Inside Cougar hoops with Robbie Cowgill

PULLMAN – Robbie Cowgill says he still has the quicks. The strength, though, isn't what it used to be. But that hasn't stopped the old Cougar forward from mixing it up on the practice court the last few seasons with the Cougar basketball team. So when this mainstay from the 26-win WSU clubs of 2006-07 and 2007-08 is asked for his assessment of the current Cougs, he offers up first-hand insights.

Sophomore forward Junior Longrus, for instance, is a guy who puts a smile on Cowgill's face because he embraces defense.

"I like him, I like his energy," says Cowgill, who ranks among the 10 most prolific shot blockers in the WSU record book. "He's pretty physical and he's the type of player when you're on offense you're like ‘oh great.' You're not looking forward to going against him because you know he's going to heat you up, body you up and be physical with you ... he's just built like a perfect defender."

He said Longrus reminds him of Marcus Capers, not a great scorer but an impact player on defense.

Between work travel and his wife April expecting their first baby (a girl) any day now, Cowgill hasn't had a chance yet this fall to hit the hardwood with the Cougs. "I'm out of shape," he joked. "But Coach Bone and I are close so we've been in contact. I texted him the other day and said ‘we're back, and we're going to be here for a long time'."


Last season Cowgill was on the court once a week playing for the scout team.

In fact, he's been a weekly presence on a pretty consistent basis since he graduated in 2008 and opted to stay in Pullman working with Campus Crusade for Christ.

"I knew all the guys, since I had just played with them the year before, so basically I got to take shots I never got to take on the scout team."

Cowgill mostly plays on the scout team, but he also jumps into drills with the post players. "If I see things here and there, especially with those younger guys, I'd help coach them up a bit."

The defensive theme Bone is building this season around is something Cowgill appreciates.

"There's a few things from my (playing) experience that I'm really passionate about, especially on the defensive end," he says. So when he does get back on the court with the Cougs he'll be looking at defensive footwork and offering pointers where needed.

Cowgill said the coaching change from Tony Bennett to Bone didn't impact his connection to the program.

"He's (Bone) just been proactive about having me stay around the program as long as I want. I love to because I was doing ministry with athletes those first three years and I care about the basketball program.

The Cowgill File

Hometown: Austin (Westwood High)

Size: 6-10, 211 pounds

Cougar career: 112 starts from 2004-05 to 2007-08

Cougar stats: Averaged 7.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, blocked 118 shots

Pac-10 honors: All-academic three straight years, and 2007-08 Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year

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"He's really humble ... I'll ask like ‘what do you think about this?' and for a guy that's been a head coach for that long to be humble enough to even want input from a guy like me…I appreciate that."

IN ADDITION TO LONGRUS, Cowgill offered his insights on other Cougs whose games he's gotten to know pretty well ...

  • D.J. Shelton: Quick and athletic, which gives him big-play capability. At his best when active on the offensive and defensive boards. Also a legit three-point shooter. "I remember he was always kind of fading away in finishing drills, and sort of off-balance … I wasn't sure about his shot because his shot looks a little funky. It went from when he first started to step out and hit threes to be like ‘ah, I don't know' but now I'm like ‘no, that really is his game,' it's evolved."

  • Que Johnson: "He's pretty laid back ... I think that's kind of his personality like Kyle (Weaver) was but then there's times like ‘ok, you can't teach that,' that's God-given and that's impressive. I'm really anxious to see how things work out with him because he's got some skill. Offensively he can just do things, he's talented."

  • Dexter Kernich-Drew: "The athleticism is there, he can shoot it, and I'm anxious to see how this year goes for him. This is probably the year where it'll be like ‘ok is this the year all those things come together for him. Will he be an effective player?' I think it's there, the stuff is there, he probably just needs increased confidence from playing time."

    Of the new full- and three-quarter court pressure defense the Cougars plan to implement, Cowgill believes the positive impact will be on both sides of the ball. He said the craftiness of junior point guard Royce Woolridge will be key.

    "I see Royce getting a lot of steals."

    The new defense will yield benefits in the post, too, he says.

    By forcing the baseline and then fronting the post, you can cut off that avenue while at the same time getting backside help. "I think that's better for us because [the opposing posts] are big and if you end up behind them it could be trouble unless you double team."

    This is where Cowgill said Shelton, who can sometimes be undersized when guarding bigger post players, will benefit.

    "That'll help D.J., to be able to front the post. It'll utilize his quickness as a defender. I could see him getting a lot of steals and some charges. He and Royce and Dexter, I could see those guys getting their hands on a lot of balls, getting deflections and steals."

    The Cougars open the season with an exhibition game in Pullman on Nov. 1 against Central Washington, and then launch the campaign in earnest on Nov. 8 in Pullman against Cal State Bakersfield. The CSB game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.


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