WSU hoops recruiting more sweat than science

THE Xs AND Os are one thing. But recruiting is quite another. It means spending days on the road. Lots of them. Nondescript hotel rooms and even more nondescript rental cars are your cornerstones. Want to guess how many days Washington State assistant basketball coach Matt Woodley spent on the recruiting trail last year?

Try 102 on for size.

That figure includes road trips during the basketball season, but the vast majority of it was racked up in the spring and summer scouring the landscape for talent. That equates to more than three months of the year sitting in high school bleachers, eating pancakes at Denny's, and coming home with a suitcase full of laundry to be done.

Woodley is the recruiting coordinator for Tony Bennett and works primarily with the post players in practice.

And get this. His time on the recruiting trail was down quite a bit this year -- he spent 'only' 60 days and nights on the road -- so he could delve into more game planning and scouting.

"Ron (Sanchez) and Ben (Johnson) have done most of the recruiting this year," said Woodley. "I've done most of the scouting reports and Tony and I game plan every game."

Still, recruiting is always a pressing matter. Needs are projected well into the future "and then we'll really attack those needs ... going through the Western part of the country first and then talking with our contacts (outside the West)."

The staff compiles names and then spends a considerable portion of the spring and summer evaluating them and narrowing the list.

"When we really like a guy, we'll get Tony to come watch him and then you get to the point where it's similar to football -- we have two scholarships and eight guys so we'll have Tony sit in front of those kids the entire month of July and then he'll ultimately make the decision. So then we'll rank them and then it's a matter of who we can get to come to Pullman," Woodley said.

THE COUGS HAVE four incoming freshmen slated to arrive this summer: PG Xavier Thames, SG Anthony Brown, PF David Chadwick and PF Brock Motum.

For the 2010 recruiting class, Wazzu has just one open spot, because Nikola Koprivica will be the only senior on the team next season. The open spot is promised to Patrick Simon, a touted junior forward from Ephrata who verbally committed to the Cougs when he was 14-years-old.

Asked if the recruiting workload lightens when an upcoming class is going to be small, Woodley was succinct: "Not at all -- we spend the same amount of time, we roll it over to the next class."

For the Cougars, that forward look actually goes beyond the 2011 class. That's because the Cougars project to have only one scholarship to fill in that recruiting cycle. As such, the WSU staff is also paying a lot of attention right now to high school sophomores -- the kids who will be on the market in the 2012 recruiting cycle. The Cougs will have five scholarships to fill in that class.

Of course, all these numbers can change quickly from year to year and at the drop of a hat.

There are no rumblings that anyone on the current roster is planning to depart before his eligibility is up, but if the past is prologue, Simons might not end up being the only member of the Cougars' 2010 class. WSU typically has an off-season departure or two that opens up a scholarship.

In recent years, Josh Akognon, Mac Hopson, and Chris Matthews left to find more playing time. Stephen Sauls departed because of injury. Thomas Abercrombie said goodbye to pursue a pro career in his native New Zealand.

If there was an extra scholarship, the guess here is that it would be filled with a ball handling guard or scorer. That's because the post, even with the graduation of Aron Baynes, looks solid with the emergence of DeAngelo Casto and the infusion of talent coming next season in the form of redshirt James Watson and freshmen Motum and Chadwick. In addition, there's second-year freshman Charlie Enquist who is coming along. There's also sophomore Fabian Boeke, but he continues to battle a back injury that has plagued him for two seasons.

When the Cougs face Oregon tonight in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament, they'll be battling a rejuvenated Duck squad, one dissimilar to the team they beat by 29 and 12 points earlier this year. Oregon upset both Stanford and Oregon State two weeks ago -- two teams the Cougs split with this season. Oregon also trailed USC by just three points last week with less than four minutes to go before the Trojans pulled away.

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