"We are making improvements slowly but surely thanks to President Floyd, Jim Sterk, and the generous contributions of Cougs. Hopefully, this upcoming season you will see some minor changes to the interior of Beasley Coliseum," Bennett said in a chat session on the school's website.
WASHINGTON STATE has brought in a highly regarded freshman class and some will be counted upon to figure in prominently this season, Bennett said. Center Aron Baynes and point guard Taylor Rochestie are givens to start but with five players who helped power a two year NCAA Tournament run having graduated, Bennett expects the competition this year to be wide open.
"You would like to lean on your experience but I feel this year more than any other there will be great competition for a starting position and playing time," said Bennett.
And with the loss of go-to-guys Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, he said the 2008-09 vintage will have to be more unified than last year's team -- which by all accounts was a very cohesive group.
"They'll have to do it collectively on both ends of the floor because we won't be able to rely on a Derrick or a Kyle to take over a game," said Bennett. "The leadership of the returning players, and a few of the first-year players, besides the freshmen -- this includes Charlie Enquist, Abe Lodwick, and Fabian Boeke -- will have to contribute without any game experience.
"There will be a learning curve but I think our preseason schedule will show us where we need to improve to be ready for Pac-10 play. This will be our most competitive non-conference schedule since I have been here so it will be a baptism by fire for our young kids."
BENNETT DECLINED TO predict the number of wins this season, saying it depends on staying healthy, the leadership contributions from the veterans and how significant the contribution is from the incoming frosh. Speaking of youth, the entire incoming class enrolled early at Wazzu last week. By taking classes at WSU, this allowed Bennett to see the group as a whole for the first time.
"We just finished our weekend advanced camp that our incoming freshman participated in, and our coaching staff was able to work with them. We like what we saw. We feel it is a recruiting class that has a variety of strengths in different positions. The key for them will be their development over the next few years; their toughness, and how well they gel. From a character standpoint, they have been great to work with and are cut from the same mold of our past and present players," said Bennett.
HIGHLY TOUTED players from the state of Washington and the Northwest had not given Wazzu the time of day in recent years when it came to recruiting commitments but Bennett said that tide is turning.
"When we first arrived, players from the Northwest had very little interest in us so we just wanted to find kids who wanted to be part of playing in the Pac-10 and trying to rebuild a program," said Bennett. "As our basketball team has had success over the last two years there seems to be more interest from players in the state and the Northwest."
At the same time, Bennett's recruiting strategy for WSU is not limited to the geographic boundaries close to home.
"I believe Washington State is a school that has to continue to cast a wide net in recruiting both nationally and internationally to try to find hidden gems," said Bennett. "But we are excited with the additions of our in-state student-athletes: DeAngelo (Casto), Enquist, and (walk-on) John Allen, and our players from Oregon: Lodwick and Michael Harthun. Hopefully, there will be more to come in future years."