Point guard question might be solved

WASHINGTON STATE SIGNED two well-regarded point guards in its last class. That led some to wonder whether Reggie Moore or Xavier Thames might get the bulk of playing time with the other seeing limited minutes when the season began. Ken Bone offered insight on that and a number of other topics today.

WSU coach Ken Bone said that might not be such an either/or regarding Moore and Thames. While adding the caveat that setting a starting lineup has not necessarily been at the forefront, Moore and Thames both could start when the Cougars open their season at 7 p.m. Friday against Mississippi Valley State at Beasley Coliseum.

With a roster that includes 12 underclassmen among 13 scholarship players, Bone features the youngest team in his coaching career. The first-year WSU coach said he started a freshman point guard at Seattle Pacific in the early 1990s, but that player was surrounded by underclassmen.

If both freshmen start at guard, Bone said Thames would run the point while Moore would play the off-guard position. He said Moore will start in any lineup he devises for the opener -- along with sophomores Klay Thompson, who averaged 12.5 points per game last year, and DeAngelo Casto.

One other decision that Bone must make is whether to redshirt any members of the six-player freshmen class. Steven Bjornstad, a 6-foot-9 post from Vancouver, has been mentioned as a redshirt candidate by Bone in the past, but he said no decision will be made for another day or two.

THE COUGARS OPEN against the Delta Devils for second straight year. Last year, WSU won 76-25 in its biggest blowout win of the season.

Bone said he likes starting the season against a team that features a similar composition to his own. Among Mississippi Valley State's top three scorers, only senior guard-forward Shannon Behling, who averaged 10.4 points per game a year ago, returns.

"They're similar to us in that they have a lot of new kids in their program," Bone said. "That's a little bit comforting knowing that we're facing somebody that probably is dealing with the same issues we're dealing with."

But Bone said the Delta Devils, who finished with a 7-25 record last season, have improved.

"They can shoot the ball much better than they've shot in the past," he said. "They have great quickness, and with that they can present some problems."

The Cougars, who finished 17-16 last season, won their exhibition game 73-51 Monday night against Idaho's Lewis-Clark State College. After reviewing the game, Bone said he wants to see his team rebound better, improve its execution in several facets offensively and "tighten up our defense a little bit."

After WSU plays Mississippi Valley State, it stays home for a 7 p.m. game Monday against Eastern Washington. Kirk Earlywine's squad finished 12-18 last season, but returns guard Benny Valentine (15.1 points per game last season) and 6-foot-9 post player Brandon Moore (11.2 ppg).

"I think they'll bring a toughness that Coach Earlywine does a good job with," Bone said. "They'll play hard."

BONE CLASSIFIED a couple of players as "surprises" after the Lewis-Clark game. He felt freshman forward Brock Motum played nervous and said he was even more convinced of that after watching the game tape.

"He's a better player than he showed," he said. "I felt bad for him because almost everything he did went wrong. But it was his first game, he's a freshman ... he'll have better moments."

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Michael Harthun struggled in limited playing time last season, but Bone liked that he provided off the bench against Lewis-Clark. He made 5 of 6 field goals en route to 10 points.

"I was maybe a little surprised Mike Harthun came out as confident as he did," he said. "We are very glad he did that. We think he's a good shooter and he can put the ball in the basket."

WSU HAD NOT yet received its Letter of Intents when Bone's first press conference began — Ephrata's Patrick Simon later faxed his in — but he was asked about signing two players when only forward Nikola Koprivica graduates. CF.C reported earlier this week that Florida junior-college guard Faisel Aden also committed to Bone.

"The theory behind it is make sure by next fall we have 13 guys who are Pac-10 caliber, eligible and ready to go," Bone said. "It's my job to make sure that's what we've got."

Bone was asked about his recruiting philosophy and said he strives to find players with strong academic portfolios and good character.

"When you're trying to teach a team concept ... those are the kids that understand that and embrace that," he said.

Bone refers to the rest of it as building a puzzle. He simply looks at the pieces he has and what he needs to build a contender. Bone gave his assessment of what he thinks the team needs.

"We need toughness, we need some guys that value defense and I really believe we need more shooters," he said.

Bone was known to take transfers from other schools during his three-year tenure at Portland State, but said those transfers often come with problems "we just don't want to add that to our situation right now."

"The APR is in there for a reason," Bone said. "You just can't look in the other direction. You can't afford to just bring in questionable kids."

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