Cougar Hoops Notebook: Accents, bonds & youth

COUGAR CENTER Aron Baynes has been at Washington State for a couple years now -- apparently just long enough for that famous Palouse dialect to creep in, according to his fans back home in Australia. Plus, other notable notes from the Cougs' barnstorming tour Down Under.

A number of folks Down Under, including several players at his alma mater, the Australian Institute of Sport, where the Cougs took on the Aussie National Team during their exhibition tour, half-joked with Aron Baynes that he had lost his accent, mate.

Upon hearing that, said WSU head man Tony Bennett, the Cougar staff and players' response was universal --- "He has?"

Meanwhile, Thomas Abercrombie, a native of Afton, New Zealand, Jeremy Cross and Caleb Forrest all received valuable experience on the tour.

"They played in every game, and Abercrombie had that one effective game," said Bennett of the shooting forward's 15-point performance. "Jeremy gave us a real nice lift in one of the games, against the Sydney Kings when he came in and got us going, guarded real well and gave us some important minutes in a real tight, hotly contested ball game. And Caleb came in and got on the glass and had some nice stretches."

At the same time, the plan was always to get the starters the lion's share of the minutes in preparation for the '07-'08 season.

"I played the main guys more than most -- I didn't split it evenly in every game but a couple games I did -- one game I split them pretty evenly for the top nine. But they all got opportunities and they played depending on how they looked," said Bennett.

Baynes and Abercrombie both had a chance to play as a collegian in front of their families for the first time. Being in their teammates' homelands New Zealand and Australia also had a positive effect on the entire team, said Bennett.

"Tom's parents got to watch him play and then for the team to get to go over to his house and get to see where he grew up was awesome. And it was the same to go over to Aron's house and see his world where he grew up and to meet his family.

"That was great team-building, great team-bonding. It helps our team chemistry.

Bennett also said he would be remiss if he didn't offer up some thanks.

"We're really appreciative to all those who supported the trip," said Bennett. "It was a great experience for our program and I'm very appreciative to the people that helped support this trip and helped make it possible. We had nine fans who came along and they thoroughly enjoyed it. They even got to sit on the bus and take in the whole game experience -- they even got to sit on the bus with a bunch of sweaty players, so they got to take it all in."

For much more on the Cougs' tour, check out Shove, hold, grab: Bennett on life down under

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