HOOPS ROUNDUP: Future Coug talk of the town

THE OFFER by Washington State, and the subsequent verbal commitment by future Coug basketballer Patrick Simon out of Ephrata, undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows among recruiting traditionalists. A 14-year old? Really? Anyone who was at Cougar Cage Camp, however, quickly came to two realizations. It was fairly easy to see why Wazzu extended the scholie offer, and the kid can flat out hoop.

There's a certain level of projection that goes into every offer, whether they're high school or junior college players. Trying to forecast development and how they'll fare against college and Pac-10 competition is an inexact science. And for the 6-7 Simon, the youngest-ever WSU verbal, there's certainly estimation involved. But as they say, some guys just have it, and you can see it.

Simon was the talk of the recent Cougar Cage Camp among onlookers, filling up the bucket and showing skills beyond his years. Naturally, he'll need to keep improving on his game throughout the remainder of his high school career, the sophomore-to-be won't arrive in Pullman until 2010. But Tony Bennett looks to have scored with a very good one out of the home state.

BENNETT WILL WELCOME four freshmen to his Cougar basketball team this fall and two of them are 6-foot-10 – a massive infusion of height the likes of which hasn't been seen on the Palouse since 1974 when George Raveling brought in two 7-foot projects. And "projects" was, initially, the operative word.

Raveling first thought the main benefit would be the upgrade his practice sessions would see having his starters go up against height -- anything the two could bring to the court on game days would be a bonus. One of them, a 180-pound string bean, would grow into an NBA All-Star and 14-year veteran. Last year, the very same James Donaldson was inducted into the WSU sports hall of fame. Raveling's other 7-footer was John Tessem, who stuck around for five years but was undone by a series of foot injuries.

The new Twin Towers are Fabian Boeke of Hamburg, Germany, and Charlie Enquist of King's High in Seattle. Regardless of how ready (or not) they may be for Pac-10 play right out of the gate, their presence is going to be – excuse the pun – huge for the Cougs because it will allow Bennett's front-line players to go against, day in and day out, the kind of height they'll see in the regular- and post-season.

Boeke, who weighs 225, is a fundamentally sound player with good touch. He'll need to bulk up to become a stout rebounder. He's 20 years old, so figures to bring a little more maturity to the court than a typical freshman. Enquist checks in at 190 pounds, and also has a soft touch and nice shot-blocking skills. He was the 2007 MVP of the Class 1A Cascade Conference.

The other two members of the incoming class are 6-3 combo guard Stephen Sauls of Missouri City, Texas, and 6-7 forward Abe Lodwick of Bend, Oregon. Sauls has a shot for immediate playing time with the transfers of Mac Hopson to Idaho and Chris Matthews to St. Bonaventure. He's a hard worker who players excellent perimeter defense – a skill that is sure to bring a smile to anyone in the Bennett family. Lodwick has a silky smooth shooting touch and is a solid defensive rebounder. He could play small forward or shooting guard.

GIVING THE COUGS serious looks are two other highly regarded juniors -- Colton Iverson out of Yankton, S.D., and Reno's Olek Czyz.

Iverson was leading his AAU team, the South Dakota Heat, in rebounds and blocks at last check. Through five games, the 6-9 power forward prospect had 45 boards and 18 swats. Iverson was named first team Class AA all-state this past season, averaging 14.4 ppg and 10.0 rebounds.

Czyz was a well-kept secret for a time this spring, with Washington State the first to offer. Czyz then "blew up" at the Pangos All-American Camp and several more schools have since come running, including Kentucky, Louisville and Duke. As a junior, the 6-8 power forward averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds but has opened the most eyes since his AAU team began play this summer.

CF.C spoke with both Iverson and Czyz and will have an article on both players later in the week.

ALSO COMING IN THE not too distant future is an article on the recruiting prowess of Tony Bennett and his Washington State staff. The Cougar coaches have been busy on the recruiting trail this offseason, continuing to make noise after the remarkable 2006-07 campaign with recent commitments from a pair of Top 100 prospects -- Mark McLaughlin (No. 76 overall, No. 17 SG overall) and Michael Harthun (No. 92 overall, No. 22 SG overall).

McLaughlin and Harthun are the kinds of in-state and Northwest, respectively, prospects who wouldn't have given the Cougs a very long look five years ago. That, however, was before Dick Bennett and his son Tony arrived in Pullman prior to the 2003 season. With Washington State's hoops resurgence in not only the Pac-10 but on the national scene, a marked uptick in quality recruits going crimson -- from the state of Washington and the Northwest -- is on the rise.

The Cougs' ascendance was accomplished without a ton of Northwest players on the roster but they'll be looking to stay on top, and climb to greater heights, with a solid corps of local talent. Lodwick (Bend. Ore.) and Enquist (Seattle) arrive this fall. In 2008, McLaughlin (Kenmore) and Harthun (Medford, Ore.) come into the fold. Anthony Brown from Spokane is on board for the Cougar class of 2009, while the wunderkind Simon (Ephrata) arrives out on the Palouse in the class of 2010.


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