PULLMAN - The young Washington State Cougars head down the stretch of the Pacific-10 Conference season with an outside shot at the school's first men's basketball championship since 1941.
This week, however, WSU’s Nikola Koprivica, DeAngelo Casto and Marcus Capers found time to do what athletes like to do almost as much as win games: Talk smack about their teammates.
Q: Who’s the Cougar most likely to someday be elected mayor?
Koprivica: Abe Lodwick, because he’s the guy who always has something to say. He uses big words, words I don’t understand. Tries to be “big time” (joking). He always finds a way to get out of trouble or anything that hurts, so he’s definitely the guy that can be a politician.
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Capers: Ben (Loewen). I already call Ben an old, grumpy man because sometimes he just gets mad. It’s like you’re 78 years old. Any time you talk politics, he gives you every angle possible. Him and Abe have debates all the time.
Casto: Charlie Enquist. I would say Nikola, but he’s Serbian, so he can’t be the mayor (joking).
Q: Who’s the “class clown” on the team?
Koprivica: Guys say me because, you know, foreign kid – sometimes, they don’t understand what I say. And I always try to be goofy and make a little fun.
Capers: People might say Reggie (Moore) and me, but I feel it’s Klay (Thompson) because Klay don’t say nothin’. When he talks, it’s funny, because you wouldn’t expect him to say anything. You never know when he’s serious or when he’s playin’, because Klay is monotone.
Casto: Reggie Moore. Me and him just get along. We clown a lot.
Q: If you had a sister in college, which teammate would you like her to date?
Koprivica: None! They’re great guys, but none. My sister’s too good.
Capers: Klay. On top of Klay not really going out, I see my sister just watching movies with him, helping him with homework.
Casto: Mike Harthun. He’s the “chillest” (most relaxed), most respectful.
Q: How do you get the usually quiet Thompson to talk?
Koprivica: Know movies and “Family Guy” (an animated TV show) and joke. He has to be comfortable. He’s got to know you really well. When he’s kind of comfortable with you and he’s rooming with you on the road and everything, he’s just a regular guy that talks like everybody.
Capers: Video games. I’m going to say “Rock Band” or “Guitar Hero.” Right now he’s into an Army shooting game, “Call of Duty.” If you talk “Call of Duty” and talk about how many kills you’ve got, or the (NBA’s Los Angeles) Lakers. The debate is: Is Kobe Bryant better than Michael Jordan? If you really want to get him talking, say Michael Jordan is better. That’ll get him going.
Casto: Tackle him! That’s what I do! I get on top of him; he has to say something.
The seventh-place Cougars (15-8 overall, 5-6 Pac-10) visit last-place Stanford (10-13, 4-7) and first-place California (15-8, 7-4) this week.
Tonight’s game at Stanford, which tips at 7, will not be televised. FSN will show the California game Saturday at 1 p.m.
Last month in Pullman, WSU gave up a season-high 93 points in a 93-88 loss to California, then downed Stanford, 77-73.
Stanford has dropped its past four games, but the Cardinal is 9-2 at home with five straight wins. Landry Fields leads the Pac-10 with 23 points per game, and he’s second in rebounding at 8.8 a game.
California lacks inside muscle but often shoots the ball extremely well. Standout point guard Jerome Randle piled up 39 points and nine assists in the first meeting with WSU.
ESPN and Sporting News predict Cal will be the Pac-10’s lone NCAA tournament entry.
“I would guess two teams would get in,” WSU coach Ken Bone said.
Washington State is bidding for a school-record fourth straight national tournament. A 17-15 record earned the Cougars an NIT bid last year, but Bone said he believes WSU would need “closer to 19” wins to attract the NIT this year, since the Pac-10 is weaker.
The Cougars have a shot at their third 20-win season in four years. The only time that’s happened at WSU came during a run of six 20-win seasons in seven years from 1935-36 to 1941-42.
Two more wins guarantees the Cougars a fourth straight winning season for the first time since a six-year run ended in 1995-96.