Welcome to the inaugural and final edition of the Ike Fontaine All Stars. Here, we recognize the treasure among the trash that has often been Cougar Basketball. How bad has it been? The NCAA Tournament begins in earnest Thursday, and for the 35th time in my 40 years on Earth, WSU will not be a participant.
As such, we Cougar fans are left to find our own ways to entertain ourselves. This idea came to me some time during the tail end of the Ken Bone era. It always seems like the Cougar basketball team has one pretty good-to-really good player on an otherwise terrible team.
The origin of this phenomenon began when I was a student at WSU, and Ike Fontaine clung to greatness as Kevin Eastman gradually destroyed everything Kelvin Sampson had built. Ok, I’m sure Ike wasn’t the first great player on a terrible WSU team, but he’s the first guy I vividly remember, so the time period starts there.
We should probably start by listing the criteria. There aren’t any. This is an entirely subjective exercise. There were a couple guys on this list who had more than one really good year, so in those cases, I went with the year when the team stunk the most. You’ll never see Chris Crosby on this list because Chris Crosby wasn’t very good, despite scoring a decent amount of points.
We’ll also recognize a Cameron Johnson All Star from each of these seasons. If you ever saw Cameron Johnson play, you know why they’re called the Cameron Johnson All Stars. Let’s get to it.
(Statistics are points/rebounds/assists)
Ike Fontaine, 1996-97: 21.9/4/2.5 (1st Team All-Pac-10) - How could you have the Ike Fontaine All Stars without the namesake? If you’re too young to have watched him play, you really missed out. Ike was one of the smoothest players I ever saw, and his jump shot was something out of a Picasso. The 1996-97 Cougs went 13-17 overall, 5-13 in the Pac-10 and finished in eighth place. Despite the terrible-ness around him at the end, Ike finished his career as WSU’s all-time leading scorer.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Cameron Johnson
Carlos Daniel, 1997-98: 16.1/10.1/1.5 (1st Team All-Pac-10) - Carlos took the mantle the next season and had himself quite a year, averaging a double-double his senior year. Daniel was so good that Pac-10 coaches voted him 1st Team all conference despite a 3-15, 9th-place Pac-10 finish. Carlos was also a History major which makes him doubly awesome.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Leif Nelson
Mike Bush, 2000-01: 15.8/5.2/1.5 - Many of you probably remember Mike Bush as a standout wide receiver for those great football teams, but Bush actually came to WSU as a basketball player. It isn’t outlandish to say that he was one of the best athletes to play at the school. While WSU wasn’t truly awful in this 12-16/5-13 “dead cat bounce” of a Paul Graham season (we’ll probably see history repeat itself soon, Coug fans), Bush merits recognition. He led the team in scoring by over five points-per-game and was second in rebounds.
Once the season ended, Bush took off his sneakers, laced up some cleats, and caught 46 passes for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those 10 touchdowns led the entire team. So yeah, Mike Bush was awesome.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Nick Graham (yeah, he hardly played, but this is the only chance to get him on and he needs to be recognized for the terrible player he was)
Marcus Moore, 2001-02: 16.6/4/4.9 - Marcus Moore was one of those guys who, when you watched him play, you thought, “why the hell is a guy this good on a team this terrible?” How terrible was the team? Well, they went 1-17/6-21. This was Graham’s second 1-17 squad in three seasons. WSU actually had four guys average double figures that season, but Moore was clearly the best. He didn’t make the All Pac-10 team because the coaches had to make room for convicted felon/UW alum Doug Wrenn.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Justin Lyman
Thomas Kelati, 2004-2005: 14.3/4.3/2.8 (1st Team All-Pac-10) - Those numbers may not seem very eye-popping, but they came under Dick Bennett’s less-than-uptempo time at WSU. The Cougs definitely showed signs of life during this season, going 7-11 in the Pac-10, which is hardly Graham-like. Kelati was a beloved player, however, and was selected to the Pac-10’s 1st Team ahead of guys like Nate Robinson and Salim Stoudamire.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Hmm, I got nothing. This was the beginning of the glory days, and most of the guys on the bench became stars.
Brock Motum, 2012-13: 18.7/6.3/1.1 (3rd Team All-Pac-12) - The big gap between Kelati and Motum tells you that, for damn near a decade, WSU Basketball wasn’t terrible. Moment of silence for the salad days.
Ok, we’re back. Motum had two really good years, but his junior season came amid a run for the Zebra Pens, during which he earned 1st Team All Pac-12. He was just as good as a senior, even as the team face-planted to a 4-14, 9th-place conference finish. Somehow, the coaches demoted Motum to 2nd team All Pac-12, presumably because they had to find space for transcendent names such as Mark Lyons.
Cameron Johnson All Star - James Hunter
DaVonté Lacy, 2013-14: 19.4/4.2/1.4 - Lacy took Ike’s torch from Brock Motum and ran with it. On Ken Bone’s last team, one which went 3-15 and finished in 11th place, Lacy scored nearly one-third of his team’s points. Lacy had a much better junior season than senior season, but because Pac-12 coaches are doofuses, Lacy didn’t get all-conference recognition until 2014-15. He was outstanding for two years, but truly special as a junior. When you’re the only threat to score, and you still average almost 20 per game, you had a hell of a season.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Jordan Railey
Josh Hawkinson, 2015-16: 15.4/11.1/1.6 (Didn’t make an all-conference team which is absurd) - Hawkinson made himself known as a sophomore, but truly broke out as a junior when he didn’t have DaVonté Lacy’s protection. Hawk took over the leadership role and was a star among a turd of a 1-17, DFL basketball team. Hawkinson averaged a double-double even though he was clearly the focus of every opponent’s game plan. Because he played on nothing but bad-to-terrible teams, Hawkinson will never get the credit he deserves on a national stage. But fear not, Butterchubs, we Coug fans will always know how great you really were.
Cameron Johnson All Star - Ny Redding
So there you have it. Not a bad eight-man rotation if you ask me. They may lack a true point guard, but guys like Kelati and Lacy are talented enough to do it. With Hawkinson and Daniel patrolling the glass, Ike and Marcus Moore shooting from outside and Bush creating from the wing, these guys would be really fun to watch.