Weaver: The film doesn't lie

IT WAS AN UNEXPECTED sight for Cougar fans these past two seasons, a three game losing streak -- and at home. Kyle Weaver says he's always had a laid back personality, but taking on more of a leadership role has also come easily. And so when the Cougs were mired in the skid prior to the victory over USC, Weaver called his teammates together not just to talk it out, but to watch film.

"The film doesn't lie," said Weaver. "We can talk about what we were doing, what we should have done...but I just wanted to bring us all together, watch the games and then just say 'Let's critique each other. Let's be completely honest with each other, make each other accountable and lay it all out on the table.' And I think that honesty was big for our team."

USC came in flying high, winners of six of their last seven. Weaver and the Cougs proceeded to hold the Trojans and O.J. Mayo to a collective 19 points in the first half. The 74-50 victory over USC saw Tony Bennett able to get his reserves significant minutes for the first time in nearly a month.

The Cougs will be looking to build on that momentum during an Oregon road trip that begins tonight at OSU and concludes in Eugene on Saturday. The weekend tilt between the No. 20 Cougars (18-5, 6-5) and the Ducks figures to feature two teams who each need to win to further postseason aspirations. If the Cougs are to sweep, veteran leadership will play a big role.

Becoming more of a presence in the locker room was a natural progression for the senior from Beloit, Wisc. And Bennett has let him know it, says Weaver.

"And I'm also just trying to take the young guys under my wing, keep my team together and everybody focused. That's one thing I take pride in. At the same time, Coach tries to push me to be more of a leader on and off the court," said Weaver.

IN THE COUGARS' last four games, Weaver has shown why NBA draft forecasters see him going in the first round. In 35.2 minutes per game over the last four, he's averaging 17 points while shooting 56 percent from the floor, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. He is also pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game and snagging 2.8 steals. Also, WSU says Weaver is believed to be the first player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 150 steals and 75 blocks in a career.

Already regarded following his junior year as among the college game's most versatile offensive players -- and among the premier defenders -- Weaver has added the 3-pointer to his arsenal this year. It wasn't always that way.

Last season, Weaver was 4-24 from beyond the arc at one point, and only something of a mild hot streak towards the end of the year lifted his long distance shooting to 24 percent on the season. The year before, he shot 28 percent. His freshman year, he hit 2-of-22 treys.

How does one go from that, to a 46 percent clip this season and leading the Cougs in long distance shooting percentage?

"I curled but with only my right arm, every day," Weaver deadpans. "No, I'm joking. It was just one of those things where I worked on it constantly."

Weaver was able to get that work in this offseason in game situations, he played in Brazil on the United State's Pan-Am team and in Australia and New Zealand on the Cougars' summer tour. He also spent a lot of long summer hours in the gym at Washington State working on his shot.

The third ingredient was something else entirely.

"Even more than all that, it was probably just my confidence. I've always been the kind of person that when I fail at something, I feel like I can come back and succeed at it," said Weaver. "It was one of a few things I worked on, and probably the biggest. It was a lot of work to get it to where it is and now the big thing is keeping it consistent."

WEAVER PLAYED HIS first two seasons at Washington State under Tony's father, Dick Bennett, before the lauded coach retired. During a game, the elder Bennett wore his emotions on his sleeve and while the on-court demeanor of father and son is indeed different, it's not all that different, says Weaver.

"I wouldn't say night and day, I would say more like late afternoon and night," laughed Weaver. "Tony gets intense -- he's really competitive. Losing at anything gets to him."

That intensity is part of what makes Bennett the perfect coach, says Weaver.

"It's great to have a coach who's like that, it just makes you want to be as good as you can be," said Weaver. "And him having been a player himself, he knows what we're going through physically and mentally. On the flip side, that may even give him the chance to push us more at times when we're like, 'Ah man, come on coach.'"

PART OF WEAVER's career success is also undoubtedly found in his demeanor. He's competitive and desperately wants to win, but he doesn't respond to a questionable call or adversity by getting frustrated. Instead, he just flashes that smile Cougar fans have become familiar with over the past four years.

"It takes a lot to get me fired up and a ref calling a (foul) is not one of those things. I just try to enjoy it, I try not to stress about these things...nothing shocks me anymore. I just smile at it and keep playing," said Weaver.

An eclectic bunch these Cougars. And like teammate Robbie Cowgill when asked the same question, Weaver said there isn't one player on the team who would own the title of the Cougs' biggest jokester.

"Can I just say my whole team is? If we don't finish first in anything, we've got to finish first in the Pac-10 in this: we've got to be the goofiest team in the Pac-10. But I just don't know if I can give you a story (for print) that's appropriate," laughed Weaver.

A GOAL OF Weaver's after basketball is to own his own restaurant. The cuisine has already been chosen. But it's not his only aspiration post-basketball.

"Soul food, definitely," said Weaver. "I'd try to get my mom and some aunts and possibly even Grandma if she can make it to where it is. But I also kinda want to do a couple different things on the business side... I'd like to do some things with kids, too.

"This probably sounds like I think I'm big time already but just being successful, just being able to get to college, it's a big deal for me. I not only represent myself, I represent my city. It just happened that a lot of kids look up to me...I just want to take this whole basketball thing as far as I can and I'll be getting my degree soon (Spring '08) and hopefully, I can go back home and try to give back somehow."

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