2. CFC: With basically the same team as last year, the Cougars were able to win 7 Pac-12 games this season and come close to winning a handful of others against good teams like UCLA and Utah. How do you explain such a huge improvement? BUD: I think the work off the court that Coach Kent and his staff did with many of these players to boost their confidence was a major factor. He told them he believed in them, and for a number of the players that kicked in and was easy to see early. Certainly the play of Brett Boese and Jordan Railey reflected that for the entire season until the ball quit going in for Brett about midway through the Pac-12 season. But about that same time Dexter Kernich-Drew started playing the way many of us thought he would be capable of. At the end of the season he was playing with great confidence, for good reason. I think what the staff had this team doing offensively gave them good looks at the basket, and in games when the ball was going through the hoop the Cougs could play with a lot of teams. Unfortunately the defense was never good enough to help this team win games when shots weren't falling, although I thought the defense got better late in the season.
3. CFC: You called many games over the years with Ernie Kent on the opposing sidelines. What's he like to work with and observe now that he's on the same side you are? Anything surprise you about him this season that you never knew before? BUD: Ernie and his staff did a nice job of recruiting at Oregon, and they had some great success. I think Coach Kent's style of play is a huge positive when it comes to recruiting. I'm excited to see what can happen down the road when he is able to build the recruiting base back up and get the type of player who fits his system. I had fun getting to know Ernie this season. Like me, he's a very positive person and it was fun to watch the way he and his entire staff interact with the players. Coach Kent has an ability that only a handful of coaches I've been fortunate enough to be around have, and that is to be able to "coach" a player. By that I mean through video, or stopping a play in practice to point out what a player needs to do differently to make the play successful, but then always ending on a positive note or putting an arm around a player to make sure the player knows that Coach cares about him and is pointing these things out to make the player, and the team better. Basically, it's creating a relationship that is personal enough for teaching without feelings staying hurt at the end of the day.
4. CFC: Coach Kent seems like he's always talking to and teaching the players when he pulls them out of a game. What kinds of things do you hear him talking about? BUD: During a game, I can see Ernie talking with players when he takes them out of the game. I usually can't hear much of the conversation because I am on the air talking, and wearing headphones. Quite often I think I know the gist of the conversation because of a play that may have just occurred. Usually you will see a coach do that with only his young players, but I think because he was teaching a new system, we saw Coach do that with all of the Cougar players this season.
5. CFC: After the Cougars beat Colorado to close the regular season, Coach Kent saluted Ken Bone for instilling a never-say-die attitude in the players. I don't ever remember a time where a coach in any sport gave any credit of any kind to his predecessor. I thought that was really neat. Were you surprised by it? BUD: No, I wasn't surprised by that. I think that's just the type of person that Ernie Kent is. I have seen a few other coaches do the same thing. Usually it is at the start of the season, or maybe during, when they are asked a specific question. Ken Bone did a lot of good things for Cougar basketball. He just didn't win enough games to keep the fans engaged and that is the bottom line in college athletics these days.
6. CFC: How do you see the Cougars replacing DaVonte Lacy's scoring and leadership next year? BUD: I doubt there will be one person who will step in and score the way DaVonte did. I wouldn't expect Josh to score much more than he did this year. I think Ike is capable of being more consistent with his scoring, and if it is like it was at the end of the year that would be a good thing! I would love to see Que Johnson break out next year. I would think he is the best candidate to add to his scoring. That being said, I'm not at practice every day, and I'm sure Coach Kent and his staff have a different and much more informed answer than I have! Answering this question a year ago I know I wouldn't have predicted Josh averaging a double/double!
7. CFC: Josh Hawkinson's improvement this season was almost hard to believe. He still has two seasons to go — how much better do you think he can get? BUD: Usually with a sophomore you would say consistency can improve, but Josh was amazingly consistent this season. I think he will continue to improve, but it may not be in terms that are measurable by fans like points and rebounds. I think you will see a stronger Josh next year, which should help on the defensive end. The stronger he gets, the better he will be able to defend big guys inside.
