Hoops report: Koprivica turns heads at Bohler

PULLMAN – Sophomore swingman Nikola Koprivica, only nine months removed from a nasty knee injury, looks to be getting close to 100 percent if the Cougar basketball team's intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at a nearly packed Bohler Gym is an indication.

With more than 1,500 fans in the stands, Koprivica -– who was lost for the stretch run of the Cougars' 26-win 2006-07 season after blowing his right knee against Oregon -– scored 13 points in the Cougs' three, 11-minute scrimmages.

He scored five, two and six points in each period, respectively. Senior Kyle Weaver scored a collective 14 points to lead all scorers.

"I was scared, to be honest with you," Koprivica said of his thoughts before taking the court. "It's my first time in nine months … but as soon as we started, I was just concerned about [the game] and didn't think about [my knee]"

Head coach Tony Bennett was impressed with Koprivica, who usually takes a day or two off of practice each week to rest his knee.

"To not have played live ... to be able to do some of the things he does, I think indicates he has a nice career in front of him," he said.

Bennett noted that Koprivica has matured since last season, and has always had a great feel for the game.

Last year Bennett decided to burn Koprivica's redshirt 10 games into the season. He wasn't disappointed. Koprivica is a strong physical presence who passes well and moves beautifully without the ball. He averaged 14 minutes and 4 points per game before going down with the knee.

BEFORE THE SCRIMMAGE, Bennett took the microphone and thanked the crowd for coming out. He then introduced all the players, according to class.

The 6-6 Koprivca, from Serbia, had the spotlight all to himself when Bennett called the sophomores to step forward, as he is the lone sophomore on the team.

This first 11-minute period showcased mostly the experienced players in white, including the projected starting five of Weaver, Derrick Low, Taylor Rochestie, Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes, against mostly inexperienced players. Junior Daven Harmeling was the most experienced on the crimson squad, which also featured junior Caleb Forrest, freshmen Stephen Sauls and Abe Lodwick, second-year freshman Thomas Abercrombie, and senior walk ons Chris Henry and Jeremy Cross.

The more experienced players in white ran away in the first period, winning 21-12. Freshman Charlie Enquist, also on the white team, had a nice put-back for two off a Baynes miss.

The coaches mixed the rosters up for the second period, trying to make the teams as even as possible. Rochestie led the way with seven points to help the white team to a 17-14 win.

The third period showcased the bigger guys against some of the smaller guys. The early offensive struggle ended in an 18-4 victory for the white team. Weaver led the way with seven points.

"I liked some of the stuff I saw," Bennett said afterward. "No question I thought the guys showed glimpses. Individual guys at times did some nice things. As they got fatigued, you saw some sloppy play with turnovers. My message to them in the locker room after when we talked was, ‘Look, our way to having a nice ball club is collectively, as a unit.' That, to me, is our strength.

"We obviously have some work to do, but obviously you saw some things [done well]."

Asked about the crowd filling Bohler Gym to watch an team scrimmage, Bennett joked that is was probably more people than there were at regular season games a couple years ago.

"That kind of blew me away," Bennett said. "Obviously there's a lot of excitement for basketball. I thought that was great.

"When I introduced that senior class to the crowd, so many people here have watched those kids grow up. They've seen them as freshman, and I think there's an attachment."

NOTES

- Bennett said he told the team that this was not going to be like a Midnight Madness event, and that he was going to be looking at certain positions to see how much competition there is.

- Freshman Stephen Sauls, a contender for backup point guard, impressed on the defensive side of the ball, grabbing a couple steals.

- Bennett said 6-11 freshman center Fabian Boeke of Germany could have played in the scrimmage even with his pending eligibility situation, but his back "flared up on him" causing him to sit and watch.


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