HARMELING: B-ball season at WSU has no end

THE CALENDAR SAYS the start of basketball season is just about three weeks away but I want to make one thing clear -- there is neither a start nor end to the basketball season. Not at this level anyway, and not at Washington State. And vivid recollections of the days following the heartbreaking loss to Vanderbilt my sophomore year explain why.

Following a sleepless night following the loss and "the shot that almost was", Derrick Low and I knew only one way to deal with the pain.

Run the stairs at Martin Stadium. Throw up. Repeat. Lift weights until burnout. Repeat. Shoot jumpers. Ball-handling. One-on-one. More jumpers. Repeat. The pain of that loss drove us to levels of borderline insanity.

After the freshmen arrived that summer -- Abe Lodwick, Charlie Enquist, Stephen Sauls, and Fabian Boeke -- the pain of that loss was still burning deep. As for that line of insanity? I officially crossed it.

DAVEN HARMELING

DURING AN EARLY morning weight lifting session, I asked the guys who wanted to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning for some extra shots/skill work. Silence. Until the sweet shooting, slender wing from Oregon walked over and said he was in. I explained to Lodwick that this wasn't going to take the place of the other 3 workouts we had that day, it was going to be in addition to them.

"Yeah, I know. Pick me up at 5:30," he said.

I have to admit I was impressed. But not as impressed as I was the following morning watching him stroke the ball effortlessly from 28 feet.

After the 90-minute workout was over, the rest of the team arrived for our regular workout. I was a bit shocked later that night to pick up the phone and hear Abe say, "Same time tomorrow, right?" Silence. Looks like I got more than I bargained for.

And so began an eight-week program we dubbed "Get Right". Every day, in the gym by 5:45. Ninety minutes with two rules -- 1) game speed on every shot/move and, 2) consecutive misses short resulted in push-ups.

FAST FORWARD two summers. Many of the faces have changed, but the work ethic has stayed the same.

Although Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto were out wasting their time winning gold medals, (Klay, I still say we should go halfsies on it), the rest of the squad was busy between weights, conditioning, shooting/skill development, and playing 5-on-5. Lest I forget -- classes, too.

Although it sounds cruel, I found an incredible amount of pleasure in strolling in the weight room midway through the youngster's workouts only to find them with their face in the trashcan as I sculpted my biceps.

As they loaded up the weight on the squat rack, I was likely to be searching for the perfect combination between Fierce Grape and Lemon-Lime Gatorade. (Lord knows my days of working hard have now come and gone.) But back then, it was my turn to work on the beach muscles as they slaved over pull-ups till exhaustion and endless core work.

ALTHOUGH THE ENTIRE squad worked hard, I'd be doing you an injustice as an "insider" not to highlight a couple guys that crossed the line of insanity this summer: Lodwick and Michael Harthun.

During the summer, it is crucial to address areas of weakness as well as perfecting your bread and butter. Both of these guys are shooters. I know it, you know it, they know it. Did they work on their shooting this summer? No question.

But both of those guys also know the difference between getting minutes and breaking onto the Pac-10 scene lies in their feet. Both need to get quicker, especially laterally as they chase the likes of Patrick Christopher and Isaiah Thomas this winter.

IF YOU JUST you happened to be in Pullman this summer and poked your head into the gym, there was a good chance you saw two kids from Oregon spend 90 minutes working on their feet. Ninety minutes for footwork? YES. Because these guys get it.

And it's as much a mental state of mind as anything else. They want to be the best -- they understand their weakness and it drives them crazy.

I'm not going to tell you that Mike will be as quick as D-Low or that you're going to confuse Abe for Weaver. But I can you that they are quicker now that they were.

How much quicker? It's hard to quantify. Maybe a half step..? But in the Pac-10, a half step is the difference between giving up a driving lane to the hoop and being able to force your man into help-side where the rest of the defense can scramble and build a wall.

Mike and Abe will be the first to tell you they have other weaknesses, and I can assure you they've been addressing those, too. Will they be perfect when the games start in November? No. But I know for a fact they have done EVERYTHING they possibly could have done this summer to help the Cougs win this winter.

So when you watch the Cougs' "first" practice of the year on October 16, don't think for one second that these guys are picking up the ball for the first time since St. Mary's.

Truth be told, they never put it down.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daven Harmeling was a mainstay on the Washington State basketball team – and a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team – during the most successful three-year stretch in Cougar history. Part of Dick Bennett's stellar recruiting class of 2004, this Grand Junction, Colo., product completed his eligibility last season and now is in Vancouver, Wash., running clinics for Dan Dickau Basketball and working as a substitute school teacher. He will be writing a regular column for Cougfan.com this season.

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