Pac-10 Hoops Preview - Washington State

Over the next few weeks DevilsDigest.com will endeavor to bring you a comprehensive break-down of the upcoming 2002-2003 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. Included in this analysis will be the projection of team records, and post-season individual awards. The first section of this multi-part series looks at the Washington State Cougars.

Washington State Cougars (Pullman, Washington)
2001-02 record: 6-21 (1-17, Pac-10)
Postseason: None
Returning Starters: Three

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold) PG- Marcus Moore, 6'6 182 Jr. (16.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 stl, 3.5 TO/g, 1.4 A/TO, .435 FG%, .331 3PT&, .746 FT%)
SG- Jerry McNair, 6'2 183 Sr. (11.6 ppg, .407 FG%, .347 3PT%, .712 FT%)
SF-Thomas Kelati, So. (6'5 176, 3.3 ppg)
PF- Shami Gill, 6'7 222 So. (3.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .460 FG%, .656 FT%)
C- Justin Kordsmeier, 6'11 260 Jr. (JC transfer, North Arkansas Tech, Springdale, AK)

Key Returning Reserves: Nick Graham, 6' 176 Jr. PG (redshirt)
Justin Lyman 6'5 185 Sr. SG (4.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg, .310% FG, .291% 3PT)
Cedrick Hughey 6'6 197 Sr. SG/SF (limited minutes)
Milton Riley, 6'7 214 Sr. PF (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, .468% FG, .673 FT%)
Pawel Staisak 6'11' 215 Sr. PF/C (limited minutes)


Recruiting Class: Justin Bellgarde, 6'8 230 Jr. (JC transfer, Mendocino College, Ukiah, CA) Justin Kordsmeier 6'11 260 Jr. (JC transfer, North Arkansas Tech, Springdale, AK) Ezenwa Ukeagu 6'8 255 Jr. (JC transfer Palm Beach College, Coral Springs, FL)

Paul Graham enters his fourth season as Head Coach of the Cougars, his first job at the helm of a program after spending 15 years on the bench as an assistant at schools such as Southern Methodist, New Mexico and Oklahoma State under the venerable Eddie Sutton who has seen 13 of his former assistants land head coaching jobs at various institutions around the country. Graham hopes to bring the Cougars back to the respectability they last enjoyed in the early to mid 90's under then-Coach Kelvin Sampson.

He has his work cut out for him and understandably so considering the difficulties associated with recruiting top notch talent to a school such as Washington State University. Located in Pullman, WSU is home to 18,000 students in a town of under 25,000 people. The average high temperature during the winter months of the basketball season is less than 40 degrees and the town is just a short drive across the border from Moscow… Idaho. The average attendance is often less than 2,500 fans per contest, not so bad when considering that's 10 percent of the town's total population, but doubtful a recruit is thinking that when seeing a game played on Friel Court for the first time. So it goes without saying, this is a tough place to win at. Unfortunately for Coach Graham, this won't be the season that things turn around for the Cougars.

Recruiting Class Grade: C- A patchwork job of recruiting in the Junior College ranks won't even begin to turn around a program in as much disarray as Washington State. These three post players were all honorable mention or better in their respective JC leagues, but none are immediate high-impact players capable of really turning things around for Paul Graham. Kordsmeier is the best of the haul and has been compared to Bryant "Big Country" Reeves but perhaps even more skilled and mobile. Still, there is simply no reason to recruit three decent to above average JC players to a team that has zero chance of making any run at post-season play. In the grand scheme of things it actually might be detrimental with regard to continuity.

Noteworthy: -Poor Marcus Moore. Here's one of the best natural talents at the point guard spot in the entire West and he's stuck playing on a team with absolutely inferior talent. Moore would be a household name virtually anywhere else in the country, but alas, he's in Pullman, Washington. Might as well be Moscow. Oh wait…
- Jerry "Air" McNair as been among the league leaders in three point attempts over the last two year in Pac-10 play. Last season he averaged nearly 6.5 tries from behind the arc while shooting a mediocre .347%. He's a busy guy, taking all those shots. So busy in fact that he only had time to gather in 2 rebounds a game and dish out a measly 1 assist per contest. Not exactly the kind of thing that endears you to your ‘mates Jerry.
- McNair's understudy seems to be reserve wing Justin Lyman who jacks up nearly 4 three point attempts per game despite only playing on average about 12 minutes and shooting a mere .291% from the distance.

2002-03 Outlook: The Cougars are clearly going to be the worst team talent-wise in the Pac-10 next season. Even if the contributions of the junior college transfers are much greater than anticipated this team will struggle to compete for 9th place in league that will be deceptively tough next year. Moore is a stud but this is a team that's extremely weak on the wing, with little experience up front and a Coach that has yet to show the ability to do more with less.

Pac-10 Projection: 2-16 Postseason: None

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