Beating the odds of two players from the same school earning spots, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver claimed two of the 12 places on the U.S. national team that competed over the summer in the Pan-Am Games in Brazil.
"As far as confidence, I think it just helps us understand that we can play with the best players in the country," said Low. "Making that team and going through the whole process of tryouts and traveling, it just gave us a little confidence boost going into this season and hopefully it'll take us far."
UCLA'S HOWLAND SAYS WEAVER ONE OF 5 BEST IN THE NATION.
Competing with and against elite talent "definitely will help us," Low said Saturday, the second day of workouts in preparation for a season that opens Nov. 9 against Eastern Washington.
Weaver didn't get as much Pan-Am playing time as Low, but says he relished the experience and knows he benefited from the competition.
"It helped me a lot," Weaver said. "It definitely made me step my game up."
Low sounded much like his coach when asked if this season's Cougars will approach the campaign differently than last year now that they're gaining so much national recognition.
"It doesn't really matter to us because we don't really pay attention to all that pre-season nonsense ... it really doesn't mean a thing when you think about it," Low said. "We just focus on how we play and what we want to do. We're just looking at getting better each time we play."
He noted that former Cougar head coach Dick Bennett, wanting to drive home the point that pre-season rankings don't mean much, sent the team a letter last week and noted that at this time last season, Washington was highly ranked as well. The Huskies ended up in the lower half of the Pac-10.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Luke Winn is a big fan of the Cougs. In his recent rating of the best backcourts in the nation, he pegged WSU at No. 4 behind Kansas, Memphis and Marquette.
And in his rundown of the top 15 seniors in the land, he lavished praise on Low (No. 5) and Weaver (No. 6), both of whom were All-Pac-10 selections last season.
"The Cougars' slow-paced attack keeps Low's stats from jumping off the page, but the Hawaii product is regarded as one of the country's better combo guards," Winn wrote, adding that Low had one of the lowest turnover ratios in the country last season for guards.
Winn called Weaver the unsung hero of the Cougars' run to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and the most versatile guard in the Pac-10. "When UCLA coach Ben Howland was asked to pick a starting five from any non-UCLA players in the nation this offseason, he selected Weaver at the wing," Winn said.
* Season ticket sales for the Cougs are far outpacing last season, WSU's Dan Meyer reports. So far, 3,547 seats have been sold. Last season there were 2,308 season tickets.
* 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. 5 for the start of Pac-10 play, against Washington at Hec Ed Pavilion.