Washington State head coach Ken Bone has a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, as it was announced by the school on Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has decided to leave the program. Johnson spent the last nine seasons in Pullman, beginning in 2004 as an assistant under then-head coach Dick Bennett.
With the change in regimes it’s rare that an assistant would hang around as long as Johnson did, going from the elder Bennett to his son Tony (who’s now the head coach at Virginia) to coach Bone. Johnson was a teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“I want to thank everyone at Washington State University for their genuine care and support over the past nine seasons,” Johnson said in the release. “My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cougar Nation and the University community. I want to wish Coach Bone, our coaching staff and players the best of luck and continued success.”
One of Johnson’s most important recruits in recent years was Brock Motum, who graduated after playing four seasons in Pullman this past spring. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring in each of his last two seasons, and he left the school ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list. Motum’s a native of Australia, and Johnson’s connections in the country (he played and coach at the professional level in Australia) helped in the recruiting process.
“We’re sorry to see Ben leave the program,” coach Bone stated in the release. “He has contributed a tremendous amount not only during my four years here at WSU, but also over the past nine seasons. We wish Ben nothing but the best!”
While the Cougars do have to account for Motum’s departure they’ve got some talented players returning to the Palouse, most notably guards DaVontè Lacy and Royce Woolridge. Also of note are the arrivals of two point guards, junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn and freshman Ike Ireogbu, and redshirt freshman Que Johnson has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the Pac-12 after sitting out last season as a partial qualifier.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.