Time to take the next step up from mediocrity
For the Washington State Cougars, reaching the postseason hasn’t been the problem. Granted, those postseason appearances happened to be two oft-forgotten tournaments, the NIT and CBI, the past two Cougar basketball teams performed exceptionally well despite coming off of lackluster regular seasons.
Whereas seeing the Cougars play in these secondary tournaments is fun, it’s also tough to see them play that well after it really matters – during the regular season.
Had either of those teams played the level of basketball they did in the NIT and CBI, they could have possibly found themselves in the NCAA Tournament.
But, they didn’t. So, we set our sights on next season.
The Cougars return an array of experience and, for the first time during the Ken Bone era, the roster is compiled of players he recruited.
Though they will be missed, Bone has put together his most heralded recruiting class yet, hoping to offset those departures.
Throughout the years, Washington State basketball teams have struggled with height and depth in the post.
In 2012, Bone looked to address those issues in a huge way through recruitment.
These are the new faces of the Washington St. Cougars basketball team:
G – Demarquise Johnson (6-5, 185)
Phoenix, AZ – Westwind Academy
“Que,” as they call him, is going to play the 2 and the 3 for the Cougars working on perimeter. At 6-foot-5, he has the size to be extremely effective as a wing and can shoot lights out from well beyond the arc. Johnson has the ability to get to the rack and finish which is extremely encouraging at this point in his development.
“He’s a 6-5, lengthy wing who can score, and a young man that has very good basketball instincts,” Bone said. ”At this stage, he’s pretty similar to what Klay Thompson was (entering college). I’m not saying that’s what he’s going to become.”
The offensive game is there, but Johnson has a ways to go on the defensive side of the ball. Being able to commit himself to playing tough defense and crashing the boards is what will push him to that upper echelon.
As we saw last year, Faisal Aden could shoot the lights out but decided he wasn’t going to play defense – a decision that resulted in plenty of minutes on the bench.
Basketball aside, there are a few red flags. Off the court issues have threatened Johnson’s enrollment at Washington State. Despite passing the freshman SAT score requirement (on his third try), the Clearinghouse is currently investigating his coursework at Westwind Academy.
This procedure is common with every college recruit but there is more scrutiny placed on prep schools.
If all goes well, which it appears it will, Johnson will most likely forego a redshirt and immediately compete for a starting spot this season. His ability to score should ease the defensive pressure on Motum and make the defense extend rather than pack the middle and key in on the Pac-12′s leading scorer.
Johnson averaged 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists last season. In addition to WSU, Johnson held offers from Gonzaga, Washington, UNLV, and Colorado. Scout and ESPN list Johnson as the #28 SG and Rivals lists him as the #17 SG in the country.
All three sites give Johnson a four-stars.
SF – Richard Longrus (6-6, 210)
Oakland, CA – Bishop O’Dowd High
One of the most athletic players to hail from California in the 2012 class, Longrus provides the defensive presence that the Cougars lost with Capers graduating. Longrus will look to rebound and defend before scoring, something that many D-1 universities covet.
Which is why landing Longrus was such a huge get for Bone and the Cougars.
Although Longrus is much bigger than Capers, he can be compared quite easily. He will be able to guard the 3 and the 4 and has wide shoulders to bang down low with the bigs. His ability to rebound will earn him plenty of playing time as a freshman.
“He’s taken on an unselfish role of being a lock-down defender,” Bone said. ”We need that guy with a great defensive presence and being able to rebound.”
Longrus isn’t going to put up huge offensive numbers but he is capable of knocking down the mid-range shot at an average clip. The majority of Longrus’ scoring is going to come by driving to the lane. He has a knack for getting above the rim and finishing despite contact.
With above average athleticism, he should adjust well to Pac-12 play and earn early playing time off the bench. In time, Longrus has the ability to become one of the premier defenders in the league and is a few offensive pointers away from becoming a very solid all around prospect.
Longrus averaged 11.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks last season. He held offers from Utah, Stanford, and Colorado. All three major recruiting websites gave Longrus three stars and praised his defensive work ethic.
SF – Brett Boese (6-7, 205)
Spokane, WA – Shadle Park HS
Every team can use a shooter and the Cougars got theirs in Boese. The small forward, who has grown up in the shadow of Washington State University, is one of the better shooters on the West Coast and was nominated for the 2012 McDonald’s All-American Team along with future teammate Demarquise Johnson.
While Boese isn’t the best athlete in the world, he makes up for it with his ability to dribble to the lane or stop on a dime for a pull up jumper. He will be a valuable asset in the transition game because he can leak out to the perimeter and knock down a jumper in stride or attack the rim and finish at a high rate.
His size as the small forward position should allow him enough height on his shot to elevate over smaller defenders for better looks. He will need to get better at getting himself open as he doesn’t possess the speed to lose his defender in the half court set.
Like Johnson, if he can commit himself on the defensive end, Boese can become a solid contributor for the next few years. Look for Boese to redshirt this fall but a good showing in preseason workouts could earn him some immediate playing time. Any team can use a solid shooter.
“He’s another guy that can really shoot it,” Bone said.
Boese averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds last season. He held offers from Portland, Saint Mary’s and UTEP, and could have received others had he not committed to his hometown school so early in the process. All three major recruiting sites ranked Boese as a three-star recruit based on his ability to shoot the ball from all over the court.
C – James Hunter (6-10, 240)
Sydney, Australia – Gillette College (WY)
Throughout the years the Cougars have had a knack for finding hidden talent in Australian form. Aron Baynes, Brock Motum, and Dexter Kernich-Drew have led the way for the newest Australian of the bunch, James Hunter.
The big man hails from a small junior college in Wyoming and will have three years to play at Washington State.
Hunter is a strong post player that has some touch around the basket but has yet to really polish any of his skills. His hands are pretty good and he has a decent feel for the post position. What the coaching staff has been excited about with Hunter is that he can run the floor well and is an above average rebounder.
I don’t see Hunter providing much this season, but definitely has some upside to be a real contributor further down the road. It’s important to have depth at the center position – especially in the Pac-12 – and with promising center Richard Peters becoming an academic casualty in this class, it was important to gain another big body.
Last season at Gillette College, Hunter averaged 13 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 30 games. He wasn’t extremely sought after, with just offers from mid-level schools like San Francisco and Southern Utah, but his former coach think the Cougars are getting a quality player.
“They like his size,” Gillette College head coach Shawn Neary. ”His best days of basketball are for sure ahead of him even though he improved dramatically here this year.”
Prior to attending Gillette College, Hunter dominated high school opponents in Australia, averaging 26.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks a game. Those numbers are most likely inflated due to a lack of competition, but it shows that he does have a valid amount of potential.
C – Jordan Railey (6-11, 245)
Beaverton, OR – Iowa State
The Oregon product elected to attend Iowa State out of high school and really struggled to find himself within the Cyclones’ rotation the past two seasons. Railey, played just 39 minutes averaging just 2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 25 games.
He struggled to stay out of foul trouble which limited what were already limited minutes. The staff, however, is really excited about his big body and his ability to block shots, which he was able to display in his scarce moments on the court.
The Cougars want Railey to make his presence felt on the defensive end.
I don’t expect much out of Railey but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come in and play some decent defense against quality Pac-12 centers.
He’s never going to log more than 20 minutes a game or be in line a for starting spot, but he does provide the depth that the Cougars have lacked throughout the years.
Railey will have to sit out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have two years of eligibility following this season. He held offers from WSU, Idaho, Boise State, and, San Francisco (yeah, we own you in recruiting, Dons).