Mark Hendrickson, who starred in basketball at WSU and played baseball briefly for the Cougars before heading to the NBA for four seasons, kept Washington State’s MLB streak alive last season with Baltimore. The veteran pitcher, nearing 38, is unsigned this year.
The only former Coug in Triple-A, the highest classification in the minors, is seventh-year pro Travis Webb. The Cincinnati Reds farmhand is 2-4 with a 5.70 earned run average and no saves as a middle reliever with the Louisville Bats in the International League.
The only minor leaguer out of WSU who is rated a top major league prospect is pitcher Adam Conley. Miami’s second-round draft pick of 2011 was rated No. 7 among Marlins prospects earlier this year. He’s 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA as a starter with the Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers in the Class A South Atlantic League. Conley has been selected to play in the SAL All-Star Game. Another former WSU pitcher picked for All-Star Game duty is Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Seth Harvey. He’s registered a 4-0 record, 2.66 ERA and 13 saves with the (Appleton) Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Class A Midwest League.
NATIONAL ATTENTION: Athlon’s, the long-time publisher of sports magazines, is out online with its predictions for the upcoming football season. They forecast the Cougs as the 51st-best team in the land and predict a fifth-place finish in the Pac- 12 North with a 6-6 overall record and 3-6 conference mark. However, Athlon’s does add this caveat: “The Cougars’ Mike Leach, after inheriting promising quarterbacks in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, plus the remnants of Paul Wulff’s long-term rebuilding efforts, will be especially worrisome for the Pac-12’s upper echelon.” Here's the LINK
Another publisher of well-known college football magazines, Phil Steele, has picked six Cougars to his pre-season All-Pac-12 teams: WR Marquess Wilson and Buck LB Travis Long to the first team; OL John Fullington and kicker Andrew Furney to the second team; DB Deone Bucannon to the third and QB Jeff Tuel to the fourth.
A forecaster of a different nature, The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, is out this week with its first series of lines for the upcoming football season. Two of them involve the Cougars. They’ve installed WSU as a 17 ½-point favorite against UNLV on Sept. 14 and a 3-point favorite the day after Thanksgiving when they tee it up with the Huskies in Pullman. Kickoff for the Apple Cup has been set for 12:30.
OLYMPIC HOPEFULS: Current Cougars forward Brock Motum and former WSU center Aron Baynes are training with the Australian national basketball team. Twelve players will represent Australia at the Summer Olympics in London, starting July 29. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring this past season. Baynes led Greece’s top pro league in rebounding. Both Aussies were first-team all-league picks.
Another old Cougar, Thomas Abercrombie, hoped to join Motum and Baynes in London. However, an ankle injury Abercrombie suffered in the Australian pro league playoffs will require surgery and prevent him from playing for New Zealand in an Olympics qualifying tournament next month in Venezuela. Former Cougar Jeff Varem, who sat out this season, has said he plans to play for Nigeria in the Venezuela qualifier.
Meanwhile, Thomas Kelati, who played for Poland’s national team last year (he’s married to a Polish woman), won’t have a shot at the Olympics because Poland did not qualify for the Games. Kelati was released at the end of this season by Khimki in Russia’s top pro league.
MORE HOPEFULS: Another Olympics hopeful is WSU junior long jumper Stephan Scott-Ellis, a Tacoma native who placed fifth at the NCAA outdoor meet last week. That was the third All-America honor this year for Scott-Ellis. He finished seventh in the triple jump and 13th in the long jump at the NCAA indoor championships. The U.S. Olympics Trials for track and field are set for June 21-July 1 in Eugene. Two old Cougs who figure to be prominent contenders there are Jeshua Anderson in the 400-meter hurdles and distance runner Bernard Lagat in the 5,000 meters.
NBA FINALS WATCHING: Former WSU star Kyle Weaver, who made 19 starts with Oklahoma City as an NBA rookie in 2008-09, can only watch with envy as the Thunder takes on Miami in the NBA Finals.
For the first time in his four-year pro career, Weaver did not see any action in the NBA this season. He spent the entire season in Germany’s top pro league, averaging 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists for ALBA of Berlin.
SOLOMON SHINES: Jeffrey Solomon made his Arena Football League debut with Spokane and caught a pair of touchdown passes in a 70-46 rout of visiting Kansas City last Saturday. Solomon joins former WSU teammates Brandon Rankin and Andrew Roxas on the Shock.
SMART COUGS: Some sports fans yawn when all-academic teams are announced, particularly when a little-publicized sport like rowing is involved. That said, the WSU women’s crew team merits special praise for placing a whopping 16 athletes on the Pac-12 All-Academic team. Six of the rowers made the first team, including three-time first-teamer Katie Dick, a redshirt junior from Victoria, British Columbia. A philosophy major, she carries a 3.97 cumulative grade-point average. On the water, the women rowers were top-notch, too. They had the highest season-ending national ranking (17th) of any WSU team during the 2011-12 school year.
Another under-the-radar sport at WSU, women’s tennis, made some noise this spring by setting a school record with six conference wins. The Cougars came in fifth in the Pac-12 at 6-4, and Lisa Hart was named Coach of the Year. Junior Luidmila Vasilieva helped the Cougars reach the second round of the NCAA tournament. She also made it to the NCAA’s as an individual, losing in the first round. Her 32 wins (against nine losses) rank second in school history, and she finished No. 53 in the national rankings. Like many top college tennis teams, the Cougars load up with foreigners. Eight of the 10 Cougars were from foreign countries, and Vasilieva was one of three Russians.
PORING OVER THE STAT BOOK: Major League Baseball career stats leaders out of WSU include John Olerud (.295 batting average, 1,230 RBIs, 2,234 games played), Ron Cey (316 home runs), Aaron Sele (148 wins) and Tom Niedenfuer (97 saves, 484 games pitched).
NFL career leaders from Wazzu include Rueben Mayes (3,484 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns); Drew Bledsoe (44,611 passing yards, 251 passing TDs); Gail Cogdill (356 receptions, 5,696 receiving yards, 34 TD catches); Jason Hanson (2,016 points, 463 field goals, 311 games played); and Clancy Williams (28 interceptions).
Don Collins holds the highest career scoring average (9.8) of any former Cougars in the NBA, though Klay Thompson averaged 12.5 as a rookie with Golden State this season. James Donaldson leads in rebounds (7.8), blocked shots (1.3) and games played (957). Craig Ehlo is tops in assists (2.8) and steals (1.1).
THANKS, DR. FLOYD: Washington State basketball fans still cringe at the memory of that blowout loss to Wichita State in the 2011 NIT semifinals, but WSU president Elson Floyd provided two WSU students with memories to last a lifetime from that game. The story just came out on CougCenter.com last week. Upon learning there were two vacant seats on the charter plane carrying WSU’s band and cheerleaders to the game, Floyd arranged for an expense-paid trip to the game in New York for two of the more rabid student fans at Friel Court. The president’s wife, Carmento, even treated the students to a free dinner in New York.
CASTING CALL FOR FLAG WAVERS: Washington State Athletics needs Cougar fans to assist them in producing the next phase of the “Wave the Flag” marketing campaign. One Saturday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Masonic Temple in downtown Spokane, fans from throughout the Pacific Northwest are invited to go on camera demonstrating their support for Ol’ Wazzu. The best of the best could then be featured in an upcoming web, print and billboard ads. For more information, contact Annie Quisenberry at email@example.com or 509-325-0701, extension 38.