Cougar hoops: Mr. Watson, we need you!

BEFORE THE COACHING change, the most pressing question among Cougar basketball fans looking to next season was this: How is WSU going to fill the post without 6-10, 260-pound Aron Baynes? The answer is fairly clear. Not having that big body means adjusting the offense and defense. But what the Cougs lose in mass, intimidation and presence could be made up for in mobility.

More specifically, the athletic youngsters who figure to complement DeAngelo Casto in the Cougars' frontcourt in 2009-10.

They aren't bulky like Baynes but they are agile. Say hello to James Watson, Brock Motum and Charlie Enquist.

The Cougars' post play next season is going to have a new look. Where Baynes was a classic back-to the-basket center, the players who figure to fill his minutes are more finesse than brawn. That means you can expect more high post, face-to-the-basket, jump-shooting type of play coming from the Cougs' big men.

In an interview just before the NIT began, Cougar assistant coach Ben Johnson offered CF.C his take on the players who may vie for Baynes' PT ...

James Watson (6-7, 210, Atoka, Okla)
Redshirted as a true freshman in the just-concluded season. All-classifications All-State as a shot-blocking prep terror in 2008.

"He's similar to DeAngelo -- a high-energy presence. He pursues the ball well. We really like the contribution he's made in practice. He's learning the schemes and system. We're excited to be adding another kid (like Casto) with athleticism and equilibrium," says Johnson. "In practice, he's been asked to guard everyone from the 1 to the 5 -- Baynes, Thompson, Rochestie. He has good bounce and the ability to play multiple positions. He's also added strength since he's been here ... He's not going to be 230 or 240 (pounds), but 225 is a realistic target."

Charlie Enquist (6-10, 222, Edmonds, Wash.)
Played in 11 games this past season, totaling 53 minutes, as a second-year freshman.

"We used him sparingly this season but we love the contribution Charlie has made knocking heads (in practice) with Aron the way Chris Henry used to," said Johnson. "He has bounce and athleticism -- there's a future here for Charlie. He's done a great job with the thought that you have to be patient and wait for your time."

Brock Motum (6-9, 215, Queensland, Australia)
Incoming lefty with hard-nosed style and nice shooting range. Earned regional player of year honors after averaging 15.8 points and 5 rebounds per game.

"Brock is skill more than mass, an inside-outside, pick-and-pop guy who can play some 4 and 5. He also might work some at the 3," said Johnson. "He has a facing jump shot that can stretch defenses. We're looking forward to getting him here and seeing what he can do."

One certainty for the Cougar frontcourt next season is Casto, the 6-8, 229 pound crowd favorite from Spokane.

He set a WSU freshman record for blocked shots this season, with 39, and ranked among the Pac-10 leaders in that category. He played in all 33 games for the Cougs, starting two of them, and averaged 4.4 points, 4 rebounds and 16.1 minutes of PT per game. His efforts earned him a spot on the Pac-10 All-Freshman team along with classmate Klay Thompson.

"DeAngelo logged a lot of minutes, especially late in the season, and there really is no substitute for experience," said Johnson. "His defensive skills are apparent but he also showed at times that he's able to score in the low block. This summer will be key in his development. There's a lot of upside there."

NOTABLE NOTES:
* Junior-to-be Fabian Boeke is another post player in the Cougar orbit, but ongoing back injury woes that have plagued him since coming to WSU two years ago make his outlook uncertain.

* Mike Heideman, a Cougar assisant coach under Dick and Tony Bennett, is a finalist for the head coaching job at the University of Mary, an NCAA Division II school in Bismarck, N.D.

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