Ken Bone just hopes Ladd is fortunate enough to coach a player like … well, Ladd.
“He’s been a pleasure to coach, because first and foremost, he’s such a great kid,” Bone said. “High-character guy. That’s why he was voted one of the team captains last year before he ever put on a Cougar uniform.”
Ladd struggled with injuries last season after sitting out the requisite year following his transfer from Fresno State. He started regularly for the Bulldogs, but he made just one start for the Cougars last season.
Did that cause any problems?
“He’s never complained about anything,” Bone said. “He just listens and accepts his role. A lot of kids don’t do that.”
Bone said Ladd requires “zero maintenance.” That was true even after an undisclosed violation of team rules before the season led Bone to dismiss Reggie Moore, who was Ladd’s close friend since childhood in south Seattle.
“It was tough,” Ladd said. “I wish he could be playing with us right now, but it’s life.
“Things happen. You have to move forward.”
In Moore’s absence, Ladd, a natural wing, has taken on some of Moore’s old point guard duties. The position switch has not come without its challenges, but Moore has tried to help his old friend.
“He gave me some pointers that would help me because he’s been running the point his whole life,” Ladd said. “He’s become pretty helpful, just how to handle certain situations out there.
“Take my time. Run the team. Make sure I’m vocal.”
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Ladd hadn’t played point guard for years.
“I used to play for my father when I was in elementary and middle school,” Ladd recalled. “He wanted me to be a point guard so bad, so he’d have me bring the ball up.
“I didn’t want to be a point,” he said. “I wanted to be a shooter.”
Ladd became a prolific shooter at Rainier Beach High School, where he teamed with Moore to earn the Vikings a Class 3A state title in 2007-08. Ladd averaged 19 points a game, and he joined Moore in signing a letter of intent with Fresno State.
Moore opted for prep school and never played for the Bulldogs. Ladd “decided to hang in there,” and he averaged about 10 points a game for each of the two seasons he spent in Fresno.
“I wanted to be closer to home,” Ladd said, “and I always had dreams of playing in the Pac-12, or Pac-10 at the time. I’m glad I made the move.”
Ladd, splitting time between the wing and point and again serving as a team captain, has started all 11 games this season for the Cougars (7-4). He has averaging 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 turnovers a game.
“He’s a great person, a great teammate,” WSU’s Brock Motum said. “I love having him on the floor.
“He’s an underrated defender. He’s so tough. A really good rebounder. He can pull up off the bounce and get to the rack. He’s just an all-around, really solid player and a key piece to the team this year.”
Ladd heads home to Seattle to play Buffalo tonight in WSU’s annual “home” game at KeyArena (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Ladd has fond memories of watching the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics play at KeyArena and the Kingdome.
Standout point guard Gary Payton was one of Ladd’s favorite Sonics. Ladd has no illusions about becoming the next Gary Payton, but he’s hopeful the first Mike Ladd can help the Cougars win – even when he’s playing the point.
“It’s a good experience,” Ladd said. “I’m learning every day through practices and games.”
Ladd, a general studies major, hopes to play professionally before he goes into coaching. Bone likes Ladd’s chances of succeeding at whatever he tries in life.
“He has a really good demeanor about him,” Bone said. “He’s extremely well-liked by everybody that meets him, whether it’s a player, a strength coach, the trainer, the academic people.
“He’s just a great young man.”
COUGARS GAME DAY
Buffalo (4-7) vs. Washington State (7-4)
7:30 p.m., KeyArena, Seattle
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 710-AM, 104.3-FM
All-time series: WSU leads, 2-0. The Cougars played at Buffalo in 1949 and ’50.
Jarod OldhamPG 10.15.3 4.4 39.459.4
Jarryn Skeete G 2.22.01.129.6 33.3
Auraum Nuiriankh G 5.54.01.530.268.4
Will Regan F 10.8 4.80.654.584.0
Javon McCrea F 220.127.116.11.378.4
Mike Ladd PG 18.104.22.1682.0 60.0
Royce Woolridge G 22.214.171.1246.6 74.1
DaVonté Lacy G 10.1 2.91.940.3 64.3
Brock MotumF 20.4 6.91.550.9 76.3
D.J. Shelton F 126.96.36.1993.4 53.8
Scouting report: The Bulls, making their first trip to the state of Washington, provide the opposition in WSU’s eighth annual “home” game at KeyArena. Promoter Idol Sports & Entertainment has said advance ticket sales were similar to recent years, so the Cougars hope 10,000 or more turn out with many WSU students back home in the Puget Sound area for Christmas break. WSU coach Ken Bone said the Cougars are trying to bring more high-profile teams to Seattle. Buffalo has scored at least 72 points in four of its past five games, and the Bulls shoot 51 percent from the field on the road. Only one team, then-No. 10 Gonzaga, has shot better than 45.5 percent against the Cougars. McCrea is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound junior who can do some damage down low. Regan, from Buffalo, spent one season at Virginia under former Cougars coach Tony Bennett. Ladd has seen more playing time at the point in recent games. He knows his primary mission is to feed Motum, who has scored 23 or more points in five straight games. The Bulls, who have only one senior, might have to knock off some rust after not playing since Dec. 8. Former Bainbridge High School star Will DiIorio also might be rusty for WSU if he plays for the first time since spraining an ankle Dec. 5 against Gonzaga.
Next: 3 p.m. Dec. 29, vs. Idaho State in Kennewick (Pac-12 Networks).Howie Stalwick, contributing writer