Bennett's recruits leave Cougars in good shape

June, 19, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Tony Bennett left Washington State for Virginia and the likely, long-term success and overall access to players that Charlottesville, Va., provides over Pullman, Wash.

But in the short term, he might look longingly at what he left behind.

For the second time in three years, Bennett's recruiting has produced two players talented enough to make a USA junior national team. Two years ago, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver made the 2007 Pan American Team.

This time, Bennett recruits DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson earned spots on the under-19 American team that will compete in New Zealand next month at the FIBA World Championship.

"I feel like taking Tony to dinner and thanking him," said new Washington State coach Ken Bone, who was at the U.S. Olympic training center watching Casto and Thompson compete. "I need to get Coach Bennett on our staff somehow."

Bone is walking into a fortunate situation. Not only does he have Casto and Thompson, but Bennett also recruited Brock Motum, a 6-foot-9 forward. Motum is one of the top players on the Australian national team and will compete against the Americans in New Zealand.

Casto was a beast on the boards in the four FIBA trials games the Americans played, averaging seven points and making 14 of 21 shots. The 6-8 Casto led all Pac-10 freshmen with 1.2 blocks per game, swatting 39 shots in 33 games. Casto averaged a modest 4.4 points and four rebounds per game this past season as a freshman, but he also was on the floor competing with senior Aron Baynes.

"What I love about DeAngelo is his motor," Bone said. "He's a physical specimen, and skillwise he's doing well. He reminds me of [former Washington senior forward] Jon Brockman at this stage in his career."

Casto said he anticipates running more under Bone, and making the U-19 team should be the perfect springboard to next season.

"I don't have a name out there. People don't know who I am, and this will show how much I love [basketball]," Casto said.

Thompson had a reputation as a scorer before playing at Washington State, and he hasn't disappointed. The son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson, Klay was the top freshman 3-point shooter in the Pac-10 (68 made 3s).

"Klay is so skilled and knows how to score baskets," Bone said. "I think we'll push it more, and Klay can get to the rim. DeAngelo runs the floor so well and has a habit of running to the rim, turning and sealing."

Thompson said Casto doesn't earn enough credit for his post moves and "crafty shot over bigger defenders."

Bone plans to push the ball more than Bennett did, but the half-court offense won't be that much different. Bone said that for years, he watched tape of the blocker-mover offense of Dick Bennett, who was Washington State's coach from 2003 to 2006 and is Tony's father. While watching Washington State on tape this past season, he noticed there were plenty of similarities between the two offensive styles.

"We scrimmaged Portland State [where Bone was the head coach last season], and they do pressure the ball more," Thompson said. "And they did push the ball more offensively. Coach Bennett was conscientious with the ball and valued the possessions more, which caused us to slow down a bit."

Low and Weaver followed their Pan Am experience with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008. The Cougars aren't projected to go that far, but if Thompson and Casto mesh with Motum, and he's as good as advertised, finishing in the top three in the Pac-10 and earning an NCAA tournament berth might not be a reach.

• Illinois forward Mike Tisdale was a tough cut for the selection committee as it put together the World University Games team. Tisdale grabbed 15 boards and made 9 of 28 shots from the field. He hunted his shot, remained aggressive and didn't back down to seemingly stronger big men such as Clemson's Trevor Booker, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, Marquette's Lazar Hayward and North Carolina's Deon Thompson, all of whom made the team.

"They were some of the best guys in the country, so it puts everything in perspective," Tisdale said at the Colorado Springs airport shortly after being cut from the squad that will head to Serbia next month. "It was a great experience, but obviously strength will be important for me."

Tisdale is 7-1 and listed at 235 pounds, but his angular frame means he is much more a face-up player than a traditional post. "I've got to come back bigger and stronger," he said.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber was on the committee, but he was honest in his appraisal and didn't try to influence the rest of his comrades by trying to get Tisdale on the team.

"It was a good experience for him," Weber said.

He noted that Purdue All-Big Ten forward JaJuan Johnson also was cut, proving how tough it was to make it on this squad's frontcourt. Tisdale was replacing teammate Mike Davis on the trials roster. Davis broke his ankle in preparation for the event in Champaign, Ill.

Tisdale averaged 10.2 points and four rebounds for the Illini last season. Davis, a 6-9 sophomore, was second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points and first in rebounds at 8.1 per game.

"They've both got to get more weight on them to go against guys like Booker," Weber said. "These guys are men, and that's the difference between a good college player and [the ones] who have the ability and strength to play in the NBA. I hate to see Mike break his ankle, but if he uses it the right way and goes to lift weights and adds weight, with our junior class back and a talented group of freshmen coming on campus, then in the next two years, we could be very good."

• Holy Cross is expected to interview Notre Dame assistant coach Sean Kearney, according to a source close to the situation. Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion remains in the mix, and at least two or three others will be considered to replace coach Ralph Willard, who left to be an assistant at Louisville under Rick Pitino.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?