Notebook: Lots of hoops, a little Rien Long

KLAY THOMPSON is thrilled to represent his country on the basketball court, but he made it clear that he won't be satisfied until he represents the United States on top of the awards podium at the Under-19 World Championships. "Our goal is to down there and win gold," Thompson said in a phone conversation from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, freshmen standouts at WSU last season, head to New Zealand with their U.S. teammates on Thursday. The Americans are expected to breeze in their July 2 opener against Iraq.

"All these players are really skilled," Thompson said. "They're here for a reason."

Casto flew below the radar on the national recruiting scene, but his athleticism and hustle quickly made him a fan favorite in Pullman.

"I just go hard all the time," Casto said. "I just go out and hustle. I have heart and passion for the game.

"I might not be the most skilled or even the tallest ‘big.' I'm the smallest ‘big' we have. But I'll go hit the boards. I run and I push and I try really hard."

If the Americans wind up playing Australia, Casto and Thompson will square off with incoming Coug freshman Brock Motum, a highly touted forward.

ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz likes the Cougars' chances next season. "If Thompson and Casto can mesh with Motum, and he's as good as advertised, finishing in the top three in the Pac-10 and earning an NCAA tournament berth might not be a reach," Katz wrote on

Katz said Tony Bennett left plenty of talent behind when he bolted for Virginia. Bennett's replacement is the first to agree.

"I feel like taking Tony to dinner and thanking him," new Cougar coach Ken Bone told Katz. "I need to get Coach Bennett on our staff somehow."

A second straight year of heavy losses to the pros and recruiting losses due to coaching changes figures to again lower the talent level in the Pac-10. Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News magazine ranks five conferences ahead of the Pac-10 for next season.

Steven Bjornstad, a prime candidate for the one remaining basketball scholarship at WSU next season, arrived in Pullman on Monday for his official campus visit.

Bjornstad, a 6-foot-10 forward from Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Wash., asked for and received his release from a letter of intent with Nevada after changes were made to the coaching staff. Bjornstad made the Class 3A All-State first team the past two seasons.

David Long, Bjornstad's high school coach, said he believes WSU and Saint Mary's are the two leaders in the Bjornstad recruiting sweepstakes. Long said Portland and Santa Clara might still have a shot, but Long said Bjornstad was impressed with Saint Mary's when he visited the Moraga, Calif., school last week.

"I know things went very well for him at Saint Mary's," Long said.

In case you blinked and missed it, the United Football League held its first draft last week. The league is supposed to debut in October with "world class" players, according to the league website, but schedules have yet to be finalized.

Three former Cougars were drafted. Orlando picked nose tackle Rien Long, who played in the NFL from 2003-05. San Francisco grabbed running back Darrell Hutsona, who played one season at WSU in 2006 before academics sidelined him. Las Vegas selected defensive back Wale Dada, who finished up at WSU in 2005 and has bounced around NFL camps without getting into a game.

Jim Murphy could always be counted on to pile up ample amounts of homers and strikeouts at Washington State. Nothing has changed for the big first baseman now that he's playing for cash.

Murphy is batting .298 with six homers and 31 RBIs in 56 games with Philadelphia's Class A affiliate in Lakewood, N.J., but he's striking out once every 3.3 at bats. As a rookie pro last season, Murphy hit .281 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 62 games with three Philadelphia farm clubs, and he whiffed once every 3.8 at bats.

Virtually anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Daven Harmeling during his basketball days at WSU came away impressed with Harmeling's maturity and humility.

A few months removed from the thrill of playing before thousands of cheering spectators, Harmeling now works diligently at three part-time jobs in Pullman to try to pay for his final semester of school as a student teacher.

Harmeling's workload includes waiting on tables at a senior living center in Pullman. If you know Harmeling, you'll understand why he likes to make certain he brings something to the table besides food and beverages.

"For those people, all you have to do is smile and it makes their day," Harmeling said. "They don't get out too much."

Harmeling has discovered that 6-foot-7 waiters face certain challenges when taking orders.

"I have to get down on one knee, (otherwise) I can't hear them and they can't hear me," he said.

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