Washington State and Gonzaga fans will see plenty of familiar faces when the Cougars and Bulldogs celebrate the first day of full-scale practices for NCAA Division I men's basketball teams by holding events tonight that will be light on practice and heavy on interaction with fans.
Admission, posters and autographs are free at both events. The WSU men’s and women’s teams gather at 8 at Bohler Gym on the Pullman campus.
The GU men’s event begins at 6:30 at the Zags’ McCarthey Athletic Center. Gonzaga is one of six teams featured in ESPNU’s “Midnight Madness” coverage.
The Cougars return all five starters off a 16-15 team that had just one senior – which is one more than this year’s team will carry.
Former Bainbridge High School star Steven Gray is the lone senior for the Bulldogs. Gray and three other starters return from a 27-7 team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
WSU is led by Klay Thompson. The junior guard finished second in the Pacific-10 Conference in scoring at 19.6 points a game and made the all-conference team. Point guard Reggie Moore (12.7 ppg), a collegeinsider.com freshman All-American last season, and post DeAngelo Casto (a Pac-10-leading 2.2 blocked shots a game) are other key returnees.
Thompson, Gray and Gonzaga sophomore Elias Harris made the 50-man preseason watch list for the John. R. Wooden Player of the Year award.
Gray, a shooting guard, and Harris, a power forward, must cover for the loss of honorable mention All-American guard Matt Bouldin (now playing pro ball in Greece). Gray averaged 13.6 points and 2.9 assists last season. Harris averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
The Cougars, who finished last in the Pac-10 a year ago, open the season Nov. 13 at home against Southern University. WSU plays an exhibition game Nov. 5 against visiting Lewis-Clark State.
The Bulldogs, who won the West Coast Conference regular-season title last season, play Southern on Nov. 12 in Spokane. Like WSU, Gonzaga plays a Nov. 5 home exhibition game against an NAIA opponent when Southern Oregon comes to town.