No luggage issues in Cougs vs. 'Zags

SPOKANE -- The biggest challenge facing the Washington State Cougar men's basketball team in the early part of the season, first-year assistant coach Ray Lopes said Monday, has been keeping track of the team's luggage.

For a team that started the season in Australia, that can indeed be a challenge.

A former WSU assistant coach under Kelvin Sampson who spent the past four years at Idaho, Lopes talked basketball at Monday's now-monthly meeting of the Spokane Cougar Club. This group of players, he told them, are anxious to learn and willing to put in the hard work necessary to improve.

"I can tell you that, as a coaching staff, we really like working with this group," he said, pointing to Wednesday's game in Pullman against Gonzaga, which enters the game ranked No. 10 in both national polls. "It's not always the best team that wins a basketball game. It's the team that works the hardest for 40 minutes."

The Bulldogs, however, are similar to Kansas, a team the demolished the Cougs, 78-48.

"They're deep, they defend the ball very well and you know they're going to be ready to go," he said.

But unlike the game with the Jayhawks, Washington State won't have luggage issues.

"I have to tell you about that road trip," Lopes said. "We were supposed to leave for the airport and we were there, waiting for the bus at 7 a.m. We were there at 7:30. We were still there at 8:15 when we were scheduled to leave. We checked and the bus driver was given a schedule that called for him to leave to pick us up at 5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m."

By the time the team reached Los Angeles International Airport for its game with Pepperdine, half of the team's luggage had been lost.

"Worse still, Brett Boese's bags were sent to New Delhi, India," Lopes laughed. "When we got to Kansas City, half of our luggage didn't show up with us there, either."

A night after suffering their worst loss of the season, the Cougs bounced back strong.

"I was so proud of the way this team got it back together and came out and was ready to play against Texas A&M," he said. "We came out and played a great game and it came down to a player making a three-pointer, a shot that was very well-defended I might add, at the buzzer."

So when the bags show up, the Cougars are making solid strides. Brock Motum, the senior from Brisbane, Australia, is one of the finest college basketball players he's worked with in his 24 years as an assistant coach, he said.

"He's a guy who's going to make a lot of money in this game," he said. "The only thing we don't know about him is where and at what level he's going to be making it."

Two players who have made exceptional strides this season, he added, are D.J. Shelton and Dexter Kernich-Drew.

"D.J., I have to give him a lot of credit for being willing to be coached," Lopes said. "He's very coachable and he works very hard. "Dexter is making strides filling in for DaVonte Lacey. I'm not sure, but there is a possibility that Lacey will be available Wednesday, but I don't think he's ready to get back in the starting lineup, but we're going to be a deeper club when he does."

BASEBALL COACH Donnie Marbut told the luncheon that he is very pleased with the eight players who just signed national letters of intent to play for the Cougars.

"I don't see any of them coming right in and starting for us, but I do think they're a strong class," he said. "We're still going to be a young team next year. Last year our Friday starter was a freshman, our Saturday starter was a freshman and our Sunday starter was a sophomore, and I like all three of them. I think we're still a year away from being very good, but I think we're going to be much stronger.

"We won't have a single starting senior position player. But at the same time, we can start a left-handed bat at every position."

Marbut also talked about why he brought in former Cougar Pat Waer to be an assistant coach.

"Pat has been at Fresno State the past few years, and when he got here he had all kinds of plans for us to be out, on the field working on development drills in November and December," he said. "I took a look at it and told him he'd been in Fresno for waaay too long. But I'll be darned. We've been out there working, doing everything he had on his plan."

Asked what fans can do to support the Cougar baseball team, Marbut was emphatic.

"Send your money to Bill Moos," he said. "But what we need is for you to come out and support us. We need to see fans in the stands. That makes a big difference."

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