Washington State (8-2) men's basketball Coach Ken Bone talked about the progress of players coming off the bench Tuesday morning. For the Cougs to be successful when conference play begins at the end of this month, bench depth will be critical.
Up tempo college basketball requires a number of components, not the least of which is stamina. It's one thing for players to talk about running up and down the court. In Division I basketball, pushing the ball for 40 minutes of playing time is easier said than done.
Coach Bone likes to employ an up tempo style of play, and has many years of experience coaching players to flourish within that system.
WSU will need quality minutes from players coming off the bench against Pac-10 opponents. Up to this point in the season, the Cougs have played several teams with speed and quickness. They have only played two ball clubs which have both those qualities plus strength up front.
When facing Gonzaga and Kansas State, WSU was out-muscled in the second half of both games. Strength was the issue, not effort on the part of the Cougs. It's no coincidence those are the only two losses for the Cougs.
As Coach Bone has mentioned before, his players aren't going to gain much in the way of size or strength in the next couple of months. However, they will be developing experience necessary to compete effectively with stronger players.
One of the stronger players on the Washington State roster is senior forward Nikola Koprivica . Nik's one of the first players off the bench in the current rotation used by Coach Bone. The entire Cougar coaching staff is working to develop others who will deliver good minutes up front.
James Watson is a redshirt freshman who has raw talent. Watson has been snake-bit by the injury bug in the past, but is finally healthy. "James is a redshirt freshman who’s just played 32 minutes after ten games," said Bone. "I would love to get him in there more."
The key to getting more playing time for Watson is pretty basic. "He needs a better understanding of what we’re trying to do on the court before he gets his minutes," explained Coach Bone.
In terms of development and learning the system of Coach Bone, Charlie Enquist is ahead of Watson. Enquist has earned significant playing time and made the most of his minutes. He has come off the bench to do some good things at both ends of the court. "That’s what Charlie has been able to do. He understands the system and right now is executing a little bit better than James," Coach Bone said in describing his use of the two players.
There's no mistaking the potential of James Watson. His role with the Cougs could well determine just how successful they are once Pac-10 play begins.
"...we need James (Watson). He’s 6’9” and he’s a real live body, extremely quick, can guard a few different positions and we need to get more minutes out of him." - WSU Coach Ken Bone
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU column on Examiner.com