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Washington State set to open season

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Ken Bone era begins at Washington State today, when the Cougars play Mississippi Valley State in Pullman.

For the first time in seven seasons, a Bennett is not head coach at WSU, and Bone is looking for a faster game than the defense-oriented scheme that transformed the Cougars from pushovers to postseason regulars.

"I've had decent success over the years of coaching a certain style and it was not a slow-paced offense or a packed-in defense," Bone said. "I think most kids would prefer to play an up-tempo style and I believe it is also more entertaining for the fans."

The fast pace will likely be on display when the Cougars play Mississippi Valley State, which was 7-25 last season. The Delta Devils lost to the Cougars last year 76-25.

"They can shoot the ball much better than they shot in the past," Bone said of MVSU. "They have great quickness. They could present some problems."

Bone said veterans Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto will start, along with heralded freshman Reggie Moore. Xavier Thames and Marcus Capers are also likely to see plenty of playing time.

Former South Medford all-state performer Michael Harthun is also looking to crack the lineup. The sophomore guard was impressive during an exhibition contest against Lewis-Clark State College on Monday, scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

While he may desire a quicker pace, the reality is that Bone inherited a team that was recruited to fit into the slowdown style used by Dick and Tony Bennett, and the transition to a different style will be gradual, Bone said.

Bone plans to recruit heavily in the Northwest, and believes high school players in this region prefer the faster tempo.

Wednesday he announced that Patrick Simon of Ephrata had signed to play with the Cougars. The 6-foot-8 forward verbally committed to WSU four years ago, the youngest recruit in WSU history, when Tony Bennett was coach.

He wavered after Bennett left to become coach at Virginia last season, but sealed the deal after meeting Bone.

Simon helped Ephrata win the State 2A title as a sophomore, but sat out his junior year with a broken bone in his foot. His senior season begins next week.

Tony Bennett in three seasons took the Cougars to consecutive NCAA tournaments and last year to the NIT, the first such postseason run in the program's history. Last year, the Cougars finished 17-16, and seventh in the Pac-10. They are picked by coaches to finish eighth this season.