BY Bob Sherwin 02:09PM 02/24/2011

Husky, Cougar wikileakers fuel the rematch

Players can’t avoid cyber trash talk in advance of Sunday’s game.

Washington's Darnell Gant didn't like all the court celebration in WSU's victory Jan. 30 in Pullman / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In this bold new world of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, personal thoughts that were once private and unspoken are now readily dispensed and distributed for all to see.

It’s like Wikileaks at a street level.

With the Washington-Washington State game set for Sunday evening at Hec Ed, the twitter chatter and various media interviews have fractured the focus for this game. Pride, ego, macho unavoidably get involved. It’s mostly just good-natured boasts and putdowns but sometimes the smallest slight can stir the emotions.

It wasn’t so long ago that lockerroom comments were clipped from newspapers, a rudimentary two-lane road of communication. Now it’s a media super highway with banter and barbs scattering in every direction.

The players’ interaction has been built on a history together, many back to their youthful days in Seattle but also from their many encounters, particularly the Cougars’ 87-80 victory over the Huskies on Jan. 30.

There was a whole lot of cackle going into that last game. Cougar guard Klay Thompson, asked in a radio interview who he thought was the Pac-10 Player of the Year, mentioned Arizona’s Derrick Williams. His obvious omission was Husky guard Isaiah Thomas.

Thomas heard it and bristled. That started the tweets twirling. He took it as a snub but didn’t want to directly respond to it with reporters. He did say, however, that the WSU campus “was in the middle of nowhere.”

Then Cougar forward DeAngelo Casto heard that and he was offended. He told a reporter “we’ll be ready for the Huskies, even if we are in the middle of nowhere.”

Nothing gets past these guys. It’s the same as hacking an opposing player driving for a layup, there are no easy layups. No missive can sent into their end without a metaphoric elbow back to the ribs.

“I’m not aware of anything at this time,” said WSU Coach Ken Bone today, on any subtle issues among the players leading up to Sunday’s game. “No one wants to go in that direction and you do need to be aware of it. I have not said anything this week but I’ve mentioned a number of times during the season that we need to be smart with what we tweet and what we say. We need to handle ourselves the right way.

“I never dreamed we’d be so transparent in what we do and what we say. There really are no secrets out there. Even the iPod thing got out there.”

The iPod thing involved Thompson last Saturday before the Arizona State game. With the team bus waiting outside, he frantically searched his hotel room for his iPod. That caused him to be late for the bus and consequently Bone did not start the conference’s leading scorer for the game. He entered at 14:13 in what turned out to be a two-point loss to the last place Sun Devils.

“What we’re trying to do is lay down discipline within the program,” Bone said. “One of those situations is, when time is involved, be on time. We’re not trying to throw away games because of it. He knows the rule. He understood it. He had no issue with it and neither did anyone else on the team.”

His iPod, it turns out, was in teammate’s Brock Motum’s bag.

But Bone had no hope keeping it within the team, not in the midst of wikileakers. UW Coach Lorenzo Romar also had no chance keeping his benching of Aziz N’Diaye for the Arizona State game on the down-low. He also was late for a bus and lost his starting assignment. That news was out there before the opening buzzer.

You think there might be an iPod reference among the Dawg Pack Sunday? The Purple folks will have fun with that as much as the Scarlet folks exploited the ‘unnamed’ Husky involved in the sexual assault investigation. He wasn’t unknown to them, not in this era of boundless transparency.

What’s eating the Husky players this week is something so trivial on the surface. They didn’t like the way the Cougars and their fans celebrated in Pullman, rushing the court and acting like it was midnight at the New Year.

Huskies forward Darnell Gant said three days later that game, “the thing that bothered me the most was the things they did afterward, with the crowd storming the court and stuff like that.”

Thomas added, “I told my guys in the locker room: ‘Just remember that, because you don’t win championships in January.’ But they thought it was a big win, and it was for them; it was a survival game. You can’t blame them, but I think we would have done it a little different.”

Even last Tuesday after the Huskies’ 95-74 victory over Seattle University, Gant was still preoccupied.

“In the back of your mind it’s still there,” he said, “the way they celebrated.”

Thomas also said after the game that the tweets with the Cougars “start tomorrow.”

You might think the best motivation would be simply avenging a loss to a rival. Or winning their 20th game. Or building up their credentials for the NCAA Selection Committee. Or keeping them on a path to at least finish second in the conference. Or essentially ruining the Cougars final hope for the NCAA Tournament with a victory.

That’s all good, but it seems what matters most, what stirs their emotions are all those slights, disses and cyberspace trash talk.

Whatever it takes.


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