Cross and Sauls compete for PG playing time

PULLMAN -- Basketball practices on the Palouse have been underway for less than a week but it's clear a battle royale is shaping up between senior Jeremy Cross and freshman Stephen Sauls for the backup point guard spot behind Taylor Rochestie. Both are noted for their skills at the end of the court where Bennett-coached teams tend to make their marks.

Jeremy Cross Stephen Sauls Cross, a walk on in his third year at WSU, has always impressed Tony Bennett with his defense.

Sauls, a fast combo-type guard, also attracted the attention of Wazzu with his defensive skills.

But in practice's early going, Sauls is the one who seems to have the advantage on the defensive side. Conversely, Cross appears to have been working on his shot this offseason, and has the leg up on offense.

Cross and Sauls are in this battle for playing time behind Rochestie in large part because Mac Hopson and Chris Matthews transferred this offseason to Idaho and St. Bonaventure, respectively, in search of starter's minutes.

Cross saw brief action in seven games last season, logging his most minutes (6) in the second meeting with Oregon. He came to WSU by way of the University of Puget Sound, where the team captain led the club in scoring his sophomore year with 16.2 points per game. His prep days were spent at Rancho Buena Vista High -- he captained three years there. He averaged 26 points per game and nine rebounds his senior season.

Sauls, who also served as team captain at Air Force Academy Prep, led AFAP in assists with 3.0 per game and was second in scoring with 14 per game. An athletic, fundamentally sound player with a nose for defense, Sauls earned three letters in basketball and track and field at Marshall High in Missouri City, Texas before heading to the Academy.

WITH FOUR STARTERS and 10 letterwinners returning from last season's record-setting 26-8 squad, the Cougars' highest profile need will be to replace Ivory Clark's production, energy and defense. The Cougs, however, do not have a similar type player to Clark, at least in terms of size, strength and athleticism.

But the Cougs may still be well equipped to still get the job done, just in a different way.

Junior Aron Baynes figures to eat up much of Clark's old minutes, along with junior Daven Harmeling, redshirt freshman Thomas Abercrombie and junior Caleb Forrest.

The 6-8 Forrest on Wednesday showed off his range, draining four three-pointers in a row during a four-on-four drill in practice. He didn't get a chance at a fifth because the drill ended.

The Cougar starting five looks to to be Baynes and senior Robbie Cowgill down low, seniors Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low on the wings, and junior Rochestie at point guard.

Guard Nicola Koprivica, who who averaged 14 minutes per game last season before tearing his ACL, is practicing but has been been held out of some drills and is not yet fully 100 percent.

Cougfan Top Stories