WSU's Ladd a coach in development
Ken Bone just hopes Mike Ladd is fortunate enough to coach a player like … well, Ladd. "He's been a pleasure to coach, because first and foremost, he's such a great kid," Bone said. "High-character guy. That's why he was voted one of the team captains last year before he ever put on a Cougar uniform." Ladd struggled with injuries last season after sitting out a year following his transfer from Fresno State. He started for the Bulldogs, but he made just one start for the Cougars last season. Did that cause any problems, Coach? "He's never complained about anything," Bone said. "He just listens and accepts his role. A lot of kids don't do that." Bone says Ladd requires "zero maintenance." That was true even after an undisclosed team rules violation prior to the season led Bone to dismiss Reggie Moore, a close friend of Ladd since childhood in south Seattle. "It was tough," Ladd admits. "I wish he could be playing with us right now, but it's life. Things happen. You have to move forward." Ladd, a natural wing, has been forced to take on some of Moore's old point guard duties. The position switch has not come without its challenges, but Moore has tried to help his old friend. "He gave me some pointers that would help me, because he's been running the point his whole life," Ladd said. "He's become pretty helpful, just how to handle certain situations out there. Take my time. Run the team. Make sure I'm vocal." The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Ladd hasn't played point guard since his youth basketball days. "I used to play for my father when I was in elementary and middle school. He wanted me to be a point guard so bad, so he'd have me bring the ball up. I didn't want to be a point! "I wanted to be a shooter!" he said with a laugh. Ladd became a prolific shooter at Rainier Beach High, where he teamed with Moore to bring the Vikings a State 3A title in 2007-08. Ladd averaged 19 points a game, and he joined Moore in signing a letter of intent with Fresno State. Moore wound up opting for prep school and never played for the Bulldogs. Ladd "decided to hang in there," and he averaged about 10 points each season and started most of his two years in Fresno. "I wanted to be closer to home," Ladd said, "and I always had dreams of playing in the Pac-12, or Pac-10 at the time. I'm glad I made the move." Ladd, splitting time between the wing and point and again serving as a team captain, has started all 11 games this season for the 7-4 Cougars. He's averaging 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 turnovers per game. Ladd returns to Seattle to play Buffalo on Friday in WSU's annual "home" game at KeyArena (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). He has fond memories of watching the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics play at KeyArena and the Kingdome. Standout point guard Gary Payton was one of Ladd's favorite Sonics. Ladd has no illusions about becoming the next Gary Payton, but he hopes the first Mike Ladd can help the Cougars win, even when he's playing the point. "It's a good experience," Ladd said. "I'm learning every day through practices and games." Ladd, a general studies major, hopes to play professionally before he goes into coaching. Bone likes Ladd's chances of succeeding at whatever he tries in life. "He has a really good demeanor about him," Bone said. "He's extremely well-liked by everybody that meets him, whether it's a player, a strength coach, the trainer, the academic people. "He's just a great young man."