New WSU hoops class 'scary,' says analyst

DAVE TELEP, THE national basketball recruiting analyst for, is unequivocal in his assessment of the five prospects Tony Bennett is signing to letters of intent today. "This is like giving a master artisan finer materials to work with. It's a scary thought for the rest of the Pac-10, and a fun one for Washington State fans."

This is a class "to really get excited about," Telep added. "They're athletic, complimentary (to one another) and just another caliber up from what WSU has done in the past … Good players paired with a coach who has a track record of developing talent makes a scary combination."

The Cougars didn't crack Telep's top 25 list of the finest recruiting classes for 2008, but they were one of 15 schools to earn honorable mention. He rates the group sixth-best in the Pac-10 behind UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and USC. The Bruin class is ranked No. 1 in the nation.

"It's very difficult to break into the top tier, but there's an intangible element to WSU's class that makes it special." Telep said. "Other schools got bigger names. Washington State got the players they wanted."

He said 6-6, 190-pound Klay Thompson, the 35th-ranked shooting forward in the nation, is particularly intriguing. "I think we may have undervalued Thompson. The way he plays, he could be Tony's favorite guy in the class -- his IQ, the fact he can pass, handle and shoot. You also have to give extra attention to his genes."

Thompson's dad is former Blazers and Lakers standout Mychal Thompson, an All-American at Minnesota who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA draft.

Thompson chose WSU over Michigan and Notre Dame.

The rest of the class consists of guards Michael Harthun (Bend, Oregon) and Nick Witherill (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and forwards James Watson (Stringtown, Okla.) and Marcus Capers (Montverde, Fla.).

"Harthun is a winner who can play either guard position. He hit a ridiculous number threes last season in the Oregon state championship game," Telep said. A four-star prospect ranked by Scout as the No. 20 shooting guard in the nation, Harthun chose WSU over Oregon State, Pepperdine and others.

"Watson is athletic and can go to the rim – he's the momentum, energy guy for this class. Capers is also very athletic and Witherill brings a nice shooting touch."

Watson is rated three stars, Capers and Witherill two each.

Telep said Bennett has "street cred" – credibility and a unique ability to relate – with young people. That, he said, is why this marks the finest recruiting class in recent Palouse memory.

While Bennett's coaching skills descend from his iconic father, Telep said, the recruiting front is another matter. "Tony is not his father. Tony runs in different circles than his father. He has a measure of street cred with the kids that is very impressive."

Telep's final analysis?

"Tony Bennett is good at this job. Look at what he's accomplished already. At the end of the day, a college basketball coach is measured by how he develops and coaches his players. Tony is already a proven commodity in that regard. Now you're just adding better talent to the mix."

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