WSU NOTEBOOK: Breske critiques Coug D

PULLMAN – The Palouse is far removed from Hollywood in distance and mood, but Washington State defensive coordinator and secondary coach Mike Breske might as well have been sent to Pullman straight out of central casting.

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Breske lives and breathes defense. His dark brown eyes radiate intensity. When deemed necessary, instructions and critiques are not so much spoken as they are barked. Loudly.

Breske's coaching career has taken him to such wayward junctions as Yankton, S.D., Wayne, Neb., and Fargo, N.D. Everywhere he has gone, he has expected – check that, demanded – that players give the same amount of effort that made him an all-conference cornerback and team captain at South Dakota State.

Thus, when Breske issues a compliment in regard to effort, it is not to be taken lightly. And this spring, Breske likes a lot of what he sees from the Washington State defense.

"I just like our intensity as a unit," Breske said. "We're playing together."

Not unlike his boss, Mike Leach, Breske never stops asking for a little bit more from the troops.

"We've got to develop more consistency," Breske said. "We've got too many highs and lows right now as a defense.

"I think we dwell on plays. We need to go on to the next play. I think that's a little sign of youth there and maturity, or lack of maturity. That's something we've got to work on as coaches with our players.

"But I like where we're going."

WITH THE FINAL spring scrimmage set for Saturday at Spokane's Albi Stadium (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), Leach echoed Breske in offering praise with an asterisk when summarizing WSU's spring practices.

"You're never where you want to be, but I think we've gotten better," Leach said. "I think we've had good work."

LEACH AND HIS staff forever stress to players the need to focus on the task at hand rather than worrying excessively about the past or future.

After years of brash predictions about playing in bowl games and winning conference titles – neither of which the Cougars have accomplished – WSU players have toned things down a notch.

"In the locker room, from the talk (among players), we're not really focused on winning bowl games and stuff right now," cornerback Rahmel Dockery said. "We're always just talking about the first game against Auburn."

"I feel like we're making strides," defensive lineman Xavier Cooper said. "As a defense, we're coming together. Our camaraderie is coming together."

One example of that camaraderie has been demonstrated by senior Damante Horton's eagerness to help Dockery, a converted wide receiver, learn the ins and outs of playing cornerback. Dockery would love to take Horton's starting job, but Dockery – a redshirt freshman – said Horton does not hesitate to offer him helpful tips.

"He's a good guy," Dockery said.

Cory Mackay, THE WSU football player whose promising career ended after his redshirt freshman season when he was left paralyzed from a highway crash in 2009, reports that he is one quarter away from earning an Associate of Arts degree in accounting at Bellevue College.

Mackay has gone to school off and on, including some classes at WSU, since his accident.

"I just returned from backpacking in Southeast Asia (mostly Thailand)," Mackay wrote this week. "My new passion is to see as much of the world as I can."

Mackay signed off on his note with two words: GO COUGS.

WSU BASKETBALL COACH Ken Bone and athletic director Bill Moos watched former Cougars star Klay Thompson pour in a team-high 24 points Wednesday as Golden State finished the NBA regular season with a win at Portland.

Thompson, who averaged 16.6 points per game (up from 14.8 as a rookie last season), finished third in the NBA in 3-pointers made (211) and attempted (526). Teammate Seth Curry sank a league-record 272 treys, and Curry and Thompson combined for the most 3's in one season (483) in NBA history.

Another former Coug, Aron Baynes, averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in 16 games as a rookie reserve with San Antonio. Former WSU guard Josh Akognon, signed by Dallas this month after starring in China, scored three points in the only game he played with the Mavericks.

THE WSU men's and women's track teams stage their lone outdoor home meet of the year, the 13th annual Cougar Invitational, on Saturday at the Mooberry Track Complex.

Field events are tentatively set to start at 9:30 a.m., track events at noon. Admission and parking (at the Beasley Coliseum Yellow 1 lot) are free. WSU's men are 10th and the women 22nd in the dual-meet rankings of Track & Field News. Those rankings do not accurately reflect how teams are expected to do at the NCAA Championships in June in Eugene.

Reigning Pac-12 long jump champion Scott Stephan-Ellis and javelin thrower Anna Adamko lead the conference in their events with season bests of 24 feet, 9 inches (indoors) and 161-5, respectively.

THE COUGARS SAID third baseman Nick Tanielu, a redshirt freshman who is leading the Pac-12 with a .402 batting average, will remain sidelined with a knee injury this weekend at California.

Tanielu, who has missed five games, ranks 22nd in hitting in the latest NCAA Division I statistics (through Sunday). The Cougars were 18th as a team at .309.

FORMER WSU BASKETBALL star and major league pitcher Mark Hendrickson, who did not pitch professionally last year, has performed well in the early going for Baltimore's Class AAA farm club in Norfolk, Va.

Hendrickson is 0-1 with a 3.24 earned run average and no saves in four games (all in relief) in the International League. At 38, Hendrickson has adopted a sidearm delivery. He's given up just four hits in 8 1-3 innings, with two strikeouts and three walks.

Eddie Bonine, another former WSU and major league pitcher who sat out last season, is trying to rebound from arm surgery. He's 0-0 with a 6.30 ERA in four games (one start) with Reno, Arizona's Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

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