Power forward eyes WSU after Nevada release

KEN BONE AND Washington State got a call they've been waiting for on Wednesday. Now it remains to be seen if they'll close the deal with Steven Bjornstad. The Cougars learned Wednesday that Bjornstad, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Vancouver, Wash., has been released from his letter of intent by Nevada, said David Long, Bjornstad's coach at Columbia River High School.

Long said WSU was the first school he called after the Wolf Pack finally gave in to Steven Bjornstad ‘s request and granted him a release Tuesday.

Long said Washington State would be his first choice for Bjornstad, "but ultimately it's Steve's decision."

Long said Bjornstad plans to visit WSU, Saint Mary's and quite possibly Santa Clara and Portland in the near future. All those schools have offered scholarships, Long said, along with Lehigh (Pa.), Eastern Washington, Southern Methodist and Boise State.

Bone recruited Bjornstad when he was at Portland State. Ben Johnson, the lone holdover on WSU's coaching staff, recruited Bjornstad for former coach Tony Bennett but did not offer and he signed with Nevada last November.

"The Cougars just weren't ready to pull the trigger in the fall," Long said. "They wanted to see him play one more season and put on some weight."

Long said Bjornstad weighs "close to 230 pounds" after playing at 215 last season, when he made the All-State Class 3A first team for the second straight year. The lanky Bjornstad has gained about 55 pounds since his sophomore year, but Long said he could use some more pounds and muscle and is working out diligently.

"He's athletic," Long said. "It's a greyhound build. It's lean muscle. He's got a quick first step."

A scholarship became available at WSU last week when freshman guard Nick Witherill was given his release. Witherill is transferring to NCAA Division II Grand Canyon in Phoenix.

Long said Bjornstad "likes the Cougars, but I know Saint Mary's and Santa Clara behind Nevada were probably two and three when he made his original decision, when Washington State wasn't offering."

Long said Bjornstad averaged approximately 15.6 points, 10.5 rebounds and four blocked shots per game last season.

Bjornstad requested his release from Nevada the last week of April, after changes were made on the coaching staff but Nevada had refused the request until yesterday.

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