Bone: Recruits still working on eligibility

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone signed a four-player class late last year that was regarded by many as one of the better ones in the Pac-12. But during his Tuesday teleconference, Bone said half of that class still must become eligible. He also discussed the Cougars' setback Saturday against Washington and the possibility of postseason play for the fifth time in six seasons.

Incoming recruits Brett Boese (Spokane) and Richard Longrus (Oakland) already have qualifying test scores. Longrus' play this season and his academic standing -- he maintains 4.06 grade-point average and just broke Bishop O'Dowd High School's career rebounding record-- garnered recognition recently from ESPN.

But Bone said guard Demarquise Johnson and center Richard Peters both still need to achieve qualifying test scores before they can join the Cougs this summer. Both played at Westwind Prep in Arizona. Johnson, who eschewed offers from Gonzaga, Washington and others to sign with WSU, was regarded by most as the top player in the Cougars' class.

"They're still trying to get eligible," Bone said. "I'm optimistic that they will make it and be here next fall."

For now, Bone is looking to position the Cougars (14-14 overall, 6-10 conference) into the postseason. A repeat appearance in the National Invitational Tournament appears unlikely as WSU can finish no better than eighth place in the lightly regarded Pac-12. The Cougars also cannot advance to the NCAA Tournament without winning their conference tournament.

But that might not preclude a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, which invited Oregon State during the 2008-09 season. The Beavers had a 14-18 record at that time. They finished the season with a .500 mark after winning the CBI.

"I've got to believe there's a good chance we would be invited to a postseason tournament," Bone said.

He said he has not spoke with athletic director Bill Moos about the financial implications of entering the CBI, which requires a financial guarantee of $70,000, but is in favor of taking the opportunity if it is presented.

"I think for Oregon it led into this season being confident heading into this season," Bone said. "Speaking for myself, I would love to be in a postseason tournament."

He said that is because of the way his team is playing this season in comparison with the 2009-10 season, when the Cougars finished last in the conference (6-12) and were 16-15 overall. WSU finished just 2-7 in the second half of conference play that season and then lost in the first round against Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament.

"It was the night after our loss to Oregon at the hotel," said Bone, referring to making the decision not to play in the CBI that season. "We did not end the season on a good note. We were mentally and physically fatigued. I know there wasn't a passion to keep going on from our student-athletes.

"I know it's different this year. They're working hard and the attitude has been good. I feel like we keep getting better and better. We're playing good basketball and we continue to go into the direction we want to."

BONE SAID SATURDAY'S 59-55 loss against Washington shows fatigue isn't a factor. He said he was pleased with his team's effort, execution and "desire to get rebounds." But the Cougars made just 6 of 20 second-half free throws and blew a 13-point second half lead.

"We did so many things well, but we cannot run from the fact that we made 6 of 20 free throws in the second half," Bone said. "That's a tough one to swallow."

To avoid its first losing season since 2005-06, WSU might need to win at least one of its two games this week. In addition to playing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against UCLA (16-13, 9-7) at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Cougars finish their regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday at USC (6-23, 1-15). Neither game is scheduled to be televised.

UCLA is playing away from its regular court this season as Pauley Pavilion undergoes a renovation. But Bone is not sure the location makes much of a difference.

"Sometimes I'm not sure players appreciate and respect what UCLA was back in the day," he said. "I'm not sure that has played a part in the psyche with our kids."

While the Bruins have fallen from their lofty Pac-12 perch in recent years, Bone said they still present plenty of challenges.

"There's some players there that we couldn't even get to visit Washington State," he said. "They have some talent in their program."

  • WSU is probably locked into eighth place, (unless Oregon State wins their final two games and WSU loses their last two). Assuming WSU is the 8 seed, they will play either Oregon State or Arizona State in the first round. If both teams finish with identical records, the Sun Devils own the tiebreaker because of their head-to-head win. The Cougars swept the Beavers during the regular season, while splitting their games against ASU.

    Bone said he does not have a preference toward playing one team. "I believe those are the two most difficult teams to prepare for because they both play a unique style," he said.

  • Bone said freshman guard DaVonté Lacy, who injured his calf against the Huskies, will play this week.

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