Pac-12 preview: Washington State University

This is the eighth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

One of the surprises at last year’s Pac-12 tournament was Washington State University upsetting USC in the quarterfinals to reach the semis. After the Cougars lost in that round the next night, Coach June Daugherty sat in the post-game press conference talking a mile a minute. She was glad that her seniors had faith in the program all four years; the team was so excited the previous night that they’d all jumped in the pool at the hotel.

As if that made up for a 13-20 record, which included going 5-13 in conference, for eleventh place in the Pac-12.

As if that made up for going 8-23 the year before, and for Daugherty being 38-86 in five years at WSU.

Of course the team was excited. If you hadn’t eaten in 21 years (1991 was the one and only time the Cougars were in the NCAA tournament), a plate of food would look good to you too, wouldn’t it?

I wondered aloud why Daugherty was still there to a Division I coach after this event. He said, “Oh, it’s hard to get people to coach out there.”

Is it? Is Kelly Graves really that much of an anomaly?

I still say WSU has become too comfortable with mediocrity. And this year’s roster may not have the personnel to change that.

The Cougar’s second, fifth and sixth-leading scorers – Jazmine Perkins, April Cook and Rosetta Adzasu, respectively – graduated. Perkins and Cook have been Daugherty’s highest-ranked recruits. They also stayed with the program their entire careers instead of transferring, which has plagued WSU since the Daugherty era began. Even more so than their points, the energy of Perkins and Cook in particular will be seriously missed on the WSU offense.

The good news for WSU is that nine players return, including top point-getter Ireti Amojo, a junior (9 ppg); junior Sage Romberg (7.3 ppg); senior Carly Noyes (7 ppg); sophomore Tia Presley (5.8 ppg); and junior Brandi Thomas (5.6 ppg).

There are six freshmen guards: Alexas Williamson of Chino Hills, Calif.; Lia Galdeira of Kemuela, Hawaii; Dawnyelle Awa of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; and Taylor Edmondson of Carlsbad, N.M. Freshman forwards are Whitney Tinjum of Stacy, Minn. and Mariah Cooks of Santa Maria, Calif.

Williamson went to Mater Dei High School, where she was a reserve player. The high schools of the other freshmen do not look familiar.

Noyes, at 6-foot-5, is WSU’s center. Though she was honorable mention for the conference’s all-defensive team last year, she averaged only three rebounds per game. She will have to step it up this year, as will the Cougar’s two forward/centers, sophomore Shalie Dheenshaw (2.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg) and junior Hana Potter (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg). Right now, it looks like WSU could be a fast team that gets killed on the boards.

One interesting coaching note: Mo Hines, who has been an assistant coach for Daugherty all five years prior to this, is switching places with last year’s new video coordinator Ashley Grover. Now Grover is the assistant coach, and Hines has her old job.

The Cougars have an ambitious preseason schedule, as they’ll face Wisconsin, BYU, Ohio State, Louisville, Syracuse and Gonzaga before beginning conference play at home.