IF THERE’S SUCH A THING as getting good karma through a handshake, then Cougar men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett is livin’ large these days. The head man and his young Cougars were paid an unexpected visit earlier this month by one of the most popular -- and most prolific scoring -- Cougar hoopers of all time. And then this past Saturday, he got the chance to visit with The Fly.
If there’s osmosis in hand shaking, Tony Bennett just hit the mother lode. The surprise visitor to practice was Isaac Fontaine, the sweet-shooting guard who poured in more than 2,000 points for the Cougs from 1993-94 to 1996-97 before embarking on a wide-ranging pro career that included time in the NBA. Fontaine is now back in his hometown, Sacramento, where he works as an accountant.
On Saturday, Bennett met Guy Williams, the legendary 6-9 guard who starred on George Raveling’s last two teams at WSU. Many observers, including Raveling, believe The Fly may have been the single-greatest talent ever to put on a WSU uniform. Williams blew a knee during his senior season of 1982-83 and never truly recovered, though he played in the NBA for parts of two seasons before heading overseas for five seasons of pro ball.
IKE FONTAINE, CIRCA '95|
Today, he lives in West Seattle and works as the executive director of the North Seattle Boys & Girls Club. He and his wife Monique have three girls, one of whom is an up-and-coming basketball star for Cass 3A powerhouse Kennedy High.
ONE OF THE MOST PRESSING questions for the Cougars this pre-season is to find a backup for senior point guard Taylor Rochestie.
Right now, eyes are focused on true freshmen Marcus Capers and Michael Harthun to fill the void.
GUY WILLIAMS, CIRCA '82|
The 6-4 Capers, from Montverde, Florida, is quick and anticipates well on defense. Bennett calls him a slasher with a nice feel for the game, a la Kyle Weaver. The 6-3 Harthun, from Medford, Oregon, played a lot of point in high school and has outstanding scoring ability from just about every point on the court.
Rochestie turned in a team-leading 34.9 minutes of playing time per game last season. Bennett was able to cover his infrequent breathers by having Weaver or Derrick Low bring the ball up court.
AT SATURDAY’S DINNER in Seattle, a highlight video of the Cougars’ Sweet 16 season was shown before Bennett took to the podium. When Bennett got to the mic, he quickly intoned, “What great memories – God I miss Kyle, Derrick and Robbie. I’ve watched that video a bunch of times.”
He said the Cougars’ tough non-conference schedule, which includes the likes of Gonzaga, Baylor and LSU, will get his young players tested early, serving as instant preparation for the rigors of the Pac-10.
Bennett said his two bookends – Rochestie at the point and Baynes at center – are a nice place to build around. He also noted that junior Nikola Koprivica has lost weight and that his surgically repaired knee is strong. He’s moving and cutting like he was before the injury. Add in seniors Daven Harmeling and Caleb Forrest and you have “five guys with experience and real good leadership skills.”
They’ll be critical to bringing along the seven true freshmen and three redshirts from last season who comprise the rest of the team. “They haven’t played (college ball) so it’s daunting. We need three to five of them to step in. A couple will have to play significant minutes.”
One of the youngsters sure to see the court, and perhaps even contend for a starting job, is highly touted 6-7 swingman Klay Thompson of Orange County, Calif.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I make way more (money) than I should and there’s no place I’d rather be,” Bennett told his Seattle dinner audience.