Bonus coverage: One-on-one with Ken Bone

KEN BONE WAS on the road recruiting Thursday but took some time out to talk one-on-one with He characterized his fourth year at the WSU helm this way - sometimes in the game of college basketball you have to take a step back in order to move forward, and the Cougs bit the bullet this past season. Here's more of what the WSU hoops head man had to say…

After Bone's first year in Pullman, the average points allowed per game has decreased each season – the Cougs allowed 63.0 ppg in 2012-13 as compared to 70.5 in his first campaign.

"What we're trying to do is play a little more control... when I was first hired I felt we really wanted to push the ball and (for recruiting purposes). But I feel like we need to control the tempo to our advantage – to give ourselves an opportunity to win year in and year out. And I think we're getting there," said Bone.

Overall, Bone sees the tempo in his fifth year being similar to this past season -- with the possible exception of pushing it more in transition. But some key areas of focus for next year will clearly be better passing and more stops down the stretch.

IN LOOKING AT Bone's coaching history going back to the SPU days, he's always liked a main man on offense. At WSU it's been Klay Thompson and then Brock Motum. So who's the next Cougar we can expect to see dropping 19-20 points per night?

Bone says there might not be one, or at least he's not ready to say until he has more data.

"I'd really like to see better balance but I guess there's a little bit of an NBA philosophy, not that I'm really a fan of that," said Bone. "In the end you've got to go to your best players. In the four years I've been here, Klay Thompson was head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of scoring and then this year Brock Motum was clearly the best option -- next year we have 4-5 guys who could potentially average, say, maybe 8-14 points a game.

"We could be harder to defend if we have more balance," said Bone, who noted Royce Woolridge, DaVonté Lacy and D.J. Shelton as three of the potential main scorers, along with "possibly" Dexter Kernich-Drew. Bone said Que Johnson also fits that mold, with Jordan Railey and Ikenna Iroegbu "on the fringe scoring-wise, but those guys are really a little more unknown at this point."

SPEAKING OF LACY, there's good news on the injury front.

Bone said Lacy's knee didn't require major surgery and that he expects him to be doing everything the rest of the team is doing this offseason in 2-3 weeks. Yesterday, Bone said, while the Cougs were doing their weightlifting, Lacy was with a trainer on the side doing rehab and stretches.

OF THE INCOMING Cougs from the early signing period, Josh Hawkinson out of Shoreline sometimes seems like the forgotten man of the group, a player somewhat overlooked by recruit-types. But Bone says he's a "glue" type.

"I think it's because he doesn't do anything flamboyant on the court," said Bone about why he hasn't gotten more notice. "He's a little bit old school with a 16-17 foot jumper, he's efficient around the rim and he's a great passer – he makes the team better, he makes those other guys better.

"The role he plays is unappreciated. He's not going to be a guy with a lot of high-flying no dunks, he's not going to throw in a bunch of threes. But he has a great basketball IQ."

WITH THE DEPARTURE of Reggie Moore, it was a point-guard-by-committee approach this past season. With guys new to the position and the injury to Mike Ladd, the results were decidedly uneven. Will things be better at the point this coming year?

"I think it will be better," said Bone. "We are in the process of looking for another guard (for the regular signing period) and that guard needs to have a point guard mentality. There are not a lot of true point guards out there (after the early signing period) but we're looking for a 'pass-first, run the show' mindset.

"Ike is going to be able to help us a little bit there, and Royce Woolridge will help us -- he improved a lot over the course of the year. He had never played that position before… I compare Royce's season to Reggie's freshman year. And Royce became better and better in that role."

ADVANCED STATISTICAL ANALYSIS in basketball, like Sabermetrics in baseball, has grown considerably in recent years. Bone said the Cougs look at things like player-production-per-minute and other advanced measures -- but not to the degree he looks at something else.

"I don't do too much because I think there are a lot of intangibles," said Bone. "If you look at Marcus Capers, the stats weren't indicative of the player he was and how he made others around him better. The same with Robbie Cowgill – those are two good examples of guys that helped tremendously their respective teams. They're more "glue" type of guys," said Bone.

SOME FANS WERE, (and continue to be based on the CF.C message boards), highly critical of Bone this season. Between Bone and the players, who did that affect more?

"I have to believe it weighs on the players. I never asked them about it so I don't know for sure, but I'd be surprised if it didn't. As far as myself, it comes with the territory -- if you're not winning games you're going to be criticized. It's my responsibility to put a winning team out on the floor and this year was unacceptable in terms of wins, even my own wife criticized me (joking).

"But I do think we've established a foundation, I know that sounds strange after four years. And I know people may be tired of hearing it. But I'm excited about next year and I think we have a good foundation. We have quality kids who are coachable and that's going to increase with this recruiting class… they're working their tails off in the weight room right now, and they're really enthusiastic about what lies ahead."

  • Of his meeting with Moos yesterday, Bone said the WSU Athletics Director did not set any objectives/goals for Bone next season. "It was our annual meeting, everything went fine, we talked about this season, the ups and downs. There's no doubt we need to win more basketball games. Bill is supportive of me and the program."

  • Johnson has been working out on his own, said Bone, and is still waiting for full clearance from the NCAA despite having what Bone called a "great" first semester in the classroom. Bone said Que is doing well again this semester and anticipates he'll be given the green flag to join the team in offseason workouts when he starts his summer session at WSU, though he wasn't sure which summer session Johnson would enroll in. Because of the NCAA limitations that admitted Johnson as a partial qualifier to WSU, Bone says he hasn't seen Que play in a competitive situation since high school.

  • If the Cougs were to pick up a point guard in the regular signing period (April 17 – May 15), they would be over the scholarship limit, meaning someone would either transfer or lose their scholarship. Bone said he's only had one year-end conversation with one player and therefore doesn't know if there's anyone looking to move on. "In a perfect world they'd all be back…At the end of the day, there will be 13 (scholarship) guys on our roster next fall," said Bone.

  • Bone said Hawkinson has come over twice to Pullman in recent weeks to work out on his own with his future teammates. "I don't think I've ever seen that before."

  • In case you missed it, here's Chris Chancellor's write-up of Bone's press conference on Thursday: Click here.

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