The level of confidence among coaches and players about the upcoming season in WSU Men’s Basketball was widely manifested as the team held their first official on-campus practice Tuesday.
The team, which spent the weekend in Lewiston as part of the annual off-campus team retreat, fielded questions from the media for about half an hour prior to Tuesday’s practice before getting to business.
“This is where we like to be,” WSU Head Coach Ken Bone said about finally being back at practice. “This is where I like to be. We’re excited to be back out here on the court working as a group, as a team.”
For Bone and the team, the first practice of the year signifies much more than just being back on the court; it means the offseason has officially ended. After a 4-14 conference record that preceded a first-round exit from the Pac-12 Conference Tournament a season ago, that fresh start couldn’t come any sooner for WSU.
This season, the team is focusing on a much more up-tempo and aggressive style of play, especially on defense.
“The coaches have really changed our mindset defensively (this year),” redshirt junior point guard Royce Woolridge said. “We’re going to be a lot more aggressive this year. We’re going to make teams play faster so we can play faster.”
Fellow point guard Ikenna Iroegbu agreed.
“(Coach Bone) wants us to get on our man defensively, full-court pressure and make it hard for them to get it up the court,” he said.
Iroegbu is an incoming freshman for WSU that many think will have a shot at the starting point guard position this season.
As for the outlook on the team as a whole this year, all eyes on the squad are set on a much more promising season than those of late.
“This year’s a lot different than years before,” junior guard DaVonte Lacy said, “where (in years past) we just wanted to do alright, make it to the tournament. That’s not where our goals are now; we want to win the regular season and Pac-12 tournament, go to the NCAA tournament…and ultimately win the National Championship.”
For Lacy, that strive for success may fall a bit more on his shoulders this season after the graduation of the team’s first and third leading scorers in the 2012-13 season, forward Brock Motum (18.7 PPG) and guard Mike Ladd (10.5 PPG).
“DaVonte Lacy is one guy I think who has really stepped his game up,” Bone said. “He’s done a great job with his body in the offseason, he’s very toned, and because of that he’s quicker, more explosive.”
In other team-related news, Bone announced that junior center Jordan Railey is not currently participating in team activities due to a violation of team rules. Railey is the second player this year to earn such a punishment from the coaching staff - Bone announced last week incoming guard Danny Lawhorn is also not participating in team activities for a violation of team rules.
There is no timetable set for either Railey or Lawhorn’s return.
Redshirt freshman Que Johnson is currently sidelined as well from a reported stress fracture in his shin. Johnson has already begun rehab and is expected back at practice within 10-14 days, Bone said.
WSU will step onto the court to begin play on Friday, Nov. 1, for the team’s exhibition game against Central Washington. The first regular season contest of the year is set for Friday, Nov. 8, against CSU Bakersfield at WSU’s Beasley Coliseum.