Dick Bennett made this last season, but perhaps more so because of the six prep athletes he signed over the winter."> Dick Bennett made this last season, but perhaps more so because of the six prep athletes he signed over the winter.">

Wait 'til they're old enough to shave

PULLMAN -- As strange as it may sound after years of folly under <b>Paul Graham</b> and <b>Kevin Eastman</b>, the word "expectation" is actually being used these days in the same sentence with the phrase "Cougar basketball program." This pleasant turn of events is due in part to the progress <b>Dick Bennett</b> made this last season, but perhaps more so because of the six prep athletes he signed over the winter.

"We got some hidden gems, guys that were under the radar, and really represent what we're all about," Cougar assistant coach Tony Bennett told Cougfan.com.

By bringing in freshmen rather than transfers, Bennett -- and his dad, head coach Dick -- are aiming to lay the foundation for long-term stability and success.

They also think the Cougar Nation will come to identify with this group of kids because they're spirted and talented, and going to be around a long time.

The legendary George Raveling made a similar commitment to youth early in his tenure on the Palouse, going so far as to put the team picture on a billboard with the slogan, "Wait 'til they're old enough to shave." By the time Steve Puidokas, Edgar Jeffries, Greg Johnson, Marty Giovacchini and the rest hung up their high tops, 20-win seasons seemed possible year-in and year-out.

Of the Cougars' six incoming freshmen, three are guards who will be competing for NBA-bound Marcus Moore's starting job. Bennett did not specify a favorite at this point, and also did not rule out a "point guard by committee" option. "He plays the best players," Coach Tony said of his father.

The three incoming guards are:

Kyle Weaver, 6-6, is from Memorial High in Beloit, Wis., where he averaged 18 points per game and was a first-team all-state selection as a senior. He is long, has good instincts, and is an excellent passer.

Josh Akognon, 6-0, 185 pounds of pure scorer. This Petaluma, Calif., native averaged 30 points per game and shot an astounding 47 percent from behind the arc as a senior at Casa Grande High. He passed on offers from USC and Michigan to come play for the Cougs.

Derrick Low, 6-0, 175-pounder out of Honolulu uses his brain and hustle rather than pure athleticism. A savvy floor general with a consistent jumper, he committed to the Cougs last August. West Coast analysts think he's a front-runner for the starting line up this season.

STARTING POTENTIAL is not just limited to the guard position for the incoming freshmen. The three new big men have opportunities to see playing time early and often as well.

Chris Henry, a 6-9, 248-pound center from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., plays for one of the best high school teams in the nation. His size and strength make him a force in the paint who could see considerable PT -- and perhaps even the starting line up -- this season.

Daven Harmeling, is a 6-7, 190-pound small forward out of Fruita, Colo. He is a tremendous athlete who can hit outside jumpers and post up down low. Named one of the top five small forwards on the West Coast by TheInsiders.com.

Robbie Cowgill, is a 6-9, 190-pound power forward from Westwood High in Austin, Texas, where he was selected All-State class 5A second team. He has solid skills and athleticism, but needs to add bulk for college.

Bennett said the class is voluntarily arriving in Pullman sometime around June 21, and attending summer school in order to become familiar with the campus and start working out with one another. Bennett expects there to be some growing pains because of the need to mature quickly and the fact that the current roster is composed almost entirely of upperclassmen.

While hopes are high for this group of youngsters, the importance of veteran leadership is not downplayed. Bennett said his four returning starters need to take ownership of the team and raise the bar of expectations for basketball on the Palouse.

COMING SOON: An overall team preview.

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