Bone: Cougars prepared if Thompson leaves

KLAY THOMPSON

WASHINGTON STATE MEN'S basketball coach Ken Bone said during a season-ending teleconference Friday that he does not know about the status of two of his players returning next season. But he said he has prepared for the possibility of junior wing Klay Thompson declaring early for the NBA draft since he was hired in 2009.

Bone said that Thompson should receive good advice on whether he should declare for draft from his father, Mychal, who was the No. 1 selection of the 1978 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. The elder Thompson was a 6-foot-10 center who played 12 seasons in the NBA and won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"If his strong aspirations are to leave ... he should do that," Bone said. "He's had a few years to think about this. He's getting really good advice.

"I'm not sure how much I will say beyond supporting him."

Bone said one reason behind signing junior-college transfer Faisal Aden, who averaged 12.7 points per game, in the 2010 class was to provide a scoring option if Thompson declared for the draft last year. He said Mychal Ladd, who was not eligible this season after transferring from Fresno State, was brought in for similar reasons.

"We've seen this coming and that's why we planned accordingly," Bone said.

For those reasons, he feels the Cougars are better prepared to replace Thompson's conference-best 21.6 points per game than junior center DeAngelo Casto. The latter is not viewed by many as an NBA prospect yet, but reportedly is considering foregoing his final season of eligibility because of financial constraints. The 6-8 Casto led WSU in blocks (59) and rebounds (225).

"We really don't have that guy in a scholarship situation as of yet," said Bone, referring to a potential replacement for Casto.

Bone said he knows Casto has aspirations to play professionally "at some level," but they have not discussed it since the fall.

WITH LADD EARNING a scholarship in addition to two incoming freshmen — Curtis High School guard DaVonté Lacy and forward Greg Sequele — and 6-9 post D.J. Shelton from Citrus College in California, the Cougars have two more players on scholarship beyond the NCAA limit of 13.

That could be rectified in several ways, though. Casto and Thompson or others could leave. Junior center Charlie Enquist, who previously was a walk-on, also could return to that status. Or sophomore center Steven Bjornstad, who played just three games this season, could apply for a waiver because of chronic knee problems.

At this point, that all is conjecture. Bone said he has not spoken with any player about their future in the program because he wanted everyone to have a break for basketball once they returned to Pullman. He said he plans on speaking to each player within the next two weeks.

"At the end of the day, there will be 13 guys on scholarship," Bone said. "There's no way around that."

Similarly, he said no player has approached him about transferring — yet.

"But there's always that chance," Bone said. "It's happened in 70 or 80 percent of the years I've coached."

He said the only player he has visited with since the season-ending 75-44 loss Tuesday against Wichita State in the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament at New York's Madison Square Garden is sophomore point guard Reggie Moore once mid-term grades for players were released. But he said the team's academic standing was "pretty good."

"They've had a lot of travel," Bone said. "They have five weeks to get the job done."

WSU FINISHED 22-13 overall and was sixth in the Pac-10 with a 9-9 conference record. Bone said he would give his players a B+ or A- grade based on their performance this season.

"We won 22 ballgames and that's not easy to do," he said. "We won some huge games. We had some off the court issues and lost some games we thought we could win."

Bone's assessment of the coaching staff was much lower. He said he would give himself and his assistants a C grade, but did not elaborate beyond saying he felt that was "fair."

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Aden and Moore both will have X-rays in the near future. Bone described Aden's knee problems as "chronic" and wants to determine if surgery is necessary. Moore had a protective splint removed from his left wrist, which was fractured during a preseason practice, during Pac-10 play and Bone said his player felt good late in the season. He said Moore's X-ray is more of a precautionary measure.

  • Bone sent some assistants to the coaches convention at the Final Four, but he will not attend this season. He said that is because it coincides with spring break for his three daughters.

  • Freshman forward Patrick Simon saw his playing time dwindle as the season progressed, but Bone said that was related to improved play by junior Abe Lodwick and sophomore Brock Motum. But he said Simon's shooting woes — he converted just 37.1 percent of his field goals — also factored into his diminished role. Simon, an Ephrata High graduate, averaged just 9.4 minutes and 3.2 points per game.

  • Dexter Kernich-Drew, a 6-6 freshman from Australia, redshirted this season. Bone said Kernich-Drew often was the first player at practice and the last to leave and was happy with his progression. Kernich-Drew, who is listed at 180 pounds, and Bone said he has added strength even though it might not show.

    "He worked extra hard in the weight room," Bone said. "He's got a high metabolism and has a hard time putting on weight."

  • Bone said he will revise his player-conduct plan after three players, Casto, Moore and Thompson, were cited for marijuana-related charges during the season.

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