DAUGHERTY EYES THE FUTURE
PULLMAN -- There's no questioning June Daugherty’s energy, optimism or work ethic. However, three years into her coaching stay on the Palouse, that trifecta of attributes has yet to turn sand into water. But could the series of narrow losses that torpedoed the won-loss record in the just-concluded season be a sign that the corner has been turned?
June Daugherty inherited a program that had piled up 11 straight losing seasons. She hasn't been unable to stop that skid, which now is at 14 straight losing campaigns. And the 2009-10 Cougars lost more games than the 2008-09 version.
Of course, the 2009-10 Cougs started two freshmen and three sophomores, so only so much could be expected from a reasonable person. Not that Daugherty plans to become reasonable any time soon, at least when her beloved Cougars are involved.
“You know what? I expect to win every game that we play,” Daugherty said Wednesday. “That’s the kind of competitor I am, and that’s the kind of competitor that my staff and my team members are.”
Daugherty, renowned for her recruiting working at her previous head coaching stops at Boise State and Washington, has done nothing to hurt her reputation in that area since arriving in Pullman.
ESPN’s HoopGurlz, which rates recruiting classes solely on the basis of high school players, ranked the Cougars’ 2009 class 38th in the nation and fifth in the Pac-10. This year, HoopGurlz pegs WSU No. 48 nationally and fourth in the Pac-10. The current rankings do not take into account Rosetta Adzasu, the recently signed point guard from Yakima Valley Community College.
“She’s one of the most intriguing athletes I’ve seen in a long time play this game,” Daugherty said. “She’s got an incredible background, being from Africa and then learning basketball in Italy and then coming here, landing in Oregon and playing high school ball at West Linn and not really knowing much about college basketball.”
Daugherty said Adzasu “was on everybody’s recruiting list,” including Daugherty’s, when she played at West Linn. However, Daugherty said Adzasu did not understand the recruiting process fully and never took her SAT or ACT, so she had to go the junior college route to become eligible for NCAA Division I.
“This kid is someone who is very talented and understands the game and is a fierce, fierce competitor,” Daugherty said. “We’re going to be in really good hands with her running the point guard position at Washington State.”
Adzasu, of course, must replace KiKi Moore at the point. Moore, who led the Pac-10 in steals and turnovers as a freshman this past season, is transferring along with backup point guard Danielle LeNoir.
Daugherty would not respond to unconfirmed reports that Moore was homesick (she’s from San Francisco) and LeNoir wanted more playing time.
“I just really make a policy of not talking about kids that are no longer in the program,” Daugherty said. “I just don’t think it’s respectful to them nor respectful to our program. My focus is on the kids who are here.”
Not to mention “kids” who are en route to Pullman. Daugherty said Adzasu and all three of WSU’s high school signees -- California shooting guard Sage Romberg, Minnesota forward Hana Potter and All-State wing Brandi Thomas of Elma, Wash. -- were McDonald’s prep All-America nominees.
“On paper, this is a very substantial recruiting class,” Daugherty said. “They’ve certainly had some amazing accolades for themselves individually and had great success with their teams.”
Daugherty and her assistants recently returned to Pullman after recruiting on both coasts and overseas.
“My staff loves to get on those big birds and fly all over,” she said with a laugh.
The Cougars have one scholarship spot open, but Daugherty said it’s too early to tell if she will award it in the near term or wait until the next recruiting cycle.
NEXT SEASON'S COUGARS return leading scorer (and two-time All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection) April Cook and three others starters off a senior-less team, and they will welcome back 6-foot-8 sophomore Jessica Oestreicher and 5-9 freshman wing Ireti Amojo. Both redshirted in 2009-10 due to knee operations.
The Cougars slipped to 8-22 overall and 3-15 in the Pac-10 (ninth place) this past season. Injuries did not help, nor did the youth and inexperience that undoubtedly factored into some of the team’s 11 losses by seven or fewer points.
“We’re definitely improving,” Daugherty said. “The strides we have made recruiting-wise have been great strides ... all they lack is a little seasoning, a little experience.
“The second half of the Pac-10 season, that definitely showed with getting victories on the road at places like Arizona State and USC and winning at home against Oregon. It really showed how much these kids are improving.
“It’s just a matter of time and experience for them to really put it all together and have a championship-type season. I believe that’s right around the corner.”
Daugherty said WSU is no longer pursuing Australian post player Razz Muir, who signed with the Cougars a year ago but has been unable to clear academic hurdles.
Earlier this month, four CouGals -- Katie Calderwood, Katie Grad, Lexie Pettersen and Rosie Tarnowski -- were named honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic.