Rough road to top for future Coug Watson

OF THE FIVE RECRUITS Tony Bennett signed for his class that will enroll at WSU in the fall, perhaps none has had a more physical senior season than 6-8 James Watson of Stringtown, Okla. Stringtown High, a perennial Class B power, had eight games this season versus schools in higher classifications. And against Class B competition, the opponents' game plans were straightforward: Brutalize Watson.

"He ( Watson) has his biggest games in the biggest games," Stringtown coach Bryan Dobbs recently told the Tulsa World. "Defenses will beat him up and punch him in the jaw, anything to try and stop him ..."

Watson was up for the challenge. In leading Stringtown to a 19-5 regular-season record he averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds. For the third-straight season, Stringtown is ranked No. 1 in the state headed into the playoffs. They are defending state champions.

Watson is part of what many observers believe to be the finest recruiting class at Washington State in many years. Along with Watson, the class includes four others whose prep teams also are state title contenders:

* Klay Thompson, the son of former NBA standout Mychal Thompson, who is averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal per game this season for his Eagles of Santa Margarita High (Calif.);
* Michael Harthun of South Medford (Oregon) High, who is averaging 18 points and four assists per game despite being slowed by a back injury sustained in the football season. He scored 39 points in one game, in which he hit 7 of 11 three-pointers.
* Nick Witherill, a Scottsdale, Ariz., product who is averaging 16.9 points per game in his first year at Gilbert High. He transferred to Gilbert from Saguro High, where he was an All-State performer and led the club to the Class 4A-I state semifinals.
* Marcus Capers of Montverede, Fla., a scoring and rebounding force who has been selected to play for Team Florida next month in the Florida vs. USA All-Star Game featuring some of the finest high school senior basketballers in the nation.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE Cougars' 2009 recruiting class -- kids who are high school juniors this season -- the one verbal commit WSU has lined up so far is 6-5 swingman Anthony Brown of Spokane's Shadle Park High.

Brown is a slasher with outstanding moves around the basket. Even though his team's offense is built largely around long-range shooting, he still scores in double-figures most nights. Shadle is 19-3 this season -- with all three losses coming against defending Class 4A champion Ferris. Shadle plays Eisenhower of Yakima in the state playoffs on Tuesday.

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