2002-03 Preview #10 - Washington State Cougs

<FONT color=#000080 size=2 face=verdana> In my 1st preview of the 2002-03 Pac-10 College Basketball Season, I'll cover Washington State – the team I expect to finish in last place during the upcoming year. Head Coach Paul Graham is now in his 4th year, and I think the biggest question we have to ask him is, ‘What direction is WSU going?" Its either up or down, and its that simple.

Coach Graham is well-known as a distinguished assistant coach, serving under Hall-of-Famer Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State for much of his collegiate coaching duties. He's also made stops at SMU & New Mexico as an assistant…but so far, his dilligence has not been able to turn the course of Cougar Basketball as its head coach. It's a difficult task, seeing as how the city of Pullman has approximately 28,000 total population…and WaZZu has very few nationally televised games. However, smaller schools across the country have been able to build winning traditions at lesser power conference schools…and even in the State of Washington, there is a great example for the Cougs to follow. Near Spokane, there is a small Jesuit School by the name of Gonzaga. If the `Zags haven't laid a road map for success, who has?

Under Coach Graham, Washington State finished 6-21 in 2001-02, 12-16 in 2000-01, and 6-22 in 1999-2000. And to make matters worse, they won only one game in the Pac-10 conference last year. The upcoming 2002-03 Season outlook doesn't look any brighter either, though the Cougs might be able to get a couple of more ‘W's.

Here's a look at the Cougars Projected Starters, Reserves, and Incoming Recruiting Class;

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold)
PG- Marcus Moore, 6'6 182 Jr. (16.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.0 rpg)
SG- Jerry McNair, 6'2 183 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 1.0 apg, 2.1 rpg)
SF-Thomas Kelati, 6'5 176 Soph (3.3 ppg, 1.1 apg, 2.2 rpg)
PF- Shami Gill, 6'7 222 Soph (3.7 ppg, 0.1 apg, 3.4 rpg)
C- Justin Kordsmeier, 6'11 260 Jr. (JC transfer, North Arkansas Tech, Springdale, Arkansas)

Key Returning Reserves:
Nick Graham, 6' 176 Jr. PG (Redshirt in 2001-02)
Justin Lyman 6'5 185 Sr. SG (4.9 ppg, 0.5 apg, 1.3 rpg)
Cedrick Hughey 6'6 197 Sr. SG/SF (2.7 ppg, 0.1 apg, 2.3 rpg)
Milton Riley, 6'7 214 Sr. PF (5.2 ppg, 0.1 apg, 4.2 rpg)
Pawel Staisak 6'11' 215 Sr. PF/C (1.1 ppg, 0.1 apg, 1.2 rpg)

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)

Marcus Moore is one of the best players in the Pac-10, and that's something that every team in the Pac-10 has known for over 2 yrs now. He's a Los Angeles native, who during his Senior Year led his Dominguez HS team to a 32-3 Mark and a State Championship. Moore actually started his career at Redondo HS, but transferred to Dominguez his Senior Year for more exposure. Last year, Marcus earned Honorable Mention to the All Pac-10 Team, due to his fantastic play in an unforgiving team situation. Moore can score in many ways, but its his versatility that makes him so dangerous. He reminds me a lot of Troy Bell, the Boston College All-American.

Beyond Moore, the talk around Pullman (after everyone is done talking about Football that is), is about the new starting center, J/C transfer Justin Kordsmeier. Though J. Locklier was a serviceable Center, Kordsmeier should improve the position overall due to his size alone. He's been compared to a poor man's Bryant ‘Big Country' Reeves, though a bit smaller (that's if you can be 6'11, 260 lbs and be called small!) Kordsmeier does have the potential to average 10 pts and 8 rebs a game…but it'll be important for him to be sound defensively as well.

Along with Moore in the backcourt will be Jerry ‘Air' McNair, and fellow three-point hoister Justin Lyman…both Seniors…who combined to put up 10.5 three point tries per game last year as Juniors. A big part of the problem for the Cougars last year was feeling they had good outside shooters, and that's just not the case. They do not have a ‘Marksman', if you will…and McNair (34%) and Lyman (29%) should lose that tag immediately. For these two to improve their games, they have to pass the ball more efficiently…finding a way to increase their miniscule assist totals (McNair 1.0 apg, Lyman 0.5 apg). That's an extremely low total from the two spot.

In the frontcourt, the best low-post player at Washington State the past 3 years in my mind has been Milton Riley. However, Riley seems to always find himself in the doghouse…and never gets the court time. He's also very foul prone. Instead, Shami Gill, a native Canadian, played the majority last year on the post…and managed to average a little more than 3 ppg, and 3 rpg. Riley has to find a way to stay on the court more cause he does have offensive talent. He's also close friends with Marcus Moore, and gives a nice outlet for his fellow L.A Native. The team does have more depth than in years past, and should be able to rotate some big guys on the floor with the addition of Ukeagu & Bellgarde, as well as having Staisak back.

Perhaps the outlook could be a bit brighter if the Cougs found a better offensive system (i.e Oregon), or played tougher defensively…and maybe that's something we might see this year. If the players come together and find a go to guy in the post, plus get even more contributions from Moore…they might find their way to the Staples Arena in early March for the Pac-10 Tournament. But that's a lot of if's, and to say that Moore isn't maximized already with the load he handles nightly is an understatement. It'll be challenge for the Cougars this year. They'll have some fun though along the way at Friel Court, and you can count on them knocking off someone in that dungeon.

For more info on the WSU Cougars, check out there website at www.wsucougars.com.


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