Bone: Onus on injured players to fit in

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone described it as a "good problem" during his Tuesday teleconference. When the Cougars (6-4) host Western Oregon (8-1), which competes in the Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, at 4:35 p.m. Sunday, they could have as many as three players returning from injury to incorporate into the rotation.

Senior guard Faisal Aden, who averages a team-high 16.3 points per game, has been sidelined since Nov. 30 when he suffered a concussion against Grambling State. Bone expects him to be ready to practice tonight.

Junior guard Mike Ladd has missed five games with a sprained thumb, but Bone thinks he and senior forward Abe Lodwick should be ready to practice Wednesday or Thursday and available to play Sunday. Lodwick has not played this season because of a sprained foot.

But after winning four straight games, Bone said none of the three would be guaranteed specific roles.

"It's their job to fit into the way we're playing," he said, adding that means playing hard, aggressive and sharing the basketball.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of their absences has been Dexter Kernich-Drew. The 6-foot-6, 182-pound redshirt freshman played 17 minutes during Sunday's 93-55 win against Santa Clara. He also scored eight points in 17 minutes during Wednesday's 66-64 victory at Idaho.

But Bone said Kernich-Drew's impact extends beyond the box score. He cited Kernich-Drew diving for two loose balls, including one when WSU was ahead by at least 30 points, and his defensive intensity in general as other reasons behind his increased playing time.

"I think Dexter is learning from Marcus (Capers) how to get through screens and how to contest without fouling," Bone said. "We're really proud of the job he's doing defensively."

In addition to mentoring Kernich-Drew, Bone also has asked Capers, a senior, to guard each opponent's best offensive player. He limited Idaho's Deremy Geiger to eight points on 2 of 7 shooting. Santa Clara's Kevin Foster scored 16 points, but converted just 2 of 6 3-pointers. In just two years with the Broncos, Foster broke Steve Nash's school record with 272 3-pointers entering this season.

"That's the response we've expected out of Marcus," Bone said. "He's embracing that role as a lock-down defender."

He said he has noticed a change in his team since they lost three consecutive games from Nov. 24-27 at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

"I think our kids are starting to understand that if we're going to have a chance to be good after our experience in California, we're going to have to do it together," Bone said.

He also credited the scout team with pushing others in practice. Bone cited Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge and two walk-on freshmen, guard Dominic Ballard and Chuks Iroegbu, in addition to sophomore center David Wink, behind that effort. Video assistant Mike Simonson also has practiced with the scout team.

"I think our scout team has been outstanding every practice," Bone said. "Those guys have done a great job of competing and working as hard as possible."

WITH THAT SAID, Bone said he is looking for balance because this is finals week for the Cougars. Bone said he just returned to Pullman from a recruiting trip, but plans on reviewing each player's schedule before determining whether it would make more sense to cancel Wednesday or Thursday's practice or shorten each session this week.

"We will try to keep the practices fairly short, but at the same time go hard so we can be competitive," he said. "We need to keep that competitive level every day in practice and sustain it into conference play."

Bone said that led into the decision to schedule a home game Sunday.

"It's a rough time of year to be traveling," he said.

It will mark the final game at Friel Court until Jan. 19 versus Stanford. The Cougars play Dec. 22 against Pepperdine at Seattle's KeyArena and then open conference play the following week against Oregon and Oregon State at Spokane Arena.

Bone said the long road stint does not concern him.

"We hope to continue to play at the same level and not get concerned about where we're playing," he said.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Injuries to junior point guard Reggie Moore, who battled a groin injury early in the season, Aden and Ladd have resulted in more playing time for freshman DaVonté Lacy.

    "He's trying to play as hard as he can for as long as he can," Bone said. "I think it's going to take time for him to understand how to be locked in for every second. We're picking on him a little bit because we know what he's capable of doing."

    He said another focus with Lacy is on his ball-handling skills because he is "a little on the careless side."

    But Bone also praised Lacy's attitude and said the Curtis High School graduate can be an impact player as either a point or shooting guard.

    "There's no doubt in my mind that in time he's going to be a really good player," he said.

  • The Pac-12 is 0-9 against ranked teams and Bone attributed some of those woes to chemistry problems. He noted that Arizona, California and UCLA all have suspended impact players.

    As far as Oregon State's upset loss 74-60 loss Dec. 9 against Idaho, he attributed that to the recent death of Fred Thompson, a defensive tackle for the Beavers' football team.

    "My understanding is that he is really close to Jared Cunningham and some of the other players," Bone said. "I really believe it affected that team that night."

    He said he is confident several teams will recover and perform well during Pac-12 play.


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