Cougar Hoops: How to run without the post

IN A FEW DAYS, when the Cougars square off in an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State, Ken Bone and his troops formally will kick off what figures to be one of the most post-challenged seasons in many years at Washington State. Help is on the way in 6-10, 260-pound verbal commit Richard Peters, but he doesn't arrive for a year.

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Athletic 6-10 JC transfer D.J. Shelton is in the fold now, but he's not a true banger. And while Brock Motum has bulked up to 245 from about 230 last season, there's a simple truth there: He's a face-to-the-basket guy.

As a result, Bone plans to experiment with a guard-heavy motion offense.

Given the team's plethora of guard/swingman-types, as well as Bone's affinity for the 3-ball, this approach to the season makes a lot of sense. While some may view it as a strategy borne of desperation given that there's no logical replacement in the paint for DeAngelo Casto, the idea holds intrigue.

In fact, it's intriguing enough to suggest the 11th-place Pac-12 finish that most pundits are forecasting for the Cougs could be well off the mark.

In basketball parlance, what the Cougs may be rolling out is the "five out/open post" offense. The way it works is that you open the lanes for dribble-drives into the paint, which in turn would produce either kick outs to open shooters on the perimeter, or continuation to the hoop by the penetrator.

The beauty of it is that opposing big men must decide to stay home to stop the penetration or leave the paint to go out and defend the perimeter.

The downside is that you're sacrificing inside presence and, therefore, the potential for putbacks and offensive rebounds is significantly diminished.

For this offense to work, every guy on the court has to be adept at passing, catching and moving without the ball. Ideally, every guy is also an outside-shooting threat, but that's not a deal breaker as long as the non-outside threats can receive the ball on the perimeter and then pass to the open man.

Bone is no stranger to this type of approach. He once used a four-guard attack during his highly successful tenure at Seattle Pacific, and also worked with it a bit in his time as an assistant at Washington. The Cougars' nail-biting overtime loss to UCLA late last season (a contest in which Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore didn't play) also offers a taste of how the game can be reshaped to fit the personnel you have. The Cougars slashed and dashed on the backside that day for a load of reverse layups, and they also ran some high-post sets.

THERE ARE TWO CRITICAL ELEMENTS, and one near-critical element, to making the five-out motion offense, (or some derivative of it), work:

  • First, you need a point guard who can penetrate, convert if given the opening to the basket, and consistently find the open man on the perimeter.
  • Second, you need multiple players who can shoot well from the perimeter, or at least pass it from there.
  • And third, you need players who can make back cuts when their defender overplays; who can pop outside when their defender sags; and can rotate to open spots in the half-court when a teammate cuts or drives.

    At point guard, a fully healthy Moore would seem to fit the bill nicely. In addition, Marcus Capers can do some driving, and freshman combo guard DaVonte Lacy might be possibility.

    On the perimeter, there's a host of compelling options. Faisel Aden, who was the Cougars' second-leading scorer last season at 12.7 ppg behind Klay Thompson, seemingly never met a jumper he couldn't take. Abe Lodwick (32 percent from downtown the last two seasons) can get streaky from long range, and Patrick Simon, believed to be firmly out of the shooting slump that plagued him in the second half of last season, can bombs away too.

    Perhaps most enticing for the Cougs on the outside is junior Mike Ladd, who transferred in a year ago from Fresno State and sat out last season under eligibility rules. In two seasons at Fresno State, this Rainier Beach High product took 257 shots from three-point land and hit on a glossy 38 percent of them. For perspective on that level of accuracy, consider that Klay Thompson connected on 36 percent of his treys in 2010 and 39.8 this past season. Ladd is no one-trick pony, though. He can also dish and slash.

    Also look for second-year walk on Will DiIorio to make a push for PT. He played some meaningful minutes last season and held his own well.

    And then there's Motum, the 6-10 junior from Down Under. Bullet-point No. 3 three above would seem to have been crafted with him in mind. As last year's UCLA game in Pullman illustrated, Motum can back cut like nobody's business. He also has a very nice mid-range jumper and can occasionally pop from beyond the arc.

    Last season he led the Pac-10 in field goal percentage, connecting at nearly a 60 percent clip, hitting 106 of 177 shots. He averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, mostly coming off the bench.

    Shelton, the JC transfer, adds an element here as well. He's definitely a 4, not a 5, and should be counted on to pass and cover the floor nicely, with some shot-blocking hops on defense and close-to-the-basket finishing skills on offense.

    The early signing period for basketball recruits commences on Nov. 9. WSU is expected to ink four players that day: 6-foot-5, 3-star shooting forward Demarquise Johnson ; 6-6 power forward Richard Longrus; 6-7 shooting forward Brett Boese; and 6-10 center Richard Peters.

    Peters looks to officially become the most worldly guy ever to suit up for Ol' Wazzu. Following Peters' path to Pullman is lesson in geography. It starts in his native country, the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, then moves to Canada, Florida, New Hampshire and Arizona.

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