Cougar guards hit with turnover, aim to avoid turnovers
SAN FRANCISCO – The Washington State Cougars aren't worried about the critics' opinions after the media picked them to finish last in the Pac-12 Conference by the end of 2013-14. At the same time, Ken Bone's team is still battling the issues that plagued it last season.
Finding consistent guard play tops Bone's to-do list.
“I think we're known as a guard-oriented conference,” said junior guard DaVonte Lacy, who averaged 10.5 points and 2.1 assists per game last season. “I think we're staying strong in that mold where we're developing good guards, pretty NBA-ready guards coming out.”
The Cougars have to match the standard.
Roster turnover hasn't helped. Last year, the Cougars lost Xavier Thames to a transfer, Reggie Moore left the team and senior Mike Ladd ended up playing point guard until he got hurt.
Junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn is no longer with the team, leaving Lacy to become a foundation for the Cougars. Royce Woolridge, a natural scorer, took over for Ladd last season -- it was the first time he had played the point guard position in his life -- and now has experience at point as well.
There's room to grow, but Bone has no choice but to lean on his perimeter players. Woolridge is back after averaging 11 points and 2.7 assists his sophomore season. He and Lacy will be joined by expected contributors Que Johnson, Ike Iroegbu and Dexter Kernich-Drew in the backcourt. Johnson sat out last season and has returned to the practice court two days before Thursday's media day.
“I'm hoping we have better poise down the stretch,” Bone said of this year's expectations. “We were not prepared to just throw some other guys out there (at point guard). Throughout the course of a year, you hope they improve and they did improve." In 2013-14, a winning way will need to be found with last year's leading scorer, center Brock Motum, now playing professionally.
Lacy, Woolridge and company will provide playmaking and scoring on the offensive end, but Bone expects them to take part in a push to turn Washington State's defense into an “up-tempo, aggressive style of defense,” Bone said, adding that the Cougars were sometimes passive last season.
“When I talk about aggressiveness, I talk about denial defense, on-the-ball pressure but hopefully not using our hands a whole lot and fouling,” he added.
Lacy will be Bone's right-handed man. If Bone is looking for a coach on the floor, then Lacy certainly was that at Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day when he gave a shoulder-shrugging response after being asked of the media poll.
“I feel like everybody is entitled to their opinion,” Lacy said. “We can run with it and use it as a stepping stool, as a chip on our shoulder.”