Cougar Hoops: Sizing up the post minus Railey

IF THERE'S A silver lining to center Jordan Railey's suspension from the Washington State basketball team, it's this: youngsters Junior Longrus and Josh Hawkinson are getting more opportunities to prove themselves.

"Josh and Junior, along with James Hunter, are getting the majority of passes and opportunities right now," head coach Ken Bone tells about the void created by Railey's situation. "They're benefiting from Jordan's absence."

Railey was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, and no timetable for his return has been made public.

Longrus is a 6-7, 240-pound sophomore who played in all 32 Cougar games last season, all off the bench, and averaged a little more than 10 minutes and two rebounds per outing. Hawkinson is a 6-10, 245-pound true freshman from Shorewood High near Seattle.

"Both are bright kids -- that helps so much," Bone said. "They're really intelligent. There's a lot to be said for that. When you tell them to slide over here or cover the baseline there, whatever the situation, you only have to tell them one or two times."

Bone also said they're truly embracing their roles, knowing they're not the stars of the 2013-14 Cougs, but realizing every piece of the puzzle is critical to success.

"Setting screens and passing out of the high and low post, they have the attitude of 'That's what I'm going to do and do well,' and they are embracing it," Bone said.

The adjustment for Hawkinson has been smooth, even though he was his high school team's primary offensive threat, Bone said. "Josh sees that he doesn't have to score points to help the offense."

Through a little less than two weeks of practice, Bone said both Longrus and Hawkinson are "looking really good" and making few mistakes.

In fact, they are looking so solid at this early stage that Bone, when pressed, said he could see them each securing notable playing time this season. "We haven't had all that many practices and the season is so far off," Bone cautioned, "but I will say both could be somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes a game."

BONE SAID 6-10 SENIOR POST man D.J. Shelton, who is primarily a 4, could see some time at the 5 this season because he's bigger (253 pounds) and stronger.

"I can see us slipping D.J. to the 5 sometimes just like we did with Brock (Motum) as a sophomore when DeAngelo Casto came out of the game," Bone said. "Then we'd put Will DiIorio in at the 4.

"D.J. has really matured, he's letting the game come to him. Over time he's started to learn how to slow down a bit. It's difficult to change a guy who doesn't have a big motor, but it goes the other way too -- it can be just as hard to slow down a guy like D.J. who always has the motor going .. He's going to be one of our main guys this season. I'm really impressed with him."

BESIDES THE 4 AND 5, Shelton also could play some 3.

Last season he seemingly came out of nowhere to put up 80 three-point shots, and canned 34 percent of them.

Regardless of position, Bone says to expect more of Shelton on the perimeter, and Shelton himself says he's a much better outside shooter than he was a year ago.

"I feel way more comfortable," he said of his outside shot.

Little wonder. Since last season ended rarely a day has gone by without him spending up to two hours putting up shots.

"On my own, every night, I shoot 300 to 500 jumpers -- that's makes, not number of shots," Shelton told this week. "One of the managers usually comes with me to rebound, and some nights my girlfriend will come with me" -- though he confesses his girlfriend isn't much of a rebounder.

  • Bone says DiIorio is "letting his hair down a little bit -- just going out and playing, not worrying about minutes or politics. That's what you like to see in seniors. I love it. Will is doing great." DiIorio, a one-time walk on, is one of the team's three co-captains, along with junior point guard Royce Woolridge and junior shooting guard DaVonté Lacy.

  • The plan right now is for freshman Ike Iroegbu, who can play either the 1 or 2 guard, to be strictly used at the point this season, Bone said. "There's a lot to learn -- I'd really like him as a freshman to learn that position. If we ask him to play both, there's more for him to digest. I'd really like to keep it simple and keep him at the point if possible." Besides, he said, moving Iroegbu to the 2 would mean that some combination of Lacy, Que Johnson and Dexter Kernich-Drew would be on the bench. "Unless someone is in foul trouble, you don't want two of those guys on the bench."

  • The Cougar men's and women's basketball teams will be holding the fifth-annual ZZUMania kickoff to the practice season Friday in Bohler Gym at 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.


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