Bone explains thinking; attrition expected

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ken Bone said the decision to bypass postseason was a collaboration between administration, coaches and players. He delved into that subject, potential attrition, player development and much more during his season-ending news conference Monday.

The contrasts in systems between Ken Bone and the Bennetts have been well documented.

But Washington State's first-year men's basketball coach said during his season-ending news conference Monday afternoon that the Cougars' experience in last season's NIT was a factor in his decision to decline a postseason opportunity last week.

"It was not a great experience," said Bone, referring to the 68-57 loss at Saint Mary's that ended WSU's 2008-09 season, but he did not elaborate further.

BONE DENIED REPORTS that the decision not to play another game was based on a player vote, which he said did not occur to his knowledge. He said he made the decision based on talking with administration, coaches and players.

"I think we were all on the same page," Bone said. "We decided that for this year's team, it's probably better that we end the season where it's at."

He said it might have been a different scenario if the Cougars, who finished with a 16-15 record but were last in the Pac-10 at 6-12, played as well in the second half of conference play as they did in the first. WSU was 4-5 in the first half of the Pac-10.

Bone's decision might have been irrelevant as only four Pac-10 teams are playing in the postseason. California and Washington are in the NCAA Tournament, while Arizona State is in the NIT and Oregon State is attempting to defend its CBI championship. He said he believes Arizona and UCLA rejected postseason opportunities, but Oregon and Stanford both finished 7-11 in conference play and are not believed to have received postseason invites.

Bone said there were some "feelers" about playing in the CBI, but he said any scenario would have placed the Cougars on the road for their first game and perhaps even the following contest.

"That was not really exciting," he said.

INSTEAD, BONE AND his staff will begin planning for next season, which begins with meeting each player when they return to campus from spring break. It also means sorting through the roster.

WSU is slated to have 14 scholarship players -- one higher than the NCAA maximum -- next season if everyone returns. Senior Nikola Koprivica graduates, while Ephrata High School forward Patrick Simon and Faisal Aden, a shooting guard from Hillsborough Community College in Florida, are scheduled to enroll.

Bone said he expects attrition after he meets with players, but did not name anyone specifically and said no one has told him they intend to leave. Without mentioning anyone specifically, Bone said multiple players were ready to leave after last season before Tony Bennett left to coach at Virginia.

"I think a few of the players wanted to come back this year and give it another shot," he said. "They felt like they could come in this year and get a fresh start."

ONE PLAYER WHO left the program even after the coaching change was guard Nick Witherill, who transferred to Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

"To me it was obvious that maybe this was one step too high," said Bone, adding that he prefers players to determine that. "Sometimes that conversation needs to take place because kids don't see it the same way you do."

Bone said no one currently in the program fits that description, and he would prefer that everyone returns.

"The guys that are in the program, it would be nice to keep them here," he said. "I think there's a lot of growth (potential)."

IF EVERYONE RETURNS, Bone said sophomore center Charlie Enquist has not been promised a scholarship for next season. Enquist redshirted as a scholarship freshman in 2007-08 and then was a walk on the following season. Bone, who was mum on whether he would pull Enquist's aid, placed him on scholarship this season.

Bone said that offseason attrition is typical for most programs. He said when he meets with his athletes, someone might expect a starting position while he views him more as a role player.

"At the end of the day, there's a lot of kids in every program that think they should get more," Bone said.

In addition to sorting out scholarships and expectations for both the player and himself, Bone will outline areas for improvement individually and as a program. Bone said team strength was a significant issue and it became apparent in Pac-10 play.

"As we went out on the floor against other teams, it was obvious," he said. "We have a great strength and conditioning coach in David Lang. Our guys need to embrace what he is putting on them."

Bone said adding a post player would be the highest priority if multiple players leave the program, but he added that Enquist and freshman Steven Bjornstad and James Watson all showed progression as the season advanced.

BUT IT MIGHT be another post player, freshman Brock Motum, who sees his playing time increase the most next season. Bone compared Motum, who scored 14 points in 16 minutes during the Cougars' 82-80 season-ending overtime loss last week against Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament with sophomore Marcus Capers.

Obviously, both players have significantly different skills, but Capers' best game during his freshman season perhaps came against SMU, when he hit 3 of 5 field goals en route to six points.

"Brock should've felt really good about how he performed against Oregon," said Bone, adding that the performance should spur Motum into a strong offseason as it did with Capers.

With the bulk of the returning roster being sophomores and juniors next season, Bone expects stiff competition for starting positions and playing time. He expects Aden to compete for a starting position.

"That's kind of up to the guys coming back," Bone said. "They have an opportunity just like Faisal does."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Bone clarified his remarks from last week's news conference when he discussed the need to recruit more speed into the program. He said it is an emphasis to a point that it can help a team chase more loose balls and rebounds in addition to potentially creating more fastbreak opportunities.

    "There would be times in the game where it would be beneficial if they can get to a shot quicker," he said. "We need to continue to look for guys with good foot speed."

  • Bone watched Simon play in the Class 2A state tournament in Yakima, but did not see his record 48-point game against Squalicum. He said Simon "has a really nice stroke from the perimeter," but needs to increase become stronger and adjust to a higher level of competition.

  • WSU does not have any seniors on next season's roster, which means there are no scholarships available for the 2011 signing class. Bone might save a scholarship for that class if multiple players leave the program.

    "We continue to watch kids play in that class," he said. "You don't want to be caught off guard."


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