It turns out Washington State Basketball fans aren't the only ones that have noticed the team's improved play with Faisal Aden and Mychal Ladd sitting out. In Ken Bone's weekly press conference today, he commented that Aden should be practicing this week. Ladd and forward Abe Lodwick could also participate in shooting tomorrow.
Bone also said they shouldn't expect to return immediately to their normal roles. The Cougs have won the last three in impressive fashion, putting together some of their best defensive and offensive performances of the season. This has not been lost on Bone. From Grippi's blog:
I wondered if he was worried that, when the players returned, if they would disrupt the chemistry his team seems to have built? Bone said yes to a degree. "They're going to have to find a way to fit in," Bone said, meaning they will have to play as hard, play with the same team ethos the Cougars have been showing if they want to play extended minutes. He said he's sorry they got hurt, but the group now has bought in to what he wants to do and for anyone to get playing time, they're going to have to fit within those team-first parameters.
I wrote a piece on Aden after the Eastern Washington game about how he should fit into the rotation. The observations from that game held true through the next two games and culminated in a dominating effort against Santa Clara. That was a game in which ball movement and unselfish play allowed the Cougs to be clinically efficient.
It seems when Bone was referring to the team-oriented style of play he seeks, he was alluding to one of Aden's biggest weaknesses. He seems to have an unwillingness to share the ball, which leads to a stop in the offensive flow whenever it is swung to his side. On Sunday, we saw the wings repeatedly making quick passes to dump the ball down to the big men, and that led to many easy baskets.
Perimeter defense has been one of the biggest changes recently, and Bone gave kudos to some of his players in that regard:
Bone also talked about how Marcus Capers has embraced the role of a lock-down defender, how Kernich-Drew has learned from Capers and is his "back-up Marcus" as a wing defender right now
It would appear that Dexter Kernich-Drew has impressed in his extra playing time, and Coach Bone is not in a hurry to send him back to the bench. This coincides with what he said earlier about the injured guys having to earn their time back.
I've commented before that it doesn't seem likely that Aden will change, as it is his senior year. However, maybe something like this is exactly what he needs to buy into Ken Bone's scheme. One that clearly involves quick rotation of the ball around the perimeter. With the coach also taking time to comment on defense, that is another area where Aden may have to improve to get his minutes back.
These should be some encouraging comments by Coach Bone from a fan's perspective. He is not playing favorites for the "veterans" and it would appear that everyone needs to earn their time. Hopefully the returning players take the message to heart, because the team has showed over the last week that it has the potential to win a lot of games in conference play and throwing a couple more good outside shooters into the mix could really help.
After jump, the full video of Bone's press conference.