COUGAR NOTEBOOK: Hoops, track and more

WASHINGTON STATE'S DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson figure to make their official international basketball debuts when the U.S. takes on Iran in the opening round of the U-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand. Game time is 3 p.m. PDT today (Thursday in New Zealand). The Americans are expected to breeze into the second round after playing Iran, France and Egypt on consecutive days.

The top three teams from four divisions of four teams each advance to the second round. The Australian team, featuring incoming Cougar Brock Motum, is also in the tourney but not in the USA's initial grouping.

The Americans crushed Croatia 97-68 and Canada 92-69 in pre-tournament scrimmages in Auckland. DeAngelo Casto totaled 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in 27 minutes in the two games. Klay Thompson had three points on 1-for-7 shooting (all from 3-point range) in 37 minutes, with two rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

COUGARS PAST AND present fared well at the USA Track and Field Championships, which concluded Sunday in Eugene. The highlight of the meet for those with WSU ties was Diane Pickler's gold medal in the heptathlon.

Pickler was in second place when leader Hyleas Fountain withdrew with a neck injury. Ironically, Pickler had to pull out of the Olympics heptathlon last year when she pulled a hamstring.

Pickler recorded a career-best 6,290 points in the two-day, seven-event heptathlon. Pickler said she was most pleased with her long jump, a wind-aided 20 feet, 9 ¼ inches that was good for fourth. "This is only my fourth heptathlon this year," Pickler told blogger Paul Merca, "so I definitely felt it a lot in the speed and timing. But I'm just looking at the big picture really and trying to focus on what I'm trying to accomplish in the next few months."

WSU hurdler/wide receiver Jeshua Anderson missed out on a trip with Pickler to the world championships in Berlin when he came in fifth in the 400 hurdles in 48.77 seconds. Legendary Cougar distance runner Bernard Lagat elected not to compete in any finals in Eugene since he's already automatically qualified for the worlds.

Joe Abbott, a freshman at WSU this past season, won the junior 800-meter run in 1:51.54 to qualify for the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships. He'll be joined in Trinidad by Cougar javelin thrower Courtney Kirkwood, who took fourth in junior women's competition at 146-9.

WSU SENIOR PITCHER Matt Way finished in the top 15 in two NCAA Division I statistics. Way's school-record 124 strikeouts ranked 11th, and his 2.43 earned run average ranked 15th. Way and teammate Chad Arnold were among the pitchers tied for 66th in wins with eight.

Jeremy Johnson's 2.90 ERA ranked 31st, and his 10 saves ranked 32nd. Way and Johnson, a redshirt junior, are now pitching in the minor leagues. Johnson notched his first pro win on Sunday.

No Cougar finished in the top 500 in batting average among players with enough at bats to officially qualify for the NCAA title. That helps explain why the Cougars wound up 263rd among 288 ranked teams in hitting at .273. The Cougars came in 23rd in ERA (4.34) and 42nd in fielding percentage (.971). WSU's .561 winning percentage (32-25) ranked 99th, which is particularly impressive when one notes that Boyd's World ranked WSU's strength of schedule fifth.

BLAKE BLEDSOE, A DISTANT cousin of former Cougar quarterback standout Drew Bledsoe, converted a fourth-and-11 pass late in the game and then scored on a dazzling 13-yard run with 1:40 left to lift the East to a 13-12 victory in the annual Washington East-West 4A-3A All-Star Game for graduated high school seniors.

The younger Bledsoe, who starred at Central Valley High in Spokane Valley, had considered walking on at WSU. He wound up deciding to play at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College.

Prior to the game, Bledsoe was awarded a $500 scholarship that goes to one player on each team. Bledsoe's scholarship is named in honor of the late Lynn Rosenbach, a noted high school coach who later worked at WSU. He was the father of former Cougar quarterback and assistant football coach Timm Rosenbach.

FORMER WSU BASEBALLl player and assistant coach Mike Larabee has been named softball coach at Arkansas. Larabee, a Kent native who enjoyed tremendous success as a prep softball coach in his hometown at Kentridge and Kentlake, coached the past five seasons at NCAA Division I Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. Larabee wasn't a great baseball player (he's not listed as a letterman at WSU), but he twice made all-world as a fastpitch softball player.

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