As we patiently wade through the first rounds of that useless, bloated, boring "Big Dance" in order to get to the real tournament - round 2 of the NIT (this is a joke, UW fans, please relax), I wanted to discuss Jim Moore's interview with Ken Bone about the possible departure of both Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto.
In the discussion, the coach threw out the guess that both players' chances of returning are 50/50.
Thompson, of course, has NBA potential and will certainly be drafted with the only question being "how high?" Casto's situation is a bit different, as he's probably not NBA-ready but could certainly play professionally overseas and make a pretty good paycheck. For him, it seems to be much more about necessity - he's a family man and needs to support his family. The state of college sports makes it impossible for anyone to give him any help financially or otherwise (if only he went to USC) and leaving may be his only option. You can't fault him for that.
So that leads us to the question - What happens if they leave?
First of all, Klay Thompson is arguably the best player to ever strap on the sneakers for WSU. He is an incredible athlete and if he decides to stay another year to improve his draft stock and most likely win Pac-12 POY, we should all name our future and current children after him and erect a bronze statue of him outside of Beasley.
But, I'm less concerned about his departure than I am about DeAngelo Casto's.
Klay is an all-around amazing player and helps the Cougs in every facet of the game, but he's primarily a shooter on a team filled with shooters. No one shooter will be as good as Klay is if he leaves, and no one player will be as good in the overall game, but other players can, as a team, step up and fill those gaps. Mike Ladd, the Fresno State transfer will help on the offensive end next season and with a healthy Faisal Aden and Reggie Moore, this team should still have quite a bit of firepower. It'll hurt, don't get me wrong, but at least there is personnel in line to help.
If DeAngelo Casto leaves, the Cougs lose their ONLY player who can play with his back to the basket. He's the only player on the roster with the physical ability to back a player down in the post and the only player that can match-up physically with the other big-men in the conference. Not to mention the Cougs have had a bit of trouble on the boards this season and Casto's seven per game are vital. His shot-blocking skills (1.7 per game, 2nd in the Pac-10) are a game-changer as well.
What happens to this team if Casto goes? Will Charlie Enquist or Brock Motum be able to add 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season and become a force inside? Probably not. Steven Bjornstad, the 6-10 freshman center is larger than the others, but he's been a bit injury-prone and lacks the quickness or the strength. Incoming recruit Greg Sequele is very similar to Casto in size and athleticism when he arrived, but he's raw and will need AT LEAST a season to become a factor just like Casto did.
So what happens to Bone's schemes without a go-to man in the middle? Shoot the lights out? You guessed it. In Ken Bone's NCAA-runs with Portland State, that's exactly what he did. Fortunately, he did it successfully. Back then, Bone's teams were in the top 10 in the nation for 3-pointers made, attempts, and percentage. With no Casto and thus, no real inside presence to speak of, will he have any choice but to do the same?
Looking at Bone's recruiting, it seems he's been building the same sort of team that he had down in Portland. Those teams were small, but everyone could shoot. The current roster is chock-full of shooters. Every player minus Bjornstad and Enquist can shoot from the outside and all of them can run the floor. But this is the Pac-10, not the Big Sky. Could the Cougs compete without a Casto - without a second option?
I really don't know, but it worries me.
The best-case, of course, is that both stay and a team of seniors plows their way through the Pac-12 and make a deep run in to the tourney and then we don't have to worry at all. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way.
For selfish reasons then, here's hoping they both stay.