8. CFC: Of the new recruits coming in, who do you see having the biggest impact next season and why? BUD: I’m not sure what to expect from the new players. I have not seen any of them play, and can only go on stats from this past season, and what I have heard about them. First guess would be Renard Suggs, since he and his team seemed to have success in the JUCO ranks this year. I'm intrigued by Robert Franks, he put up some good numbers at Evergreen High School this year.
9. CFC: Other than Arizona, the Cougs showed they could play with pretty much everybody in the conference this year. Are they close enough to get over the hump and into NCAA or NIT contention next season? BUD: I’m an optimist, so I will say that the Cougs certainly can keep improving and be in the conversation for some post season play. I think coaches like the CBI so that their team can keep practicing and playing. Fans obviously want to see their team in the NCAA Tournament, and I think we will see that again in time. Coug fans would be excited to see this team have a chance to play in the NIT. Some of that depends on how strong the league is, and the trickle down from NCAA berths. The Cougs were closer than you think to post-season play this year. Had the Cougs won at home early against Idaho, and on the road at Santa Clara, the record would have been 15-15 going to the Pac-12 Tourney, and that gives you more options. At the end of the year the Cougs were better than both of those teams, but couldn't get the wins early when this team was still transitioning.
10. CFC: Ike Iroegbu (pictured above) was both exciting and frustrating to watch this season. How high do you see his ceiling being and what do you think he needs to work on most during the off season to get more consistent? BUD: It's fun to watch Ike when he is in rythmn and is able to glide by defenders and get to the hoop! I think we will continue to see more of that as he gains experience and confidence. One way that can happen more often is if he is shooting jumpers and three's at a higher percentage. I think teams played off of Ike to try to prevent the drive, and only got after him outside when he had made a couple of shots. If the defense has to honor that all the time, then getting to the hoop should be easier for him. I'm sure the coaches will also work with him on cutting down on turnovers, especially on when and whom to throw it to on a fast break.
11. CFC: Valentine Izundu will be eligible to play next season. What kind of impact do you see him having on the team? BUD: I've only seen Valentine when he works out before home games. He did not travel with the team this year, and that's when I see practice more often. I'm anxious to see him play defense, and see how much of a factor he can be blocking shots and affecting shots in the lane. From what I have seen, he is still working on being a scorer inside. Wouldn't it be great if he ends up playing with the same confidence on offense that Jordan Railey had the second half of the season!
BUD NAMECK AND KYLE WEAVER IN 2009
Big line-up: Center/Aron Baynes, PF/Mark Hendrickson, SF-G/Klay Thompson, SG/Ike Fontaine, PG/Kyle Weaver.
Small line-up: Post/Hendrickson, Wing/Thompson, Wing/Fontaine, Guard/Weaver, PG/Bennie Seltzer.
Supersubs on those teams would be Derrick Low, Marcus Moore, Brock Motum, Carlos Daniel, Taylor Rochestie, Mike Bush, DaVonte Lacy and DeAngelo Casto. Klay is the most talented player I have watched in the Crimson and Gray. Have to give a shout out to Marcus Capers for exemplifying the Cougar spirit! Plenty of other players I considered for my all-time team, including a guy who could have made a huge mark on Cougar basketball, but he only was a Coug for two years. Terrence Lewis was a JUCO player who helped Kelvin Sampson get things going. The smoothest lefty shooter I have ever seen. He would have threatened the 2,000-point mark if he was a four-year Cougar. Thanks for letting me take a trip down memory lane, that was fun! ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Witter is a top-notch student and two-sport athlete in his sophomore year of high school in Seattle. He is a lifelong Cougar fan whose dad co-founded CF.C two months after he was born.
IN 2014-15 HAWKINSON BROKE THE WSU SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR DOUBLE-DOUBLES.