PULLMAN — Ken Bone can’t say enough good things about Brock Motum. Usually, that is.
Bone drew the line the other day when a member of the media asked the Washington State men’s basketball coach if anyone can stop his star senior forward.
“That’s a dumb question,” Bone declared. “Of course people can stop Brock. I mean, when you let him touch the ball every third pass, he’s going to score a lot.”
Motum is rocketing toward the top 10 in career scoring at WSU, even though he has been a full-time starter only the past 11/2 seasons. After leading the Pacific-12 Conference in scoring last season with an average of 18 points a game, Motum is averaging 19.7 points and making a determined run at another scoring title.
“My teammates have been helping me out by giving me the ball in good spots,” the modest Australian said. “They know where to hit me. They’re hitting shots, which allows teams not to just all sag into the key, so I’ve just been lucky.”
Lucky, huh? Not too many players are “lucky” enough to score 23 or more points in five straight games, as Motum has.
“He’s really, really good,” Jackson (Miss.) State coach Tevester Anderson said after Motum dropped 27 on the Tigers last month. “He hit us inside, outside, the whole deal.
“He knows how to post up. He’s got good hands. He’ll play (in the NBA) some time soon.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few recently predicted that Motum will be “an 11-, 12-year NBA guy.”
“That’s OK,” Motum said. “That’s fine with me. I don’t think it’s up to those guys.
“They just write about what they see. Unfortunately, we’re not on TV (major networks) a lot, like ESPN, and we’re not always playing in the big games, so they probably don’t see us play a lot, especially down in Pullman.”
Motum is well aware that Klay Thompson, the most recent NBA draft pick out of Washington State, was selected 11th overall by Golden State in 2011 after being ranked significantly lower in most early draft projections.
“If that’s any indication of accuracy,” Motum said, “then that’s OK with me.”
Bone occasionally chides Motum to improve his defense and rebounding. The coach is quick to point out that the 6-foot-10, 245-pound player has made wholesale improvements in both areas since he arrived at WSU as a gangly freshman.
“He’s gotten stronger, and he plays stronger,” Bone said. “It’s one thing to gain strength; it’s another thing to actually play stronger.
“He’s just not a beast on the court, but he does play much stronger than people probably realize.”
Motum, who averages a team-leading and career-high 7.0 rebounds a game, benefits on offense from playing a European-style game. In other words, he can bang down low or step outside to drill jump shots, including 3-pointers.
“He’s crafty,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “He’s really good at using his body. He’s just a good enough shooter that he makes you extend your defense. He’s got a lot of moves.”
Motum came to the United States to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. He was open to the idea of leaving for the NBA after last season, but when he failed to make Australia’s Olympic team, he returned to Washington State.
Motum, a psychology major with “around a 3-point” grade average, is the lone Pac-12 player among the 30 male basketball players nominated for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award – an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School – honors players who succeed on and off the court.
Bone says he’s grateful to coach players like Motum and Mike Ladd, the Cougars’ only other senior.
“No maintenance,” Bone said. “I mean, not like normal maintenance, or a little maintenance.
“No, it’s zero maintenance. They’ve got the right attitude. They bring the right work ethic and attitude to the court, to team meetings. They represent our program well. They’re just really good kids.”
Washington State (9-4) has a four-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s Pac-12 opener against Washington in Pullman (6:30 p.m., ESPNU). Picked to finish 10th in a preseason Pac-12 media poll, the Cougars have played a weak non-conference schedule, but three of their four losses came by two points or fewer, including a 71-69 loss to then-No. 10 Gonzaga.
“I think we can finish in the top four,” Motum said. “We just need to peak at the right time.”