Hoops: Green's PT may be limited but impact isn't

PULLMAN -- Randy Green plays basketball like a kid who's been stuck in the house on punishment for two weeks. When the junior guard from Seattle hits the court he's equal parts joy and intensity, creating havoc with an energy that seems to have been bottled up for who knows how long. As the Cougars head to the Bay Area for two games that will decide whether they make the Pac-10 tournament, Green figures to be key.

He doesn't play a ton, but when he's in there he makes his presence known. When the Cougars beat Arizona in late January, head coach Dick Bennett said Green's eight minutes of ball-hawking PT were critical to the historic victory.

After recently missing five games with an ankle injury, Green returned last week in the Cougars' home series against the Arizona schools. Though he didn't play more than five minutes per outing, at least he was out there, finally free from restriction.

"It felt real good," Green said about his comeback. "I felt like I had been gone for months, even though it was just a few games. It felt good to get love from the crowd and be around the guys again."

Green, 6-foot-4, comes off the bench to provide spark for the Cougars (11-14 overall, 6-10 in the Pac-10) even if he doesn't put up big numbers. In 11.6 minutes per game, he's averaging 2.3 points, one rebound and 0.5 assists.

But senior guard Thomas Kelati, WSU's leading scorer, says the numbers lie when it comes to Green.

"When he's on, there isn't a better player in the league. Some of the things he does in practice you're just like, 'whoa'," Kelati said.

"Randy brings energy. He's one of our best perimeter defenders," Kelati added. "And he's a crowd-pleaser. The crowd loves him."

In the Cougars' near-upset of Gonzaga on Dec. 7, Green tied for the team lead with 12 points. In that win at Arizona on Jan. 29 his defensive pressure ignited a run that helped WSU beat the Wildcats for the first time since 1986. In a win over USC on Jan. 8, he scored eight points in just six minutes.

"I make plays. I'm a playmaker. At any given time I can do something to change the game, whether that's scoring or shutting my man down on defense," Green said.

GREEN'S TALENT IS NO secret around the Pac-10. At Rainier Beach High he played with Washington Huskies star Nate Robinson and USC sophomore Lodrick Stewart. Green played on the same Little League team as UW's Brandon Roy, and then against Roy and fellow Huskies Tre Simmons and Will Conroy when all three were at rival Garfield High.

"Oh man, that was sooo disappointing," Green said of not being able to play against the Huskies two weeks ago because of the ankle. "I knew it was the last time I'd be able to play against some of those guys in college, unless we face them in the Pac-10 tournament.

"And I knew I could've helped my team that day, too. It was real difficult," he added. "I had the adrenaline pumping and I wanted to play, but the trainers said it was best for my leg that I didn't. But I wanted to lace 'em up."

When he isn't playing against his old Seattle buddies, Green said he supports their teams. When the struggling Trojans came into Pullman on Feb. 5, Stewart said Green spoke with him before the game, which WSU would go on to win.

"He told me just to keep my head up; to go back to the Rainier Beach days and start taking over," Stewart said.

"I always root for those guys," Green said of the Huskies in particular. "They're all real good and I know they can do some serious damage in the (NCAA) tournament. They can make a lot of noise."

AFTER WINNING A STATE state championship at Rainier Beach, Green came to WSU under Paul Graham. The Cougars' run-and-gun style suited Green's high-speed game, but when Graham was fired and Bennett arrived, a new slow-down style was implemented.

"It was a struggle for me at first, and it still is sometimes," Green said. "But I've adapted and I've learned a lot from Coach Bennett. I think in the long run it will help me."

Next year, Green will be the only senior on the Cougars, replacing the departing class of Kelati, Shami Gill, Chris Schlatter, Isaiah Simmons and Jeff Varem.

"I definitely will have to be a leader next year," Green said. "But I'm up to the challenge. The way my parents raised me and the kind of person I am, I'll embrace that role with open arms."

With two games remaining in the regular season (Stanford Thursday and Cal Saturday), Green may or may not log significant minutes down the stretch. He is still getting back into shape after the time off, and Bennett has cut down the rotation in the season's latter stage. When Green does get in, however, expect to see the boundless vigor of someone half his age.

"My style of basketball is real exciting. I get an edge from the crowd, and I feed off of that energy," he saud. "I appreciate it and give it right back to them."

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