Three years after Ken Bone arrived in Pullman, WSU's roster includes seven players — two more than UW — who starred in western Washington high schools.
Before Ken Bone took the Washington State job in 2009, the Cougars had just two players on the roster with ties to western Washington.
A native of Seattle, Bone knew that had to change.
Having spent 12 years as head coach at Division II Seattle Pacific and four years as a Washington assistant under Lorenzo Romar, Bone understands better than anyone the Puget Sound area is fertile with basketball talent.
“It’s important because of the locale,” Bone said. “There are a lot of Washington State alumni in that area that can help us in recruiting, and there’s a lot of talent over there.
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“It’s no secret with high school and AAU coaches that we’re making an effort to be over there as much as we can and try to recruit.”
Three years after he arrived in Pullman, WSU’s roster includes seven players — two more than UW — who starred in western Washington high schools.
“They do a lot more recruiting in the Northwest and on the West Coast,” Romar said. “They weren’t as strong in terms of their approach in the Northwest before coach Bone and his staff got there. They’ve done a really good job of hitting it hard out here.”
Freshman guard DaVonte Lacey, who starred at Tacoma’s Curtis High School, said the abundance of western Washington players didn’t sway his decision to pick the Cougars.
However, he expects it will play a role when Washington State (9-7, 1-3 Pac-12) plays at Washington (10-6, 3-1) at 4 p.m. Sunday because many of the players have been friends for years.
“I grew up playing with and against a lot of those guys over there, so that puts a twist on the rivalry,” he said. “In a sense it’s going to be good to see familiar faces, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. If anything, you want to win even more because you know those guys.”
Washington State junior guard Reggie Moore is particularly close with UW freshman Hikeem Stewart, who was a freshman at Rainier Beach High when Moore and WSU junior guard Mike Ladd led the Vikings to a 29-1 record and a Class 3A state title.
“Those guys were my mentors in high school,” Stewart said. “Reggie is like my big brother. I talk to him almost every day.”
Washington freshman guard Tony Wroten Jr. communicates almost daily with Moore via text messages or Twitter, but they haven’t shared much about Sunday’s game.
“We haven’t really talked about it because this is a different game for Reggie because Reggie is from here,” Wroten said. “Every time he comes here he likes to have the best game he can. We really (haven’t) been talking about this one.”
Moore, a former UW recruit, admits to having a personal vendetta against the Huskies. Washington stopped recruiting him after it received a verbal agreement from Abdul Gaddy, who was headed to Arizona.
“I don’t feed into any of that,” Gaddy said. “He’s a good player and I relish the challenge of playing against him. I always like to come out on the better side and we compete that way. I want my team to win always.
“There could be a rivalry, but I’m just trying to win every time I’m on the court. That recruiting stuff is in the past.”
Wroten and Stewart — two of the top in-state recruits in 2011 — briefly considered WSU, but the Cougars are starting to win recruiting battles with Washington.
Both schools targeted Demarquise Johnson, a 6-5 shooting guard who attends Westwind Prep Academy in Phoenix. He chose the Cougars because “it’s somewhere that I can play right away. I can get recognized. And it’s a good fit for me.”
WSU also landed 6-10 Toronto big man Richard Peters, who drew consideration from the Huskies.
It remains to be seen if the recruiting battles are beginning to turn, but it’s clear the Cougars have made progress on the court against their in-state rivals.
Bone lost his first four games against the Huskies before sweeping the regular-season meetings last season, including an 80-69 win at Edmundson Pavilion.
Washington extracted a measure of revenge with an 89-87 victory over Washington State in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals.
In their last encounter, the Cougars received 43 points from Klay Thompson, the Pac-10 scoring leader who left school early and was taken 12th overall in the NBA draft.
This season, junior forward Brock Motum leads a balanced offensive attack. He averages 15.3 points, and backup guard Faisal Aden averages 12.8.
“Wazzu is a very dangerous team because they have so many weapons,” Romar said. “We’ve got to make sure we do a good job of defending. Our defense has been kind of up and down.
“We need to be very good that day because they can go off and they can score if they get going. When we played them last year, in spite of where they were record-wise, they came in here and played really hard. We’re going to have to be able to match their energy, their intensity.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com