Cowgill the cut-up is Bennett's glue

WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE about Robbie Cowgill? The Washington State senior forward is an honor student. He's a key cog -- a true winner, says head man Tony Bennett -- on the No. 6-rated basketball team in the land. He laughs a lot. He listens to his mother. He's self deprecating. And he's as goofy as they come -- just ask him.

But to listen to Cowgill tell it, he's hardly alone.

"I can't imagine there being a goofier team than us," said Cowgill. "We have unbelievably unique personalities -- every single guy. They're all so different, so unique, so funny. I feel like we don't have anyone who's 'too cool' or who won't mess around and make things fun.

"Sometimes you just look at it and think, 'This is a top Ten team in the country? This is the most rag-tag, goofy bunch of guys I've ever seen.'"

Case in point: Guards Derrick Low and Taylor Rochestie, each of whom packed on extra muscle over the offseason. This fall, said Cowgill, the two haven't been shy about breaking out the Schwarzenegger poses. Cowgill, a veritable string bean carrying 211 pounds on his 6-10 frame, was quick to follow suit, along with most of the rest of the team.

So who's the biggest cut-up? It changes on a daily basis, he says.

"Oh my gosh. Wow, I don't even know if I can answer that. I feel like I'd be doing everyone else a disservice if I didn't mention everybody," said Cowgill. "...We just have a good time on the locker room and on the road," said Cowgill.

COWGILL, A FOURTH-YEAR STARTER, is counted upon primarily to rebound, defend and block shots. But he can also score. He tied his career high in points this past Friday with 18 in the nailbiting win at Baylor. He downplays his ability to put the rock in the peach basket but make no mistake, he can score in bunches. And in crunch time. His late tip-in against Baylor sealed the 67-64 win.

"My role is being a veteran, knowing the strengths of our team and to do the little things to help us win," said Cowgill. "If we have our scorers on the bench, maybe I'll be more aggressive. If we have our scorers out there, maybe I set screens to get them open."

The ultimate aim, however, remains the same.

"Whatever we need to do to win, although that's kind of everybody's role. But (my role) kind of changes with the personnel that's out there," he said.

At Baylor, it was Cowgill's tip-in that sealed a stirring comeback by the Cougs, who were down by 14 at one point in the second half.

"I call him our glue guy," said Bennett. "He'll do the little things defensively -- and offensively. And then he has the ability to finish some plays, get hustle points and make some post moves. He's steadily improved every year he's been here.

"He's such an important part of our team. He will do whatever is necessary. And that mentality is the same off the court. He's a leader, he's such a likeable guy. And he's all about the team -- most every one of our guys, they all are, but with Robbie, it's all about the team. You can't help but be around him and love the kid."

AT BAYLOR, Cowgill had about 50 family and friends in the crowd. Bennett said they were all going crazy when Cowgill was requested for the ESPNU post-game interview.

It was Cowgill's first-ever college game in Texas since coming to Washington State four years ago from Austin. That was when the seeds of change were planted at Washington State, when Cowgill, Low, Kyle Weaver, Daven Harmeling and Chris Henry committed to building the WSU program.

"You need character guys like that," said Bennett of that '04 class. "When it's going well and when it's not going so well. And he (Cowgill) fits the mold perfectly."

HE ALSO HAS the metabolism of a hummingbird. Cowgill packed away as many as 6,000 calories a day between his sophomore and junior seasons in a mostly failed effort to bulk up. Meats, breads, potatoes, lots of carbohydrates were all on the menu. So were late night snacks. "Whatever you can find for cheap and make a lot of," he said.

Cowgill still orders seconds and thirds at chow time whenever he can but a plateau has been reached. And that's not a bad thing, either.

"I've come to the realization you can't fight Mother Nature at this point," Cowgill laughs. "I've gained quite a bit of weight since I've been here but it's kind of leveled off. I'm just focused on getting stronger and working with what I have...People tell me in 20 years I'm going to be loving it."

ASK COWGILL ABOUT his academic achievements -- he was first-team Pac-10 all academic this past March, for the second straight season -- and modesty kicks in. So does something else.

"I don't want to get in trouble with my mom here," Cowgill laughed. "I'm like any kid, I don't think anyone loves to study. You kind of figure out what you need to do to get by and to do well and to learn what you need to learn...I guess maybe that 'wily veteran' statement can also apply a little bit to school."

Mom also plays a role in another area. The first thing most notice about Cowgill, after his height, is his hair. Over his Cougar career, he's worn it high and tight, and also big and bold. Sometimes a beard goes along with it. Down in Texas at the hotel the night before the Baylor game, however, his mom stopped by for a visit. Not long afterwards, she handed him a razor. Off came the beard.

"You've got to listen to momma," said Cowgill. "I think keeping the hair long and the facial hair short is what we're going for as of now...My mom is coming up for Senior Day so I better have it manageable before then."

HOOPS NOTES:
  • Bennett said there was no word from the NCAA on Fabian Boeke's status. Freshman Lucca Staiger, in a similar situation at Iowa State, was recently declared ineligible for this season by the NCAA. "We'll see. Not real hopeful, to be honest. But we'll see," said Bennett.

  • The Gonzaga game tomorrow in Spokane is the hottest ticket in both Spokane and Pullman. Mark Rypien was at the Cougs' tourney in Spokane and inquired of Bennett if there were any WSU-Gonzaga tickets floating around. "When you have to tell the Super Bowl MVP, 'I can't help you, you feel really bad.'" said Bennett.

  • Bennett's mother Anne is in town this week, though father Dick won't be at the Gonzaga game. "He's still trying to squeeze in one last round (of golf) I think before the freeze comes in Wisconsin," Bennett cracked.


    THE BUZZ CUT LOOK IN 2005.


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