Nov. 14, 2007
PULLMAN, Wash. - High school seniors Marcus Capers, Michael Harthun, Klay Thompson, James Watson and Nick Witherill have each signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Washington State University men's basketball team next season, head coach Tony Bennett announced Wednesday.
"As a whole, obviously, we're encouraged and excited about bringing in this class," Bennett said. "They're very similar to the group that are now seniors. It's the next big group of recruits. I think last year's success allowed use to be involved with some of these young men that perhaps, maybe in the past, we wouldn't have had a chance with. I like them because we always talk about character. They all come from really strong families, they're young men of character."
Marcus Capers (6-5, 175, PG, Montverde, Fla./Montverde Academy) enrolled at Montverde Academy prior to his senior year. As a junior at Lake Region High School, the point guard led his squad to the district championship game, finishing the season averaging 17 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. He earned the 2007 News Chief All-Area Player of the Year. As a sophomore, Capers was a contributor on Lake Region's district championship and regional runner-up team. Capers plays for the Team STAT AAU squad.
Michael Harthun (Har-toon) (6-3, 175, SG, Medford Ore./South Medford HS) helped lead South Medford to the 4A State Championship game as a sophomore where the Panthers lost to Lake Oswego. The team reached the 6A state title game in the shooting guard's junior season in a rematch, this time defeating the Lakers behind his team-high 24 points. He averaged 20.0 ppg and 4.7 apg and was named first-team All-State as a junior. He participated in the Nike Global Challenge, leading his USA4 team to a third place finish with 8.4 ppg and 6.2 apg. Harthun plays for the Oregon Rebels AAU team.
Klay Thompson (6-6, 190, SG, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic HS) earned all-area second team honors as a junior after leading Santa Margarita Catholic HS to a second-place finish in its division and a second round appearance in the CIF Southern Section Tournament. His father Mychal Thompson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. Thompson plays for the Pump-and-Run AAU team.
James Watson (6-8, 210, F, Stringtown, Okla./Stringtown HS) led his high school to the Class `B' State Championship behind his 8.6 points and 11 rebounds per game as the team went 27-4. The small forward upped his offensive numbers in the State playoffs, averaging 18 points per game. Used to small town settings, Watson will become the first Division I athlete to come out of his hometown of Stringtown, Okla., which has a population of fewer than 400 people. Watson plays for the Oklahoma Magic AAU squad.
Nick Witherill (6-3, 165, SG, Scottsdale, Ariz./ Highland HS) transferred to Gilbert Highland from Saguaro HS prior to the 2007-08 school year. As a junior, Witherill led Saguaro HS to a 24-6 record and a berth in the State semifinals, averaging 21 points per game, while earning first-team All-State honors. As a sophomore, the shooting guard averaged 17.5 points per game. Witherill plays for the Arizona Premiere AAU team.
"No player is a replica of another," Bennett said. "Harthun can play the one and the two, he's a lot like Derrick Low in terms of his ability to shoot the ball and play some one. Capers is a heck of a defender, can really slash and has a nice feel. Some would say Klay Thompson is kind of Kyle Weaver-like. Witherill can just really shoot the ball. Watson is a very good athlete at that size. He has very good ball skills. We do like versatile players. I think this group defensively can be really good. There's potential but there's certainly a maturation process they have to go through."
Tony Bennett Quotes - Signing Day (Nov. 14, 2007)
On fulfilling the program's needs...
"Next year with Derrick and Kyle leaving, the following year with Taylor leaving and last year with Mac Hopson and Chris Matthews transferring, we felt like we had to address the backcourt and I think we did that. With Robbie, an athletic forward, leaving we felt Watson had the ball skills and defensive ability to help fill that void."
On the group as a whole...
"There's a strong amount of character, they're all a little different and bring some nice athleticism. If they can develop as much as this group that is seniors now, I think by the time they're upper classmen they'll be a really good group."
"I think this group fits the mold of what we're trying to do here. They're hungry kids that want to play at an elite level and have a solid understanding of the game. Their teams have won where they've been at and they know how to play the game. I like guys who have been apart of winning programs."
On sticking together...
"You like to think that any class will stick together through thick and thin. Whenever you play in a high, high-level league like the Pac-10, you're going to have to really compete. There's no guarantee you're going to be successful. That's what makes this job exciting and challenging. I like to think that if we aren't successful, they'll stick together and if we are, they'll remain humble and true to who they are, just like our other guys have."
On signing day...
"It's an important day, every year it is. It's the life-blood of the program."
On recruiting all over the country...
"This is a program that I think you have to look all over for hidden gems... whether it's overseas or throughout the country. Hopefully kids in the area will be more attracted to Washington State, because it has a lot to offer. When they see good things can happen, I think it will give us a better shot with young men in the Pacific Northwest. "
On Taylor Rochestie giving up his scholarship...
"Marcus Capers was the last one to commit to us, he and Taylor really bonded on his recruiting trip. Taylor really liked what he was about. He was the last one, Taylor giving up his scholarship allowed us to sign Marcus."