PULLMAN -- Three games into the new season, it’s been a
series of comings and goings for the Washington State
men’s basketball team. Center Robbie Cowgill practiced
for the first time in over a month on Monday, joining
another recent returnee in guard Rodney Edgerson. At
the same time, the Cougars are adjusting to life
without forward Daven Harmeling, who will miss the
rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Cowgill hasn’t played since breaking his collarbone in
a late-October practice. The 6-foot-10 sophomore
started 19 games in the middle as a freshman,
averaging 6.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and blocking a
team-high 27 shots. On Monday, Cowgill not only looked
to be in good shape, but was playing with a level of
athleticism not seen in his rookie year. On one play,
Cowgill darted into the lane from the elbow, leaped
and caught an errant shot in mid-air before
double-clutching a putback layup.
”He had some bounce to his step, which is nice,” WSU
head coach Dick Bennett said after practice. “Robbie
brings us good flexibility. He gives us some diversity
if we want to play a bigger lineup. He’s also one of
our smart field players; he knows how to play the
Bennett said he would consider starting Cowgill when
the Cougars play Wyoming on Wednesday in Pullman.
Also returning to the court recently is Edgerson, a JC
transfer who came to WSU expected to score for the
at-times offensively-challenged Cougars. Edgerson, who
had been immobilized by a spinal injury for the entire
offseason, was finally cleared to play last week. He
played 12 minutes off the bench in last Saturday’s
game against Idaho and scored six points.
Edgerson has so far looked tentative, but
Bennett said the 6-foot-4 guard’s biggest hurdle has
been his conditioning.
”That’s holding him back more than anything,” Bennett
said. “Robbie was at least been able to work out and stay
in shape while he was hurt, but Rodney hasn’t been
able to do anything.”
WSU also recently added walk-on John Rasmussen to the
roster, a hustling forward from Yakima who played a
couple of minutes against Idaho. Arlen Plaister, a
walk-on last season, is no longer with the team.
Harmeling will miss the season with a dislocated left
shoulder suffered in the season opener. Bennett said
the 6-foot-7 sophomore is scheduled to have surgery at
the end of the semester, in mid-December. The team
will apply for a medical hardship redshirt for
After an easy win over UC-Riverside on opening night
at home, the Cougars (2-1) lost to BYU at Spokane
Arena before rebounding to blow out Idaho last
Saturday in Pullman. Bennett juggled the starting
lineup after the BYU loss: in the first two games, the
starting five was made up of point guard Derrick Low,
swingman Kyle Weaver, forward Ivory Clark, center
Chris Henry and guard Josh Akognon. For the Idaho
game, Henry was replaced by freshman Aron Baynes,
while Akognon and Weaver were replaced by senior Randy Green and freshman Antonio Chavers.
Edgerson often ran with the first team during Monday’s
five-on-five scrimmages, along with Cowgill, Low,
Weaver and Baynes. That lineup would put JC transfer
Clark on the bench, despite the fact that Clark has
arguably been WSU’s most effective player early on.
Clark is a raw, undersized power forward in the Jeff Varem mold. He leads the team with 12.7 points per
game and is second on the squad with 4.7 rebounds per
contest. He scored 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting
Bennett had praise for Clark and Chavers (who tied for
a team-high 10 points against Idaho) on Monday, as
well as Low.
”Derrick has been pretty steady. His defense has been
good, as has his assist-to-turnover ratio and his
shooting,” Bennett said. Low is averaging 11.7 points,
6.6 assists (to nine turnovers) and 2.0 steals while
shooting 50 percent from the floor, 46 percent from
long range, and 87.5 percent on the free throw line.
Another player Bennett had praise for was freshman
forward Caleb Forrest, who saw his first action of the
year against Idaho. Forrest scored four points and had
four rebounds in 20 minutes.
”Caleb has surprised me. He was a clear redshirt
candidate, but before we knew Robbie’s situation, I
felt we had to play him,” Bennett said. “He responded
well. He’s got ability, smarts, and a natural
Four players are averaging double-figure points for
the Cougars, whereas only two players finished last
season with such numbers (Varem and fellow senior
Thomas Kelati). In addition to Clark and Low, Akognon
(11.0) and Baynes (10.3) are also scored in the double
digits. Baynes is making 73 percent of his shots from
the floor. The team is averaging over 72 points per
game, which is less a product of any change in
Bennett’s system and more a product of having played
teams who like to run.
Of course, Bennett hasn’t been totally pleased with
”Saturday’s game (vs. Idaho) was the closest to what we
need to play like. But of course, Idaho helped us
along because they really had an off night,” Bennett
said. “We’re not rebounding well enough and we’re not
handling the ball. We can be quite a bit better.”