PULLMAN–Washington State basketball opponents, consider yourselves warned: Brock Motum, one of the most improved players in the nation last season, looks even better this season. Motum accompanied Ken Bone to Pac-12 Media Day in San Francisco on Thursday but the plaudits for the Cougar senior forward have been coming out of Pullman all offseason -- long before Motum and Bone ever got on the plane.
“He’s improved his game,” teammate DaVonté Lacy said of Motum. “He’s smarter this year. He’s making great decisions. He knows he’s going to be one of the top (players) in the Pac-12. He knows the doubles (double-teaming defenses) are going to come. He’s making the right decisions, passing out, looking for his teammates.”
Motum blossomed into an all-conference player last season, boosting his scoring average from 7.6 as a sophomore to a league-leading 18.0 as a junior. He doesn’t rule out scoring even more as a senior.
“I’ll try my hardest,” the personable Aussie told CF.C recently. “I did a lot of work this summer. Hopefully, I’ll contribute a lot more to the team than I did last year offensively. I need to improve my rebounding. I think that’ll help us a lot. And my leadership. Every part of my game has lots and lots and lots of room for improvement. But those are the major things I need to address.”
Motum’s ability to score from all over the court is rare for a 6-foot-10 player like himself. He shot 55.4 percent from the field last season (sixth in the Pac-12), including 39.7 percent on 3-pointers. That would have ranked 11th in the conference if he had shot more 3’s (29 for 73).
Motum knows opposing defenses will try to focus on him.
“If we have knock-down shooters, which I think we do, it’ll be harder to do that,” he said.
Motum’s rebounding and defense were sketchy when he arrived in Pullman, but he’s gradually improved in both areas. He’ll need to improve even more if he wants to achieve his goal of playing in the NBA.
“What he can do to really help us out is give us an element of leadership,” coach Ken Bone said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he’s respected. He has to take another step on the rebounding and defensive side. He will score points.”
Motum, named by coaches as a team captain along with Mike Ladd (players made Lacy a third captain), finished sixth in the Pac-12 with 6.4 rebounds last season. Motum said 6-10 sophomore D.J. Shelton can help with the dirty work down low.
“He’s put on a bit of weight,” Motum said. “He’s playing good.”
Motum said “it was disappointing” when senior point guard Reggie Moore was kicked off the team, but he said replacement Royce Woolridge is progressing nicely and is “a good on-ball defender.”
Motum is pleased to see Ladd return to health after an injury-plagued past season. Motum said the sprained right ankle that sidelined him the final three games last season is “100 percent.”
Motum said his ankle was still bothering him when he failed to make the Australia Olympic team in the summer.
“I didn’t want to say anything because it was an opportunity to represent my country in the Olympics,” Motum said. 'Obviously, that’s not an excuse (the ankle). I still practiced every day.”
The Cougars have been practicing in one form or another just about every day since school started, on their own or under supervision. Motum is eager for the games to begin – a Tuesday exhibition with Saint Martin’s, then the Saturday opener with Eastern Washington, both at Beasley Coliseum. The Eastern game will be televised at 4:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
Motum said he’s not paying much attention to the naysayers who predict Washington State will be buried deep in the Pac-12 standings.
“It’s the same as it’s always been like,” Motum said. “When you play for WSU, you’re always an underdog. It doesn’t matter how good your team is or how good or bad anyone thinks your team is. It doesn’t matter, because all the other teams always are supposedly better. So, it’s good being the underdog. If we have (that) mentality, I think we’ll be really tough to play at home. Hopefully, if we go in with the underdog mentality, we’ll knock off a lot of teams away, too.”
Washington State was selected to finish 10th for the second-straight year in the Pac-12 Media Poll on Thursday, tallying 163 votes, three behind USC in ninth with 166. Arizona was picked first (403) with UCLA (402) right behind the Wildcats. They were followed by California (third, 325), Stanford (fourth, 296), Washington (fifth, 278), Colorado (sixth, 262), Oregon (seventh, 217) and Oregon State (eighth, 166). Behind WSU were Arizona State (11th, 107) and Utah (12th, 78).