Bennett: Baynes a man of many faces

TONY BENNETT LOOKS at big Aron Baynes and sees things that others don't. He flashes to a game against UC-Riverside when the center from Australia was a freshman and chuckles at the memory of Dick Bennett describing Baynes' lackluster outing this way: "It looked like someone snuck up behind him and shot him in the butt with a tranquilizer gun."

Jon Brockman, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Harangody and other notable big men across the land can attest that the 6-10, 260-pound Baynes has matured rather nicely.

So much so, that Bennett asked Baynes to accompany him this past weekend to "A Night with Cougar Basketball," the annual gathering of Seattle-area alums seeking the inside scoop on the upcoming men's and women's hoop seasons.

Bennett, who always brings a good sense of humor to these events, introduced his senior center by offering up a list of "The Five Things You Might Not Know About Aron Baynes."

One of them was the story about the tranquilizer gun. Another, also from Baynes' freshman season, was the time at practice when Dick Bennett noticed how ornery Baynes could get when things weren't going his way. The elder Bennett turned to Tony and observed of the big man, "He looks just like a big bear with a sore ass."

No. 3 on Bennett's list is the message on one of the all-time favorite home-made signs he's seen in the stands ringing Friel Court: BAYNES WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN.

No. 4 is the reason behind what Bennett calls the "cheesy mustache" Baynes currently is sporting. He's taking part in Movember, the worldwide charity event – held every November – to raise money for and awareness of prostate cancer. The mission of the charity is to "change the face of men's health," and they ask supporters to grow mustaches as part of the observance.

BAYNES SPENT TIME IN AUGUST VOLUNTEERING AT YOUTH CAMPS IN SEATTLE

No. 5 on Bennett's list illustrates, he says, what kind of person Baynes truly is. All last season, despite the demands of balancing academics with big-time athletics, Baynes found time to volunteer for P.S. I Love You, a community program that promotes childhood literacy by teaming up pre-schoolers with adults who read to them.

"LIKE DERRICK (LOW), Aron committed to WSU without ever seeing the place," Bennett added. "He's a joy to coach – he's hard nosed, he's tough and he's All-Academic in the classroom."

Baynes, who may look menacing on the court, is soft-spoken and gentle off it. When he finally stepped to the mic on Saturday, his words were earnest and to the point.

"We're going to miss the guys (Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill), but we have five returning (veterans)," he said. "Taylor (Rochestie) and I keep looking at each other and saying this is it, our final season, and we're going back to that tournament. We don't want to end the season early. With all the freshmen, we're going to have to help guide them through. There's going to be ups and downs but if everyone buys in, we've got a great shot (at returning to March Madness). Go Cougs!"

Baynes, from Cairns, Australia, looks back at his time in Pullman and marvels. "Four years ago I was leaving for a place I'd never seen or even heard of. Now I look back at the last four years and I'm home in Pullman. It'll be part of me for the rest of my life."

The Cougars open the season Nov. 10 at home in an exhibition against Lewis-Clark State. They get the regular season underway on Nov. 15, also at home, against Mississippi Valley State. Pac-10 plays starts Jan. 3, in Pullman, against Washington.

NOTABLE NOTE:
* The Cougfan.com table at Saturday's dinner was a head turner. Guy Williams, one George Raveling's greatest Cougars, was on hand, as were two of Marv Harshman's early players at WSU: Ernie Woods and Mert Kennedy. Woods, by the way, became a legendary junior college hoops coach and now works around the world teaching his defensive philosophies to international teams. June Daugherty's Cougar women's team will be deploying some of Woods' strategems this winter.


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