KAMIN-ONCEA / USA Today Images

Veteran signing class silent again in 83-50 loss Saturday at Pauley Pavilion

IT SHOULD COME as no surprise that Pac-12 Networks analyst Bill Walton repeatedly mentioned Klay Thompson during Washington State's 83-50 loss Saturday at UCLA. After all, Thompson has established himself as the Cougars' best NBA player ever in just five professional seasons.

But Thompson -- and the aftermath of his departure -- came to mind for other reasons as the Cougars (9-12 overall, 1-8 Pac-12) concluded a disastrous first half of conference play. Just months after Thompson's departure in 2011 following a 22-win season, then-coach Ken Bone announced the signings of four high school seniors, forwards Brett Boese and Junior Longrus, wing Que Johnson and center Richard Peters, that were supposed to form the core future success. Johnson (Gonzaga) and Peters (Washington) eschewed significant offers to sign with WSU, and multiple Pac-12 programs were interested in Longrus. But Peters never qualified and Johnson and Longrus haven't developed into the players imagined.

The reverberation of that failed signing class was felt again against the Bruins (13-9, 4-5). Boese and Longrus had little impact -- they combined just one point and five rebounds -- while Johnson contributed 12 points. But that output came with three turnovers as the Cougars gave the ball away 18 times at UCLA, which has been a season-long epidemic, as they produced their fewest points of their 2015-16 campaign.

There was hope that inconsistency would change around New Year's Day as several of coach Ernie Kent's teams at Oregon, and his first squad at WSU, seemed to become more comfortable with the offense as the season progressed. But that theory failed to account for the departure of guard DaVonte Lacy, who averaged a team-high 16.9 points per game as the Cougars finished with a surprising 7-11 conference record last season. Without the emergence of Johnson, who entered the contest averaging just 8.8 points per game in conference play, WSU has struggled to find options around juniors Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson.

Hawkinson was saddled with three first half fouls against UCLA.  And when one struggles, as Hawkinson did with just seven points against UCLA, it gets ugly quickly. That has been a familiar feeling on the road this season as the Cougars have lost all four of their conference road games by at least 10 points.

It's hard to see that changing too much the rest of the season given the depth of the Pac-12. WSU is the only team in the conference with a losing record.

Instead of wins, the Cougars will have to look toward development as most of the roster is projected to return next season. The inability of Bone's most vaunted class on paper to command significant playing time gives Kent's recruits an opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

It is just not the legacy many expected from the class that was signed off the momentum of Thompson's era.

Official Basketball Box Score -- Game Totals -- Final Statistics


Cougfan Top Stories