Cougar hoops: Passion, recruiting and more

WASHINGTON STATE came up short down the stretch at Washington on Saturday, but the game was a victory for the Cougars in another sense. WSU freshmen DeAngelo Casto, Klay Thompson and Marcus Capers had never before played in such a hostile a situation, and the experience will serve them very well down the road, Cougar assistant coach Ben Johnson told on Monday.

"That was a great atmosphere for our young kids," Johnson said. "For them to experience that hostile environment, that level of noise – they'll grow from that.

"We always talk about playing with poise, playing with composure. That was a test on Saturday. Their (the Huskies') style, their pressure defense can speed you up, and then the crowd revs up their defense, so playing with poise, playing our style of basketball, is critical."

Cougar head coach Tony Bennett, much to the delight of the crimson faithful who infiltrated HecEd on Saturday, was uncharacteristically vocal at points during the game when he didn't see things the same as the officials.

"One of our bedrocks is passion. You can never accuse Tony of being luke warm," Johnson said. "We asked our guys to fight hard, and he (Coach Bennett) went to battle for them. He wanted the officials to know he's in this game."

Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto today were named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. Senior Taylor Rochestie was picked to the all-conference first team.

SENIOR DAVEN HARMELING, who injured a shoulder in practice last week, didn't dress for the Husky game. With outside threat Klay Thompson in foul trouble much of the afternoon, Harmeling could have been a sight for sore eyes out on the perimeter.

"Daven sat out the Washington game to give him a chance to play in the Pac-10 Tournament," Johnson said. "All it takes is one shot and he's rolling again (from three-point range) so we're hoping he can be ready against Oregon."

The Cougars, the No. 7 seed, play the tenth-seeded Ducks this Wednesday in Los Angeles in the first round of the tournament. The game will be televised on FSN. Tip off is at 8:30 pm. The winner will move on to a Thursday game against second-seeded UCLA.

JOHNSON SAID HE and fellow assistant coach Ron Sanchez were out recruiting all last week, and Coach Bennett spent one day on the trail as well.

"You have to be out seeing as many of these good young kids as you can," said Johnson. "You have to know about every kid – we're watching all those good juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

"It's also about being seen. We've had a strong finish, and it's always good to get the Washington State name out in front of people."

Among the recruiting stops last week were Yakima (site of the Class 1A tourney), California, Texas and Florida.

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