Cougar hoops practice: Bone makes his points

PULLMAN – Ken Bone, all smiles with news that JC shooting sensation Faisal Aden had signed his letter of intent with WSU, was all business at practice Tuesday afternoon. Following his Cougars' too-close-for-comfort win over Eastern Washington the night before -- in which the Eagles outrebounded the Cougs -- he and his staff preached the virtues of boxing out. And defense.

Indeed, in 5-on-5 drills, any player thought to have missed a chance to take a charge was summarily lined up and tasked with taking three in a row.

On offense, missed assignments and missed opportunities brought instant pauses to the 5-on-5 session. Was there a better option? Why no pass to the low post when a big guy had position?

For a time there, the youthful Cougars looked every bit their age.

But it was also clear that this team has loads of potential. And they're quick learners. Bone had no problem communicating his points. Once the team took hold of his words, they looked more fluid and the overall tone of the practice became much more rhythmic.

The oldest player in the starting line-up for the Cougs through two games has been third-year sophomore Abe Lodwick. He has struggled so far with his touted outside shot, but showed great range on Tuesday. Originally a shooting guard, he's now playing the 4 spot in a fashion similar to the post-and-perimeter style of predecessors Daven Harmeling and Caleb Forrest.

Freshman guard Xavier Thames played well Tuesday, handling the ball nicely and not forcing passes into tight spots. He also showed good range with his jumper, nailing a couple from 18-20 feet.

After struggling early on, sophomore guard Michael Harthun impressed with his lock-down D. "That's the way you play defense, men," enthused assistant coach Ben Johnson following a Harthun series against guard John Allen.

Klay Thompson, who is averaging 22 points a game after two, showed another facet to his offensive game on Tuesday, working the post and showing off good moves. He's known for his outside shot, but has been driving to the hoop early and often so far this year. His post work isn't going to supplant DeAngelo Casto any time soon, but it's clear he's a versatile player who can make things happen from anywhere on the court.
The bulk of the low post play, of course, was dominated by the 6-8, 231-pound Casto. His moves down low have improved dramatically since last season -- a theme he delivered convincingly to 5-on-5 counterparts James Watson and Charlie Enquist.

Guard Marcus Capers, who is establishing himself as a defensive stopper, wasn't bashful about firing up jumpers on Tuesday and continues step up his offensive game.

WSU will play host to IPFW this Thursday night at 7 p.m., before heading to Anchorage for The Great Alaska Shootout.

AS FOR ADEN, THE JC standout who has now signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Cougars, Bone minced no words. "We're excited …. He's a 6-4 guard that can really shoot the ball from the perimeter…really good scorer, not just a shooter. He's putting up big numbers right now (at Hillsborough Community College) -- he's averaging about 30 points per game after like five games. He's the type of guy that could come in and help us next year, whether he would play immediately next year or not, that's for down the road, we'll see what happens."

Currently in his second season at Hillsborough in Tampa, Fla., Aden is 6-4, 185 pounds. He is a native of Somalia but moved to San Diego as a child and then attended high school in Texas. He spent his junior and senior years at God's Academy in Dallas prior to committing to New Mexico State in January 2008. Aden never played for the Aggies and transferred to Hillsborough, where he averaged 20.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season en route to being named first-team All-State. Aden begins his sophomore campaign as a preseason second-team All-American.

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