end tomorrow, not shooting guard in a month. Sheesh.

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