SHELTON: At times lone big, at times handling ball
PULLMAN – The Cougs’ new opportunistic offense, which is built upon the new pressure defense, as well as some new NCAA rules were are all the mind of Ken Bone on Tuesday. Also, the prospect of putting four guards out there on the court at times was clearly an idea Bone relishes. But first up for Cougars’ basketball team, said Bone, will be shaking the rust off of two key contributors.
Ken Bone said both Que Johnson and Jordan Railey are still a bit rusty after nearly a month of official practices -- Johnson has gone nearly two years without legitimate game action.
“His high school career was cut short due to some issues and situations in Phoenix where he went to high school, and last year he wasn’t even participating in practice so he’s got a ways to catch up,” Bone said. “Que’s doing fine, I wouldn’t say he’s at 100 percent, but he’s a lot more than 80 percent…I guess he’s at 90.”
Johnson, who according to a source with knowledge of the team’s “secret” scrimmage against Nevada on Saturday looked off-kilter, is expected to play against Central Washington this Friday in the Cougs’ exhibition game.
“He’ll be out there, he’ll be playing,” said Bone.
The same can’t be said for Railey, who’s suffering from a similar issue as Johnson – rust. He hasn’t seen significant game minutes since averaging 9 mpg in his first season at Iowa State and was suspended by Bone for roughly three weeks earlier this month for an unspecified violation of team rules.
“Jordan, I don’t think he’ll be playing yet. He’s doing a good job, he’s taking care of business, doing everything we’ve asked him to do, but I don’t foresee him playing this Friday,” said Bone.
Bone also said he was unsure of Railey’s playing status for the regular season opener the following Friday, Nov. 8 against CSU Bakersfield.
DEPTH AT THE guard position is a luxury the Cougars are looking to capitalize on this season, said Bone. So much so, he said at times that’ll come in the form a four-guard lineup.
“We just talked about that this morning, I don’t know if it would be with (D.J.) Shelton, it could be. It could be with Junior Longrus, Josh Hawkinson, Jordan Railey, it could be with anybody -- but there’s a chance at times we could put four guards out on the floor. I’m not sure what we’d do on the defensive end but on offense it’d be pretty sweet.”
The strides made since the summer by freshman point guard Ike Iroegbu have been impressive according to Bone, and he said he’ll receive playing time early. But it still sounds like Royce Woolridge we get the majority of the minutes at the point. During the times Iroegbu does come in there, and Woolridge slides over to play off the ball, Bone said it’ll be a battle for those ‘extra guards’ minutes.
“It all depends who’s playing well, what’re the matchups, the situation during the game,” said Bone. “Do we need more of a defensive lineup maybe to have Will DiIorio out there? Do we need more of a scoring punch? Who’s making shots -- is Que making shots, is Dexter (Kernich-Drew), is DaVonté (Lacy), so it’ll be very situational if that was the lineup.
“But that will be the lineup sometimes, Ike Iroegbu is going to find time to get on the floor, and Royce Woolridge is not easy to take off the court, so we’ll have to figure that out.”
After Woolridge and Iroegbu, Bone said the Cougs’ ball handling role Will Pretty much be by committee.
“It’s going to probably be a number of guys,” said Bone. “At times, Royce is the guy who’s going to handle the ball…but quite often it comes down to the matchup, who’s guarding Royce. Other teams have their best defender too so if you have a better mismatch, it could be D.J. Shelton, he’s a pretty good ball handler for his size. It could be DaVonté, or Ike, or a lot of guys.
“But if the question is who’s our best ball handler, I would say Royce Woolridge at this time is.”
EVEN THOUGH THE “secret” scrimmage against Nevada has been the only chance for the Cougs to test out their defense against an opponent other than themselves, Bone said the development on transition and fast break opportunities are indeed coming along.
“I like the fact that we’ve created opportunities to push it and maybe get a fast break, a numbers situation, three-on-two, four-on-three, whatever,” said Bone.
NEW NCAA RULES regarding defense could hinder what the Cougars are trying to do in terms of high-pressure ball denial. The idea behind it is the Cougar defense will in part lead to a more up-tempo style on offense -- by creating turnovers and allowing for more fast break opportunities.
Some of the rules have been on the books but they’ve been rarely enforced. This season, according to the powers-that-be, there will be a decided emphasis and crack down on hand-checking and arm extending. Bone says the Cougs will simply have to do a better job of playing defense with their feet, rather than their hands, on the perimeter.
“It’s quite a bit to put on your players that quickly after they’ve been able to get away with putting their hands on players for a number of years,” he said. “There’s going to be guys who are good at driving the ball and you better be able to move your feet and keep your hands off that ball handler.”
The Cougs’ pressure defense, new-look offense plus some new uniforms for the Cougars will on be on display in their home exhibition game this Friday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will not be televised. WSU’s season opener against CSUB on Friday, Nov. 8 is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.