Seen & Heard on Planet Coug

AFTER A COUPLE days of Pac-12 Tournament watching, some observations have been reinforced about former UCLA stars who now work as analysts for the Pac-12 Networks.

First, that Don Maclean is even more of a Captain Obvious than we thought. And second, that Bill Walton talks more incessantly about inane nonsense than callers to John Clayton's radio show.

Maclean actually makes the king of saying nothing insightful during a broadcast, Seahawks analyst Warren Moon, sound like a Rhodes Scholar in comparison -- and that ain't easy to do. Here's one of Don's keenest insights from the WSU-Cal game on Wednesday: when you're trailing by 16, trading baskets isn't going to help you. That little nugget actually borders on Einsteinian compared to this one from his coverage of the USC-UCLA game Thursday: if everyone individually improves on the weakest part of his game in the offseason then the team will become stronger. We half expected him to announce at one point that water is wet; he didn't, presumably saving that one for Moon to use this fall.

As for Walton, he was at his hyperbolic best when he characterized the Pac-12 tourney as "happiness, glory and a love fest" all wrapped into one. There was nothing glorious Wednesday, however, when he prattled on so long about former Seattle Times reporter Mason Kelley overseeing "content creation across all platforms" for UW athletics that a fast break by the Dawgs against Stanford was ignored up until the time the ball went in the air. He later devolved into a mind-numbing recitation about the brilliance of tourney co-sponsor Mercedes Benz.

On Thursday, just before a commercial break, Walton saluted Hoover Dam for "making its contribution (to the tournament) with hydroelectric generation." As near as we can tell, the famed testament to public-works-at-its-finest isn't even a tourney co-sponsor. If Bill's props for water-powered electricity sounded like a stretch, you only needed wait 10 minutes to hear Oregon's Joseph Young likened to Bruce Springsteen. Our favorite part of Bill's analysis, though, was this tidbit he uttered seemingly every time someone fired up a jump hook: the shot was invented by early 1960s Utah center Billy "The Hill" McGill.

At the end of the day, however, you have to give props to Walton because his off-the-wall chatter, while at times annoying, also livens up a broadcast unlike anyone on the air today.

COUGAR FANS DOWN in the dumps after the team's lackluster showing against Cal on Wednesday should warm themselves in the off-season with Josh Hawkinson's post-game comment that he plans to extend his jump shot out to the 3-point line. If Hawk, who possesses a beautiful stroke to 16 or 17 feet, can add a consistent trey to his repertoire then Ernie Kent's vision of the big man as a "Euro 4" will be more than realized. And it will open things up for the entire Cougar offense.

FRANK COONEY OF loves Cougar defensive lineman Xavier Cooper. In an article he wrote yesterday for Lindy's Sports sizing up the best DT prospects in next month's NFL draft, he wrote of Cooper, "Before becoming a success story at football, Cooper overcame significant learning disabilities that were diagnosed when he was in the ninth grade at Tacoma’s Wilson High School. It was a traumatic discovery that impacted not only Xavier, but befuddled parents (each had a Masters degree), as well as school teachers and coaches in high school and Washington State. He showed athletic ability in several sports, but his amazing ascent to stardom as a football player still takes a back seat to how he overcame substantial learning issues ... On persistence and intestinal fortitude alone, Cooper deserves a team’s second-round pick and a chance to show what he can do in the NFL." Here's the full story.

OLD COUGARS Brandon Gibson and Jed Collins have been in the news in recent days for signing free-agent deals with new teams -- Gibson going from the Dolphins to the Patriots and Collins from the Lions to Cowboys -- but another NFL Coug made headlines, albeit smaller ones, in his hometown last month. Deone Bucannon was honored at his old high school, Vanden in Northern California, with the retirement of his jersey.

“This is where I took a big step on the road to where I am today,” Bucannon said at the ceremony. “My teachers and coaches instilled in me the idea that I could do whatever I wanted to do and go wherever I wanted to go. They never let me doubt myself.” To read the complete story, head here to the Vacaville Reporter.

FORMER WASHINGTON STATE standout Brock Motum has been named all-league first team, Domestic Player of the Year and Center of the Year in Australia’s National Basketball League. Motum, who returned to his native Australia after playing his first pro season in Italy last season, ranked fifth in the ABL with 17.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He played center and forward for the Adelaide 36ers.

The 36ers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New Zealand Breakers, who went on to win the championship. Former WSU player Thomas Abercrombie scored a game-high 19 points for New Zealand (his native country) in the title game. Another former WSU player, Josh Akognon, is reportedly headed to Partizan Belgrade in Serbia after finishing his latest banner season in China. Akognon ranked fifth in the Chinese Basketball Association with 31.5 points per game for Foshan.

ANOTHER FORMER WSU HOOPS star, 40-year-old Mark Hendrickson, is battling for a spot in the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen this spring as he tries to return to the Major Leagues after a two-year absence. The tall lefty saw his first action in a game last week against Tampa Bay, giving up two hits and a run in one inning of work. Hendrickson, who played parts of four seasons in the NBA before heading to baseball, comes into this season with 166 Major League career starts and 1,169 total innings over parts of 10 seasons with five teams. The Mount Vernon native last pitched in the Majors in 2011 with the Orioles.

ON A FINAL NOTE, best wishes and congratulations are in order for Chris Shaw, the hard-working WSU grad who has been covering Cougar football for us since last summer. Yesterday was his last one on the beat for us. He's moving to Seattle to join KIRO-FM Radio. Starting March 21, Chris will anchor weekend news every half hour from 4 a.m. to noon. He'll also be training for editing posts and other responsibilities.

"This is one of the most gratifying parts of -- giving Murrow College students and graduates an opportunity to develop and then seeing them build off that foundation," said CF.C managing editor Barry Bolton. "Chris continues a long line of CF.C alums who are making tracks in the media world."

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