Cougar Basketball Notebook

IN STYLE AND MAKEUP, says Athlon Sports, look for Washington State’s men’s basketball team to start looking like the clubs second-year coach Ernie Kent once guided to prominence at Oregon. That’s not to say the 2015-16 Cougs will be hitting the Elite Eight, but the Kent blueprint is coming together, Athlon notes in its college hoops preview magazine,

A big challenge for the Cougs will be finding ways for junior forward Josh Hawkinson (14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game last season) “to contribute even more when he’s already such a big part of what the Cougars do,” the magazine says. Athlon notes that if Hawkinson could make a dent in his three-point shooting percentage in Pac-12 games last season (.000 on 19 tries) it could make the motion offense sing.

Hawkinson has said he devoted his off-season to extending his range beyond 16 feet.

“While the Cougars are far away from a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Kent has made it clear that he thinks a trip to the NIT or even CBI would do wonders for his fledgling program,” writes Athlon. "And that can happen now ... if last year’s surprise players can take another big step forward and if a large but unheralded (group of rookies) can pull of some surprises.”

Meanwhile, here’s what two other prominent national publications are saying about the Cougars:

LINDY’S SPORTS: “The team seems built to run, which is what Kent always wants to do. But defense is still a concern after the Cougars allowed opponents to seemingly score at will last season, and Kent needs his JC transfers to pan out immediately in order for WSU to replace what (DaVonte) Lacy was able to do offensively.”

SPORTING NEWS: “With his ability to score in a variety of ways and knack for rebounding, Hawkinson is a one-man dose of confidence and effectiveness inside the Cougars’ fast-paced offense.”

The Cougars open the season tonight at Friel Court with a 5:30 p.m. tip against Northern Arizona that will be aired on Pac-12 Networks Washington (if you're outside the state, you'll have to stream it via computer).

THREE HOURS AFTER THE MEN TIP OFF, the Cougar women will open their season, also on Friel Court, when they battle UC Santa Barbara at 8:30 p.m. This will mark the dawn of a new era in Cougar hoops, which has been the Tia & Lia Show the last three seasons. Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira are now playing pro ball overseas (and doing quite nicely, at last report), so look for June Daugherty’s club to be a bit less guard- and long-ball focused.

Top returnees for the CouGals are senior forward Mariah Cooks (7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season), senior point guard Dawnyelle Awa (81 assists, 39 steals in 2014-14), senior guard Taylor Edmondson (5.1 ppg) and junior forward Louise Brown (6.5 rebounds per game).

Other returnees include:
- second-year-freshman forward Nike McClure, who is coming off a knee injury; - sophomore guard Pinelopi Pavlopoulou; - sophomore guard Caila Hailey and - junior center Ivana Kmetovska.

McClure and Pavlopoulou, along with Cooks and fellow senior Alexas Williamson, have been named team captains.

The Cougs have nine underclassmen on the roster and eight of them – when combined – have less than 300 minutes of college experience. The four seniors, by contrast, are pushing 6,000 minutes.

So the early part of the schedule figures to be full of ups and downs as the group gels.

If last Sunday’s exhibition win over L-C State is any indication, Daugherty’s touted 2015 recruiting class (pictured above) is going to contribute significantly this season. Six-foot Bulgarian forward Borislava Hristova, rated by one outfit as the No. 1 international recruit in the 2015 recruiting cycle, scored 14 points in 15 minutes of action. Guard Alexys Swedlund, last season’s Miss Basketball South Dakota, scored 12 in 23 minutes and 6-4 center Maria Kostourkova, a top prospect out of Portugal, scored six points and snagged four rebounds in 20 minutes.

The starters in that game were Hristova, Brown, Awa, Kmetovska and Hailey.

NOTABLE:

  • The Cougar women’s roster is the “United Nations of Basketball,” says Daugherty, who is entering her ninth year at WSU. Seven different countries and five different states are represented. Five of the Cougs are from Europe – just one less than the entire rest of the Pac-12.

  • Daugherty inked four players this week in the early signing period for the 2016 recruiting cycle: Chanelle Molina (Kailua Kona, Hawaii); Cameron Fernandez (Makawao, Hawaii); Katie Campbell (Oxnard, Calif.), and Kayla Washington (San Bernardino, Calif.).

    Molina, rated a 5-star talent by ESPN.com, is from Konawaena High – the same school that sent Dawnyelle Awa and Lia Galdeira to WSU. Fernandez led Lahainaluna High to a 20-2 record state title last season while averaging 17 points, six assists, four steals, and five rebounds per game. Campbell is a three-time captain at Oaks Christian High, where she canned 77 treys last season. And Washington is a four-year captain and stat machine at league juggernaut Cajon High.

  • Kent signed two players in the early period: 6-8 forward Jeff Pollard, a holdover from last season’s class and 6-2 point guard Milan Acquaah out of Cathedral High in Los Angeles.

  • In the polls conducted at the Pac-12 media days last month, the Cougar women were picked to finished 10th in the conference and the Cougar men 12th.

  • Sports Illustrated, using a projection system developed in part by an economist, predicts Hawkinson will be the No. 3 scorer in the Pac-12 this season and No. 45 nationally. SI sees Hawk averaging 15.0 points per game, up from 14.7 last season. The only people ahead of him in the conference are Cal's Jaylen Brown (16.8 ppg) and UW's Andrew Andrews (15.7). Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer is projected at No. 1 in the nation at 21.0

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