WHEN TONY BENNETT blows his whistle next week and officially starts the new hoops season, the veteran Cougs will welcome five new faces. It's an intriguing group, featuring a former Air Force Academy commit, a skyscraper from Germany, a silky shooter from Oregon, a tall project from Seattle, and a walk on who is the son of an old WSU wide receiver.
All five are freshmen.
, a 6-3, 195-pound guard from Houston and a one-time commit to Air Force, could be the best positioned of them to see playing time. That's because of the transfers of backup guards Mac Hopson (to Idaho) and Chris Matthews (to St. Bonaventure). Sauls is an athletic, fundamentally sound combo-type who plays solid defense. He chose WSU over offers from Colorado, Saint Louis and Richmond.
Two other members of the new class figure to see minutes this season: 6-11 center-forward Fabian Boeke
and 6-7 shooting guard/small forward Abe Lodwick
Boeke, an import from Germany, has a nice touch and can play the four or the five. He checks in at 230 and will need to bulk up to become a steady rebounder. Bennett says he's more of a skilled-forward type than a power forward. He also brings atypical savvy to the court for a freshman -- he's 21-years-old and has significant international experience against older players.
Lodwick, a lefty from Bend, Oregon, comes to the Palouse with a smooth shooting touch and the versatility to man the small forward and shooting guard spots. He's a solid rebounder, particularly on the defensive end, and possesses an outstanding feel for the game. On offense last season, he averaged 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, earning his league's player of year award. Scout.com analyst Greg Hicks dubbed Lodwick one of the "best-kept secrets" in the West last recruiting season. He chose WSU over New Mexico.
Seattle's Charlie Enquist
, a 6-9, 201-pounder from King's High, could be in line for a weight-room-heavy redshirt season. Bennett took a bit of a flyer on the 2007 Cascade Conference MVP because he likes the youngster's soft touch around the basket, good footwork and nice shot-blocking skills. He led King's to a 46-9 record over his junior and senior seasons, including a state Class 2A runner-up finish in 2005. He picked WSU over Rice.
, a 6-4, 201-pound guard from Culver City, Calif., is an invited walk on in this class. His dad is Sam Burris, who was one of quarterback Mark Rypien's favorite Cougar targets in 1984 and forever etched himself in the minds of fans with a spectacular showing in the nailbiting 29-27 loss to USC that season. Jan graduated from high school in 2005 and played briefly at Pratt Community College in Kansas. As a prep senior he averaged 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
NOTABLE HOOPS NOTES:
• The Sporting News' national basketball writer, Mike DeCourcy, asks an interesting question in the latest edition of the magazine: Can Washington State do it when we're watching?
Here's his answer: "There's no question the Cougars can play; if it wasn't sealed already, scoring guard Derrick Low
settled the discussion by pulling the U.S. team out of its funk at the Pan American Games. But the pressures are different when you're expected to be 10th in the nation rather than 10th in the Pac-10. It's nice the non league schedule is so forgiving."
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
• The Cougars will play an exhibition game against Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 4 at 2 pm and then open the regular season Nov. 9 against Eastern Washington at 6:30 pm. Both games will be in Pullman.