WSU BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Opportunities Abound For Returning Cougs

Even though we're smack dab in the middle of football season, basketball practices officially tipped off last Friday, which means it's time to put our basketball previewing hat on and take a quick look ahead at the 2011-2012 season.

This is generally expected to be a transition year of sorts for the team. I intentionally didn't use the word "rebuilding" because while there are some nice incoming parts, I don't really see this as a foundational year where the program is truly building toward something new. The last of the Tony Bennett recruits will still be playing integral parts, limiting Ken Bone's ability to fully do things the way he'd like to do them. Thus, he continues to transition out of the Bennett era and into his own.

Without further ado, here's a quick snapshot of the team heading into the season.

Who's Out

Name MPG %Min O-Rtg %Poss %Shot eFG% DR% OR% Misc.
Klay Thompson 34.7 83.3 106.5 32.0 33.4 53.5 14.0 2.5 24.8 assist rate, 5.4 FD/40
DeAngelo Casto 28.5 66.4 104.6 22.4 20.5 57.4 17.5 9.3 7.2 block%, 51.5 FTR
Dre Winston 6.2 11.4 58.5 11.2 9.7 31.8 8.0 1.5

 

As you all know, WSU loses perhaps the best player in the history of the program in Thompson. At times, he basically was the Cougar offense last year. Virtually every possession went through his hands when he was on the floor -- his percentage of possessions used while on the floor and percentage of shots were 15th and 21st nationally. Few teams in the entire country relied on a player as heavily as WSU relied on Thompson, and for good reason: He was efficient with all those looks.

Most people assume Bone's biggest challenge this year is replacing Thompson. As you'll see below, that's probably not the case -- this roster is loaded with guards who, together, should be able to produce a reasonable facsimile of Thompson's production. Instead, it's replacing Casto that will likely be the biggest challenge.

Casto improved by leaps and bounds as the season went on last year, transforming himself into a true offensive threat for the first time in his career. He also was the team's best rebounder and shot blocker for the past three years, and his departure leaves a gaping hole in the middle on both ends of the floor.

Who's Back

Name MPG %Min O-Rtg %Poss %Shot eFG% DR% OR% Misc.
Faisal Aden 25.5 59.4 95.1 27.2 32.4 49.1 10.4 3.6 3.1 steal%
Reggie Moore 32.8 64.9 98.6 17.9 15.2 42.3 8 2 60.7 FTR
Brock Motum 19.2 47.4 113.1 19.1 18.8 62.7 10.1 7.7 66% 2s
Patrick Simon 9.4 19.4 104 16.5 23.2 47.8 14.6 2.6 16-62 3s (30.6%)
Marcus Capers 29.1 72.2 115.4 11.6 9.5 53.3 16 11.6 63.2 FTR
Abe Lodwick 23.3 57.7 95 10.6 10.5 47.5 15.4 3.8 30-93 3s (32.3%)
Will DiIorio 4.2 6.1 94.9 16.5 11.3 42.8 15.9 8.2 63% 2s
Charlie Enquist 4.3 7.9 97.4 7.7 5.7 44.4 11.4 6.4 13.3 TO%

If this team is going to go anywhere this year, it's this group of players that is going to have to make a significant amount of improvement.

In the backcourt, Aden is going to have to figure out a way to be more efficient while taking drastically fewer shots, and Moore doesn't just need to return to freshman form (when his offensive rating was 106.7 and he was using 22.7 percent of possessions), he needs to surpass it. Moore will start, and Aden likely will be coming off the bench, as he did at the end of the year.

Whether Capers continues to start is up for debate. He has shown next to no offensive ability in his three years; to expect anything more than dunks would seem to be a little silly. Without Thompson as a superlative offensive threat, one has to wonder if the team can get away with Capers on the floor for extended minutes.

Lodwick returns to the starting lineup at one forward spot, and he could do wonders by simply hitting 3s at a clip in the high 30s. Motum could man the other forward spot, but his defensive deficiencies are so glaring that it brings into question whether it completely cancels out his solid offensive production.

Simon could be a big wild card here. A heralded recruit, he disappeared into the deep recesses of Bone's bench last season as he struggled with his shot. He seemed to be a prime candidate for a transfer, but he stuck it out. If he regains the stroke that made him so valuable early in the year and can be at least serviceable on defense, Simon could make a huge difference.

Who's New

Name School %Min O-Rtg %Poss %Shot eFG% DR% OR% Misc.
Mike Ladd Fresno St. 74.8 105.2 17.4 21.6 51.6 8.3 5.0 66-169 3s (39.1%)
D.J. Shelton Citrus College 57.3 N/A N/A 19.9 65.9 22.4 12.0 7.4 block%
Dexter Kernich-Drew WSU DNP  - - -
-
-
-
-
DaVonte Lacy Curtis HS N/A  - -
-
-
-
- -

 

All four of these guys figure to see immediate playing time. Ladd and Kernich-Drew were both enrolled at WSU last year; Ladd had to sit out per NCAA transfer rules, while Kernich-Drew spent the year acclimating to life and attempting to gain weight after moving from Australia.

Ladd was an efficient and effective player at Fresno State, and he figures to start right away. He was an excellent shooter in his two seasons as a Bulldog, and reports are that if he had been eligible last season, he really would have helped the Cougs.

Shelton is going to play out of necessity, whether he's ready or not. He's not very physical, but he is tall and fairly athletic. The good news is that he was an excellent rebounder at junior college, and rebounding is one of those skills that tends to translate between levels. But his offensive game remains very much a work in progress.

Lacy established himself as one of the best players in Washington last year. He's physical and can shoot, dribble and pass equally well. His defense was lacking at times last year, and if it's as bad this year, it's going to limit the amount of time Bone can play him. But he's ready to contribute to the team from day one.

That does it for the roster overview. We'll be back in a few days to take a look at the player who hods the key for this team more than any other.

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