4 keys to Cougars' hoops success next season

PULLMAN — An upper-division Pac-12 finish next season for Washington State's men's basketball team would build nicely on the momentum created by the Cougars' run in the CBI. And on paper at least, the crimson outlook for 2012-13 looks promising. There are four keys to turning that hope into the reality of a better tomorrow.

1. Brock Motum must return.

His dalliance with the idea of heading to the European pro leagues sounds like it may be wistful, but for the Cougar Nation it's a frightening thought. He was the Pac-12's top scorer this season and one of its top rebounders. Plus, the Cougars will need his leadership next season with the graduation losses of Marcus Capers and Abe Lodwick.
Motum was forced to play a lot of center this year. But with ongoing development from D.J. Shelton and the hoped-for arrival of 6-10 Richard Peters (he has academic work to do and it's a question that might not be known until July), Motum would figure to get more time at his natural position of power forward.

2. Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge has to make an immediate impact.

Given his work in practices as a redshirt over the last five months, there is every reason to believe the 6-3 shooting guard can be the difference maker he's been hyped to be. He's athletic, handles the ball well and can drive, but above all he possesses a nice stroke from outside. A tantalizing hint of his downtown proficiency was on display before a recent practice. Assistant coach Curtis Allen would feed Woolridge bounce passes about 18-feet away from the hoop. Woolridge would have to run to a spot, catch the ball and shoot. He didn't miss until his 19th shot.

The Cougars this season learned to play without a consistent offensive threat at guard when senior Faisal Aden went down with injury. People had high hopes Mike Ladd could become a viable threat. He was dogged with injury part of the season and looked to be more of a complimentary player than a centerpiece when he was on the court. But a fully healthy Ladd, coupled with Woolridge, could significantly boost the Cougars' production at off guard, particularly on kick outs to the perimeter. A legitimate perimeter game would, in turn, create opportunities in the paint as opposing defenses couldn't bank on sagging inside.

3. Reggie Moore, the dish king of the Pac-12 this season, needs to up his game by finishing at the rim.

His 3-of-16 shooting performance against Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament was a microcosm of his season around the rim. That's frustrating, yes, but also encouraging. How so? Three reasons: First, it's critical in WSU's guard/wing-heavy lineup that the point play aggressively and drive the lane, which Reggie can do well, as the CBI tourney run illustrated. Second, most of the shots he's taking are good looks, not cringe-inducing head shakers. And third, he doesn't seem to be missing left or right as much as he is short or long -- a telltale sign that his mechanics are good.

Moore scored in double figures 13 times during the regular season and hit 36 percent of his three-point tries. He averaged a whopping 5.2 assists per game in setting the single-season WSU assists record (193) and a team-leading 32.8 minutes per game. He's a seasoned veteran whose game is more complete than ever. If he can add one element -- finishing around the rim -- he will be one of the Pac-12's premier players next season.

4. Some combination of the four new recruits needs to step into prime time.

Peters (6-10, 260) is a definitive post player, while Demarquise Johnson (6-5, 180), Richard Longrus (6-6, 210) and Brett Boese (6-7, 205) are forward/wing types. Collectively, they are one of the most intriguing recruiting classes at WSU in years. Peters and Johnson still need to qualify academically, a process that could basically take until July to achieve. Johnson is hugely athletic and a tremendous shooter, and has gotten the bulk of the press -- but given the Cougars' thin post depth, Peters is perhaps the more urgent acquisition. Longrus is a multi-dimensional player in the Capers-mode defensively, but more skilled offensively. Boese is a catch-and-shoot bomber first and foremost, though he's improved his ability to go the hoop.

IN ABOUT EIGHT MONTHS we'll have a better sense of where the Cougars are headed. At this stage, however, the odds seem good that if a check-mark can be placed next to each of the four items listed above then the Cougs' post-season outlook will be bright.


  • It seemed like sophomore walk-on Will DiIorio played less this season than last, but a check of the stats says not so. He played 125 minutes this season vs. 88 last. The misguided impression may stem from game appearances. He played in 18 contests this year vs. 21 last season, and a notable number of those came in the stretch run of the Pac-10 regular season.

  • The graduation departures of Abe Lodwick, Marcus Capers and Charlie Enquist mark the Cougars' last official roster ties to Bennett Ball. But two unofficial connections remain: Brock Motum and Patrick Simon -- both verbally committed to the Cougs under Tony Bennett and later signed LOIs with Ken Bone.

  • This year's Cougar team featured eight players from the state of Washington. That's the most in-staters to suit up for WSU in one year since the days of Marv Harshman 40-plus years ago. The locals included five scholarship players (Enquist of Edmonds, Lacy of Tacoma, Ladd and Moore of Seattle, and Simon of Ephrata), plus three walk ons (DiIorio of Bainbridge Island, Dominic Ballard of Bothell, and David Wink of Bellevue). The incoming recruiting class includes one more in-stater: Brett Boese of Spokane, whose uncle Jim Meredith was a star player for the Cougs under Harshman in the 1960s.

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