Cougar Hoops Notebook

WASHINGTON STATE big man Aron Baynes isn't on the early draft boards of those who regularly follow the NBA's talent crusades. But the senior from Australia isn't being completely ignored, either.

NBAdraftexpress.com ranks Baynes No. 48 among the college seniors who will be available for the draft in June. And NBAdraft.net, another popular forecasting site, gives him an honorable mention nod underneath its list of the top 10 centers available in ‘09.

The 6-10, 260-pound Baynes isn't the only notable big man viewed, at least at this point, on the outside of the draft looking in. Perennial All-Pac-10 performer Jon Brockman of Washington isn't getting much love either, though NBAdraft.net sees him sneaking into one of the final slots in the second and final round.

Asked over the summer at June Daugherty's Hope Heart Institute youth camps in Seattle what the NBA buzz on him was, Baynes was succinct: "I have no idea," he said. "I'm just concentrating on our season."

A number of familiar faces to Cougar fans are widely viewed as first-round prospects. Among them are James Harden of ASU, Austin Daye of Gonzaga, Darren Collison of UCLA and Arizona's Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. In addition, USC true freshman Demar DeRozan is seen as a top five pick.

ROCHESTIE AND BAYNES AIMING FOR OSCARS?

THREE CHEERS FOR THE marketing folks who thought to mimic the movie "Superbad" in the promotional materials ginned up for the Cougars' 2008 Hardwood Classic game in Seattle at Key Arena on Dec. 13. Baynes never looked so good in contrast stitching. And that hair is to die (dye?) for. The Cougs will play Montana State in that game, which marks the fourth consecutive pre-holiday "home" contest WSU has played at the Key. Last season, against The Citadel, WSU drew a record 12,000 fans. Tickets are available online at www.wsucougars.com and www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-GO-COUGS.

STAYING TRUE TO THE blue-collar philosophy of Bennett Ball, the Cougars won't kick off the start of the practice season with one of those "Midnight Madness" events. Tony Bennett and staff will put the Cougs through their inaugural practice session on Oct. 17. It'll start in the afternoon and be closed to the public. You can't get much more low-key than that. The Cougars start the season with an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 10 at Friel Court before opening the regular campaign Nov. 16 at home against Mississippi Valley State.

JUST HOW BAD DID the Oklahoma City Robbers, er, Thunder want CouGreat Kyle Weaver? So bad that they did something largely unheard of in the NBA. They gave a second-round draft pick – Weaver! – a two-year GUARANTEED contract, with a team option for two more years. In the NBA, only first-round draft picks get guaranteed contracts. So why the special deal for Weaver?

The Thunder are looking to rebuild through youth and defense. That's why they drafted UCLA's Russell Westbrook and why they traded with the Bobcats to get Weaver, who was taken in the second round with the 38th overall pick in the June draft. Terms of Weaver's contract have not been disclosed, but a review of the NBA salary structure would suggest he's making somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000 annually.

Weaver's old backcourt mate on the Palouse, Derrick Low, is playing professionally in Australia with the Sydney Spirit. Through four games this season, Low is livin' large. He's among the league leaders in scoring (19.8 points per game) and assists (3.25 pg). And get this: He's shooting only 27 percent from 3-point land. Imagine what his scoring average will look like once he finds his long-range stroke. Another Cougar in the Australian pro league is Thomas Abercrombie, who is a backup for the New Zealand Breakers.

Robbie Cowgill is back in Pullman this fall. He has his degree and is now doing campus ministry work.

THE 4TH ANNUAL "Night with Cougar Basketball," featuring Bennett and June Daugherty, is set for Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Bell Harbor Conference Center on Seattle's waterfront. Social hour starts at 5:30, with dinner and program at 6:30. All proceeds support the student-athlete scholarship fund at WSU. The cost is $100 for Athletic Foundation members and $125 for non-members. To rsvp, connect with Todd Thrasher at 206-448-1330 or tthraher@wsuwest.edu .

A BRAND NEW BOOSTER organization -- The Cougar Pawz Club -- is being launched at Washington State to support the women's basketball team. The timing couldn't be better, either, because the Cougar women are poised for one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in the nation. There are three levels of membership, ranging from $100 to $500. Some of the perks include opportunities to visit with players, chalk talks with June D. and her staff, invitations to exclusive events, a Cougar Pawz t-shirt and more. Membership will help support the team in a variety of ways, including summer foreign tours, academic assistance and film editing equipment. To join, call 509-335-0276.


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