Ken Bone, the Washington State basketball coach, said Thursday morning he expects to have leading scorer and All-Pac-12 forward Brock Motum back for his senior year.
Bone said he had only exchanged text messages with Motum since the team lost its two-of-three series with Pitt in the College Basketball Invitational and that he has a meeting with Motum scheduled for Thursday afternoon. But Bone made it apparent he thinks WSU will have Motum — who had left open the possibility of playing pro ball next year, in the U.S. or overseas — next season.
“I’m confident Brock will be back in our program next year for a senior year that should be a very good one for him,” said Bone. As for what he expects to learn from Motum Thursday, Bone said, “I believe it’ll be a firm decision.”
Expanded update, 2 p.m.:
In his season-ending press conference, Bone clearly thought the Cougars (19-18) competed well, although they finished in eighth placed in a watered-down Pac-12. They sustained some key injuries, from early-season problems with Abe Lodwick, Mike Ladd and Faisal Aden to Aden’s season-ending knee injury in January, to Motum’s sprained ankle that kept him out the entire three games against Pitt.
“We had a chance, if we stayed healthy, to be pretty good,” Bone said, before enumerating all the injuries. “With all that said, it was a great season.”
The Cougars will have three of their top four scorers back — and five of their top eight — next year, but will have to patch holes left by seniors Aden, Lodwick and Marcus Capers.
Signees Demarquise Johnson (6-4) and Richard Peters (6-10) haven’t yet attained qualifying test scores, and each has a couple of more chances to do so. Asked if he felt confident they’ll make it, Bone replied, “I’m confident it’s gonna be close.”
Bone is obviously excited about the addition of combo-guard transfer Royce Woolridge from Kansas, calling him “a good ball-handler with great quickness who can shoot with good range, and he’s a quick, pesky defender.
“I’ve been fooled before by guys that are redshirting; you don’t see day-to-day some of the mistakes they might be making (because of concentration on the eligible players). But Royce did a really good job this year. I love his aggressive style of play and his tenacity.”
Bone said he was “proud of the way” junior point guard Reggie Moore performed.
Moore set the WSU season assist record with 193, but had a high number of turnovers (98) and shot only .361. With the injuries, however, he was called upon to do more, especially when Motum went down near the end and Moore had to control tempo as well as score more.
“There’s something to be said about a senior who feels confident in what he can do on the floor,” Bone said, “and that’s where Reggie will be next year.”
As for Motum, he made a huge improvement from his sophomore to his junior season. A year ago, he averaged 7.6 points and 3.0 rebounds and hit only 31.3 percent of his three-point shots. He bumped those numbers to 18.0 and 6.4 and shot 39.7 on threes. He drew mention as a Pac-12 player-of-the-year candidate, but was no doubt hurt by the Cougars’ relatively low finish.
WSU will need help from some complementary players, and Bone says it could come from people like wing Dexter Kernich-Drew, forward Patrick Simon or big man D.J. Shelton. “There’s a few kids in our program that could surprise some people next year,” Bone said. He called Kernich-Drew “a real talent.”
What’s a reasonable expectation? I’d assume the Cougars to be a lower-first-division club in an improved Pac-12, with the possibility, at the high side, of threatening for the NCAA tournament.