Cougar Hoops: health, hype and notables

NIKOLA KOPRIVICA, the promising swing-man who blew out a knee in the middle of the Cougars' head-turning run through the Pac-10 last basketball season, may be ready to go at full speed when head coach Tony Bennett convenes his club for the start of official practices on Oct. 12.

"He's participating in all non-contact drills right now and is up to two full-contact workouts a week," reports Jessica Schmick of WSU's sports information department. She said Bennett and his staff are cautiously optimistic Koprivica could be 100 percent when the Cougs open the season Nov. 9 at home against Eastern Washington.

Koprivica, a 6-6 ½, 211-pound left-hander from Serbia, played in 15 games for the Cougars as a true freshman in 2006-07 before going down with a torn ACL against Oregon in late January. He averaged 14.2 minutes and 4.6 points per game.


His versatility and slashing style figure to weigh large as the Cougs look to fill the minutes of last season's lone senior, high-flying Ivory Clark. Two other guys who should help fill the void are 6-8 junior Caleb Forrest and 6-5 1/2 freshman Thomas Abercrombie.

Schmick says the overall health of the team is outstanding, and noted that the Cougs will have an early season boost they didn't have a year ago. Guard Taylor Rochestie and center Aron Baynes, who were hobbled at the start of last season with knee and ankle injuries, respectively, will hit the proverbial court running this year.

Coming off a 26-win season, WSU is ranked by most pre-season pundits somewhere between No. 14 and No. 7 nationally, and between fourth and second in the Pac-10. ESPN News will feature the Cougs in its "The Pulse" segment this Saturday, Schmick said.

THE COUGARS' NEW media guide will feature seniors Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill on the cover. The inside of the cover will showcase the careers of Weaver and Low as part of the school's two-pronged effort promoting each for All-America consideration.

Schmick says it poses some challenges trying to advocate nationally for two players, but that WSU is committed to promoting them both.

The 6-6 Weaver and 6-1 Low earned All-Pac-10 recognition last season and were picked over the summer to play on the 12-man Team USA entry in the Pan-Am Games in Brazil. WSU was the only school with two players on the U.S. team.

Weaver, from Beloit, Wisc., has been one of the most widely productive players in the Pac-10 the last two seasons. Last season year he averaged 11.2 points per game and led the Cougars in rebounding, assists and steals. He was second on the team in blocked shots. And, against Stanford, notched the only triple-double in WSU history.

Low, a Honolulu native, started every game for the Cougars last season, averaging 34.4 minutes and a team-leading 13.7 points per game. He connected on 75 of 188 3-point shots during the Cougs' 26-win campaign, and poured in a career-high 37 points against Oregon.

• The third annual Cougar basketball preview dinner in Seattle is on tap for Oct. 19 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Tony Bennett and June Daugherty will be featured at the event. Social hour starts at 5:45, dinner and program at 6:30. The cost is $100 per person for Athletic Foundation members and $125 for non-members. Call WSU-West at 206-448-1330 or send an email to to reserve your spot.

• Half of the Cougars' first eight games this season will be played in Spokane. They'll host the Cougar Hispanic College Fund Classic at Spokane Arena from Nov. 23-25, where they'll take on Montana, Mississippi Valley State and Air Force. They return to the Lilac City on Dec. 5 for a showdown at Gonzaga.

• The Cougars' annual Hardwood Classic game in Seattle is set for Dec. 20. Tipoff at Key Arena is 7:30 pm against The Citadel. The Cougs will be back in Seattle Jan. 1 for the start of Pac-10 play, against Washington at Hec Ed Pavilion.

• Aron Baynes averaged 18.1 points and 9 rebounds over the summer playing for Australia in the World University Games. In seven games, he registered two double-doubles, shot 67.1 percent from the field and averaged 2.3 blocks per game. Thomas Abercrombie of Auckland also played in the games, for the team from New Zealand.

• At least 18 of the Cougars' games this season will be televised live, regionally or nationally. The 18 TV appearances ties the 2005-06 season for the most televised games in a season in school history. The Cougs also have the opportunity to be picked up for ‘wildcard' games on either CBS, ABC or FSN.

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