PULLMAN – With two strong recruiting classes now in the fold, Washington State women’s basketball coach June Daugherty is confident her Cougars are ready to make a significant jump. The first “official” day of practice won’t take place until Friday, but one question already seems reasonable: If the team stays healthy and develops as expected, will this be the best WSU women’s team in history?
“That’s a pretty big question,” Daugherty said in an interview with Cougfan.com. “I can tell you one thing: We’re going to be way more athletic and versatile than I think any team’s ever been at Washington State.”
Last season, after landing one of the most highly regarded recruiting crops in the country in her first full year of recruiting for the Cougars, Daugherty guided WSU to an 11-19 record (4-14 Pac-10). That came on the heels of seven consecutive seasons with records ranging from 2-27 (aargh!) to 8-22 (ouch!).
Long, long gone are the slow, awkward teams that so often represented Washington State.
“Obviously, it’s a more explosive, athletic group,” Daugherty said. “We’ve got the depth this year to really play our style of play that we were wanting to bring to the Palouse going into our third year.
“That’s a really high-octane, fast-break style of play with full-court, in-your-face type of pressure defense for 40 minutes.
“We want to wear down opponents mentally and physically and score as much as we can score through great defense.”
It all starts with sophomore wings April Cook and Jazmine Perkins, who ranked first or second on the team in points, steals and assists last season. Daugherty says both have gained from a year in the weight room.
“They’re a lot stronger and even quicker, if that’s possible,” Daugherty said.
Cook, who averaged 14 points (fifth in the Pac-10), 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals, joined Perkins in earning honorable mention on the all-conference team. Perkins averaged 13.8 points, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals (second in the Pac-10).
Forward-guard Rosie Tarnowski, the other returning starter, is a 6-foot sophomore. She averaged 7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists and provided excellent leadership for a freshman.
Cook, who played point guard most of last season, moves to the wing to make room for freshman KiKi Moore and sophomore Danielle LaNoir. Moore was rated one of the top 60 prep prospects in the nation by ESPN last season. Other guards to watch include second-year freshman Katie Grad, a former state player of the year from Washington who missed last season with a knee injury (“She knows how to win”) and true freshman Ireti Amojo (“Maybe the best athlete in the Pac-10”) of Germany.
Grad and Amojo were teammates at Auburn-Riverside in the 2006-07 season -- the first of two straight state titles for the school -- when Amojo was an exchange student.
Up front, Daugherty is excited about the arrival of 6-foot-5 Carly Noyes, an outstanding player at Moses Lake High School, and Lexie Pettersen, a 6-1 sophomore out of Spokane’s Shadle Park High. Also, 6-foot junior transfer Katie Madison is a former Prairie High and Idaho standout. She led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring in 2006-07 with 19.1 points per game.
Jessica Oestriecher, a 6-8 sophomore, will redshirt after undergoing knee surgery over the summer. Razz Muir, a heralded 6-4 Australian, is finishing up high school and is ticketed to join the Cougars at the end of December or next season.
The Cougars play exhibition home games with NAIA teams Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 1 and Eastern Oregon on Nov. 8, then open the season with a home game against UC Davis on Nov. 15.
The Cougar women join the men’s team for “Midnight Mayhem” at 9:30 p.m. Friday, following the 7 p.m. volleyball match with USC at Bohler Gym. Prizes and men’s and women’s team posters will be given away, and players on both teams will be introduced by the coaches.
The women will hold a 3-point shooting contest before the men stage a short scrimmage, then an autograph session is on tap. Admission is free for the event, which is scheduled to end around 11:15.
APRIL COOK DRIVES AT PAC-10 TOURNEY|