BUZZIN' THE PALOUSE: The drafts and more

KYLE WEAVER

THE BUZZ WORD ON the Palouse these days is "draft." With the NBA's annual talent haul just two weeks away, anticipation grows about the futures of Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low, who are racking up big air miles these days flying to tryouts. Meanwhile, the just concluded Major League Baseball draft found four Cougars with their names in lights.

Weaver and Low are drawing considerable interest from NBA teams as the June 26 draft draws near.

Weaver was in Florida last week, working out for the Heat and then the Magic, New Jersey on Saturday and Memphis yesterday.

He skipped the NBA pre-draft camp late last month in the belief that he couldn't help, but only hurt, his draft status. While pundits forecast Weaver being taken anywhere from the low first round to the mid second, that decision suggests strongly that the guaranteed money that comes with first-round status is headed his way. Either that or he's getting curious advice from his agent – Weaver's cousin Michael, who has no previous experience representing NBA clients.

Low, who is expected to be a late second-round pick or free-agent signee, also is making the rounds with individual team workouts. He auditioned with the Nets last week and is expected to lace it up in front of the Suns, Sonics, Lakers, Warriors and Clippers and perhaps others. He is represented by Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management in Beverly Hills.

Both Weaver and Low have been training almost non-stop since the season ended, though word around Pullman is that each of them took time to don a cap and gown for commencement ceremonies last month. Low earned a degree in communications, Weaver in sports management.

Weaver told KJR Radio in Seattle on Friday that former Cougar post-man Ivory Clark has been critical to his draft prep, going one-on-one "everyday, twice a day -- he's been a big part of my training."

MEANWHILE, IN BASEBALL, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Paul Gran of Bothell was the first of four Cougs to have his name called on Friday in the Major League draft. Gran went in the seventh round, with the 208th overall pick, to the Florida Marlins.. A fielding wizard at third base, Gran committed only one error in 163 opportunities this season. He batted .313 with 11 home runs, and a whopping 55 RBI in 54 starts this season.

"I think the Marlins made a great pick," said WSU head coach Donnie Marbut. "He is one of the finest players in the country. Florida likes players who are good athletes and can do multiple things. I think Paul is good fit for the Marlins' system."

The three other drafted Cougs were senior first baseman Jim Murphy (17th round, Phillies), left-handed pitcher Jayson Miller (30th round, Angels), and junior pitcher Matt Way (36th round, Giants). Murphy is from Kirkland, Miller from Richland and Way from Sitka, Alaska.

Way is the first WSU junior in several years to be drafted, but it doesn't sound like he has stars in his eyes. "It's nice to be drafted, but I am most likely coming back to school for my senior season," he said Friday.

Murphy, by the way, leaves WSU as one of the most defensive first basemen ever. His career putout total of 1,972 ranks No. 8 in NCAA history. In addition, he was hit by 61 pitches in his career – a Pac-10 record that also ranks eighth in NCAA history.

PALOUSE RIDGE GOLF COURSE is on track to open August 29. It's an 18-hole juggernaut that is billed as championship-caliber. The designers expect the difficulty level to be high. General Manager Bruce Perisho told the Seattle PI's Jim Moore, "If it was set up for a tournament, this golf course would challenge Tiger to shoot under par. If he shot below 70, he'd be having a really good day." I don't know how Tiger would really fare on the course, but for the casual duffer it appears that anything below 100 would be a victory in and of itself.

The course, located just east of campus -- roughly where the old nine-hole version sat -- features striking views of the Palouse and an innovative design that makes the most of the area's unique landscape. It will also feature a high-end restaurant operated by the owners of Pullman's Fireside Grille. Unlike Fireside, this one will be a little more formal. The culinary focus will be on steak and seafood.

THE MARTIN STADIUM renovation is really starting to take shape. Phases I and II will be finished before the season begins and a final design now has been selected for the premium-seat construction of Phase III.

The upgrade is all about quality, not necessarily quantity. I say that because even with Phase IV -– only in the dream stages right now unless fans start to open their wallets wider -- Martin Stadium will still be the smallest football venue in the Pac-10. The renovation is aimed at keeping the stadium intimate, and maintaining the quality of the sight lines that fans enjoy today. When Coug fans need to spread out a little, there's always the Seattle game held at 67,000-seat Qwest field.

Besides the giant new scoreboard and Cougzillatron video screen, the Stadium Way entrance will be the first thing fans notice this fall. It will hark back to the brick-facade glory days of the 20s and 30s. In addition, a giant bronze statue of a Cougar will sit where the old Butch's cage used to be. Those who have seen the mock-ups say it is stunning -– and limited edition mini-replicas apparently will be available for sale.

As for the scoreboard, believed to cost around $2.4 million, I have just one hope: That the dancing football graphic that follows every touchdown is not a casualty of the new technology.

Once Martin Stadium is done, look for Beasley Coliseum to be next on the athletic department's list. WSU is investigating whether or not the arena can support a central, above-court scoreboard hung from the ceiling. A scoreboard and video screen have been glaring issues for the Cougar faithful, with a section of seating capacity sacrificed for a projector-based screen the past couple of seasons. With a maximum of 11,566 seats Beasley is in no need of expansion; so the most likely areas of concern include the concourse, bathrooms and locker rooms.

WSU has already worked to eliminate the color orange from the concourse with crimson signs and crimson painted doors - replacing the old 70s-inspired paint job.

THE COUGAR ROWING TEAM capped another successful season with an eighth place finish last week in the NCAA championships. The Cougars were one of three Pac-10 crews to make the top 10, and WSU finished ahead of traditional powers Harvard and Princeton. The team finish for the Cougs was bolstered by a third place finish in the women's varsity 8 petite final and a second place finish the in the varsity 4 petite final.

It is the second top 10 result for the Cougars under rowing coach Jane LaRiviere, who led WSU to a fourth place result in 2006 – which was the best national finish for any women's athletic team in Cougar sports history. The success is made more impressive by the fact the rowing team has to travel from Pullman for all their practices - in the form of a 30-minute trip to Wawawai Landing on the Snake River. Once you get there, however, it's smooth sailing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grady Clapp is a professional student and avid sports fan at Washington State. He earned a general science degree last year and will come away with second sheepskin, in pharmacy, next year. He is a native of Veradale, just outside Spokane, and a proud graduate of Central Valley High. For more of Grady's insights, visit his blog at StadiumWay.wordpress.com

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