BUZZIN' THE PALOUSE: Can hoops youth deliver?

WANTED BY TONY BENNETT: A heady dribbler and passer who can spell Taylor Rochestie for six minutes per game. With Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low heading to pro camps and Stephen Sauls transferring, Rochestie is the Cougs' sole returning ball handler. That means one or more of WSU's incoming freshmen must play point guard. And that's just the start of the Cougs' backcourt question-marks for 2008-09.

Look for 6-4 Marcus Capers, 6-3 Michael Harthun and 6-3 Nick Witherill to get long looks at the point, with 6-7 Klay Thompson perhaps figuring into the mix as well.

None played the point in high school, but all were sought by the Cougs because of their versatility.

While Thompson appears built for shooting forward, his skills as a ball handler helped lead San Margarita High to the state title this season and earned him California Division III Player of the Year honors. He averaged 21 points and 4.3 assists per game.

Rochestie turned in a team-leading 34.9 minutes a game this season. Bennett was able to cover his infrequent breathers by having Weaver or Low bring the ball up court. Both of those guys, of course, averaged a ton of minutes, too -- more than 33 each per game. So the backcourt opportunities for the incoming recruits will abound when camp opens in October.


Outside of Rochestie, Nikola Koprivica -- who arguably is more forward than guard -- is the only returnee with notable backcourt experience, although forward Daven Harmeling's outside shooting skills had him spending more and more time on the perimeter as 2007-08 wore on.

Look for 6-7 Abe Lodwick, who redshirted this season as a true freshman, to make a serious bid for Low's minutes. Lodwick has a feathery shooting stroke that could go far in replacing Low's 14.1 points per game. He needs to step up his game defensively, however.

As for the incoming talent, Harthun, the pride of Medford, Oregon, is a serious threat from long distance and could slide nicely into some PT as an off guard.

The backcourt bottom line for the Cougs in 2008-09 is this: Rochestie, the only true point guard and a wily old veteran, must remain healthy; and two or three of the underclassmen must elevate their games. If all that happens, this team can easily contend for a third consecutive trip to the Big Dance in what looks to be a lesser year in the Pac-10 than has been the case recently.

Ball handling cannot be underestimated. It is key for an offense predicated on taking care of the ball. This season the Cougs committed 103 fewer turnovers than their opponents. Shooting also will be important to spread defenses and ease pressure on Rochestie.

THE MASS EXODUS OF young talent from the University of Washington's women's basketball program – four of six freshmen – prompted the Seattle Times' Steve Kelley to do a lengthy column the other day exploring the problem. The piece relied solely on remaining UW players to defend the ways and means of head coach Tia Jackson. Their not-so-subtle claim – not-so-subtly endorsed by Kelley -- was that the defectors just weren't tough enough. Perhaps.

But the fact of the matter is that it's hardly credible for the sole defenders of the coach to be players who still are subjected to her wrath. There's no way they would ever stray from the company line.

The players who left were originally signed to the UW by June Daugherty. As you may remember, at least one of them – Katelan Redmon of Spokane (and now at Gonzaga) – wanted to be released from her LOI after Daugherty was let go. Then-UW athletic director Todd Turner said no way, despite the widespread precedent for giving high school seniors their freedom when there's a coaching change before they arrive on campus.

The loss of these four players proves that Turner was fatally flawed in his heavy-handed thinking. We're talking about high schoolers who have just four or five years to make the most of their college careers. Forcing them to choose between a coach they don't know or losing a year of eligibility if they move on is pure nonsense.

Coach Jackson told the Seattle Times, "My style of basketball is probably not for every kid."

So why force Daugherty's recruiting class into that situation?

If Tony Bennett had left for Indiana, I would have had no problem with WSU granting the incoming class of recruits their releases from LOIs. It is the future of the student- athletes in question, and we cannot be so selfish as fans to deny them because we root for the school and not the coach.

BOB COSTAS, ON HIS HBO show "'Costas Now," had an enlightening program on the state of sports media, including a lively segment on blogging. Costas and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger contended that while there are a few reputable sports blogs, many more are vulgar, spiteful and demeaning to the athletes and teams they right about.

Like's very own message board, discussion on the internet can range from thoughtful discourse to mindless banter and name calling. The key is that we as a society make an attempt to promote the first, and find ways to minimize the second.

My advice is this: whether you're a Cougfan poster or a blogger, attach your real name to your writing. When you hold yourself accountable for your words, you elevate the standard of quality in your writing. It also means that you cannot just anonymously slander an athlete or a coach. It doesn't prevent you from being negative or holding opinions, it just means you need to back them up and be willing to attach those thoughts to your name. Give it a try.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grady Clapp is a professional student and avid sports fan at Washington State. He earned a general science degree last year and will come away with second sheepskin, in pharmacy, next year. He is a native of Veradale, just outside Spokane, and a proud graduate of Central Valley High. For more of Grady's insights, visit his blog at

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