BY Howie Stalwick 07:52PM 03/27/2011

Cougs: 2nd-hand hoops, 1st-hand hemp

WSU heads to NIT Final Four with a few grass stains

Klay Thompson was one of three Cougars to have issues with the law this season. / Getty Images

Recruiting visits at Washington State are unique in college athletics.

Recruit: “Hi! I’m Jim!”

Host: “Hi! I’m high!”

A cheap shot? Perhaps. That’s the risk you take when eight WSU athletes — including three-fifths of the starters on the basketball team — get tagged with various marijuana charges in a matter of months.

No wonder the Cougs are on a high as they head to Madison Square Garden for the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.

You remember the NIT. It was relevant when Bob Cousy wore short shorts.

The standard line about the NIT is that it stands for Not In the Tournament. The REAL tournament, that is. The NCAA tournament. At Washington State, NIT stands for No Interruption in Tokes. The basketball players accused of misdemeanor marijuana possession — that means they had a very small amount — got nailed in season.

This just in: College students smoke pot. Lots of them do. If an athlete partakes every now and again, it is neither shocking nor an indicator that he or she is a drug addict on a direct flight to hell.

If they’re flying on Southwest, of course, there’s going to be a transfer or two.

Considering that marijuana is an illegal drug except under special circumstances, it seems reasonable to expect athletes to avoid the ganja if for no other reason than the fact that smoking anything cannot be beneficial to an athlete’s conditioning.

Oh, and at Wazzu, there’s one other little matter. You know, the part about embarrassing the hell out of the university that is providing you with a free education, free medical care and expenses-paid trips to some of the most exciting sports venues and cities in the world.

Like, say, New York City. And Madison Square Garden. That’s where the Cougars take their high-wire act — or is that high and wired act? –  at 4 p.m. Tuesday to play Wichita State. If WSU-Palouse Wheat Fields defeats WSU-Kansas Wheat Fields, the Cougars play for the title Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s late game between Colorado and Alabama.

We only hope the Garden’s PA system doesn’t play “Rocky Mountain High” in welcoming Colorado. The Cougars might misunderstand and get the munchies.

Hopefully, the Cougars are hungry for only one thing — an NIT championship. Washington State’s incredible inability to function at the highest level of collegiate athletics can scarcely be fathomed by mere mortals, but try to get your hands around the fact that the Cougars have not won a single, solitary conference championship in men’s basketball since 1941.

How long ago was that? It is believed that Jamie Moyer broke into the majors in ’41, right before Pearl Harbor.

The Cougars peaked in basketball a mere 94 years ago. Coach Fred Bohler’s crew went 25-1 and was crowned the 1916-17 national champion by something called the Helms Foundation.

We have it on reliable authority that none of the 1916-17 Cougars got busted for pot.

Unfortunately, high-character individuals like Abe Lodwick, Marcus Capers, Charlie Enquist, Faisal Aden, Brock Motum, Patrick Simon and other players on the 2010-11 Cougars get tainted by association when their teammates spend as much time in court as on the court.

That said, if anyone believes designated dopers Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto are evil human beings, they have remained publicly silent. All three young men are talented, hard-working, personable individuals — yes, even the stone-faced Thompson is a delight when he chooses to open up — who have played pivotal roles in a fine season that could be on the verge of turning downright splendid.

The Cougars are good. Real good. Not consistent, big or deep enough to be great.

For one night, however, when everything is clicking, the Cougars can beat just about anybody. This year’s team has the added motivation of knowing that junior standouts Thompson and Casto are all but gone. Thompson has outgrown the college game, and Casto hates school, has a kid and could use the mounds of cash available to him in the European pro ranks.

Wichita State, the “other” WSU, is eminently beatable. The Shockers are 27-8, but even in a down year like this one, we presume the Pac-10 schedule poses a more formidable weekly challenge than that of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Besides, just how tough can the Shockers be if they have only one player scoring in double figures, and he averages a mere 11.4? Thompson might lay a dozen on Wichita State before the first 50 fans are pick-pocketed in the concessions lines at the Garden.

Statistically, the Shockers are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and the Cougars often struggle on the boards. Thanks to the magic of the “indefinite suspension” that turned into a zero-game suspension for Casto a few hours prior to last week’s quarterfinal win over Northwestern, the Cougars will have their leading rebounder in uniform in the Big Apple.

“I see,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody mused afterward, “why he was playing.”

Call us suspicious, but we doubt a benchwarmer’s suspension would have ended so abruptly. Athletic director Bill Moos cited “unique circumstances.”

Like, say, WSU having a rare opportunity to play on a national stage? Moos would deny that until the cows came home on his ranch, but the perception is there.

Of course, it was nice just to see Moos address the latest blight on the university’s reputation by an athlete. When an interview request was submitted to Moos after the cops nailed Thompson — one of the most celebrated athletes in school history — it was summarily rejected.

“He’s too busy,” was the explanation offered.

Second hand.

In the afternoon.

On a weekday.

Moos said new disciplinary policies for WSU athletes have been in the works for months. Considering the impact — zero, apparently — that the one-game suspensions of Moore and Thompson had on Casto before he received his magically disappearing suspension, one would presume future penalties for indiscretions will be harsher.

“We’ve been fair,” basketball coach Ken Bone said. “We’ve been consistent.”

No one doubts that Bone is half right.


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  • JD

    Give’m hell Howie! Were the other 5 football players? I’m no cougar fan, but maybe you need to be a low character guy and take a hit. I’m smiling, but dadgum!

  • Paul McCoid

    this has to be one of the most one sided and pathetic columns I have ever read.
    So, the 16-17 Cougs newver got busted for pot? maybe because pot wasn’t illegal at that time. Do some research moron.

  • Jerry Pastore

    What a piece of trash–I’ve seen better writing in a high school newspaper. You should be embarrassed that this was made available to the public. You labored so hard to use references to being high or pot that it was painful. ps–grow up!