Nov. 4, 2004
LOS ANGELES -- The Washington State University men's basketball team was picked to finish ninth in the 2004-05 Pacific-10 Conference season in the annual preseason media poll, announced Wednesday at the conference's media day.
Arizona garnered 19 of 26 first place votes and is the favorite to win the Pac-10 title. Washington, which tallied seven first place votes, was selected second, followed by Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, USC, California, Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona State.
Also announced, Wednesday, was the Pacific-10's 2005 Hall of Honor inductees. The class includes Pete Williams (Arizona), Joe Caldwell (Arizona State), Darrall Imhoff (California), Blair Rasmussen (Oregon), Ed Lewis (Oregon State), Rich Kelley (Stanford), Gail Goodrich (UCLA), John Rudometkin (USC), Jack Nichols (Washington) and Gene Conley (Washington State).
Conley is one of few people in sports history to play on world championship teams in different sports. He spent two years on the Washington State campus and played on championship basketball and baseball teams. He later played on the Boston Celtics' NBA championship teams of 1959, 1960 and 1961. In addition, he was a pitcher on the Milwaukee Braves team that captured the 1957 World Series. At WSU, Conley played center on Pac-10 Hall of Honor member Jack Friel's Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division championship team in 1950. Conley also pitched on Buck Bailey's 1950 Cougar baseball team that won the Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division and District Eight titles and finished second at the College World Series.
Washington State Head Men's Basketball Coach Dick Bennett spoke at Pac-10 Media Day and offered the following thoughts.
"I know I'm into the full swing of coaching from this time last year. I feel much more dedicated. The second year has been the most intriguing year in all the places I have been. Everyone expects it to be better than the first. But, with the second year comes the first batch of recruits to blend with the veterans. With that the results are sometimes unpredictable."
(On the schedule)
"We're looking at a nonconference schedule that may be over our heads. I want to get teams to come to Pullman and to do that you must start on the road. We are on the road a lot and I have no doubt the Pac-10 will return to elite status this season. That will make things difficult for us. I do feel we will be a better team."
"We brought in six freshmen, I am sure none of whom you (the media) has heard about. However, I like each one of them because as a group, they make us a better team. The most notable is Derrick Low. Unfortunately, he broke his foot the second day of practice and we may not see him until Pac-10 play. He would have been an impact player right away. We have a very good class and if we can combine it with another good class, we will have a solid nucleus in place."
(On the NCAA restrictions of exhibition games)
"I think the exhibition games can be very helpful. We are only playing one. We also have a closed scrimmage which I think can be even more valuable because we can stop it and teach."
(On coming out of retirement last season)
"I held up pretty well. I enjoyed it last season. I am enjoying it so far this season. I actually feel a little younger. I was feeling a little run down and useless during my last year of retirement. Right now, I feel very good."
(On Jeff Varem)
"Jeff is one of the keys for us. He had a very fine Pac-10 season and was a factor in every one of our wins during conference. I hope he can smooth out some of inconsistencies and have a good year."
(On strengths of this season's team)
"Our depth may be our strength. We can blend the veterans with the freshmen and get a lot of quality minutes."
(On the point guard position)
"The point guard situation is of some concern. Derrick Low was the guy we brought in to run the show for four years and he is very capable. We will probably have to spread the duties around. Not to say we will start different guys, but we will have to move the ball more with the pass and get more guys down the floor."
(On Thomas Kelati)
"He's our best shooter. He can go forever. He was a cross country runner in high school and can play long minutes. I would like to see him wear down some people guarding him this season."