- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Washington State center Robbie Cowgill paused, desperate to find some way to describe Kyle Weaver’s style of play without giving in to a basketball cliche.

Ultimately, Cowgill knew he would not sum up his four-year teammate easily.

“I don’t want to say glue guy because he’s one of our main scoring threats and probably our most talented player,” Cowgill said. “In most cases, the guy most people think about, they’re trying to score, and maybe ‘I’ll rest on D.’ Especially when he’s locked in, he can guard among the best defenders around. He has such an impact on both sides.”

Maybe others will fumble for the words to appreciate Weaver this week at the East regional. The do-it-all senior helped the fourth-seeded Cougars (26-8) reach the round of 16, the program’s furthest push in the NCAA tournament since 1941 — when only eight teams were in the field.

Washington State has come a long ways in a short amount of time entering tomorrow’s regional semifinal against top-seeded North Carolina (34-2) at Charlotte Bobcats Arena. So too has Weaver, once a lightly recruited swingman from Wisconsin.

He received his first offer from Bradley and later received looks from Illinois State, Western Illinois and schools even smaller than those. And he turned up in Pullman, Wash., home to more than a decade’s worth of losing seasons before Washington State’s turnaround last season.

“If you would have told me ‘you are going to be at Washington State and you’re going to be in the NCAAs,’ I would have laughed at you,” Weaver said. “I wouldn’t have believed you. But growing up in Beloit, this has been a dream of mine.”

Former Wisconsin assistant Tony Bennett facilitated Weaver’s trip to Washington State. When Bennett joined his father, Dick, in an attempt to resuscitate the Cougars, he urged Weaver to come along.

There were more family ties in the mix. LaMont Weaver, Kyle’s father, was a reserve at Wisconsin in the early 1970s. But he also coached at Wisconsin-River Falls from 1976 to 1980, where one of his adversaries was Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Dick Bennett.

LaMont Weaver eventually got out of coaching to concentrate on raising his family. But he still offered pointers to Kyle as an assistant coach at the local Boys & Girls Club.

“I’ve always critiqued him,” said LaMont Weaver, now the director of academic support services at Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Sometimes I didn’t want to be the head coach with him. Being the assistant was a lot better. The head coach would tell him ‘Good job’ and give a high five. When I said something, it was just dad.”

It was quite a legacy for Kyle Weaver, who ranks second for the Cougars in points (12.2), rebounds (5.2) and assists (4.3) and first in steals (1.7).

Weaver’s parents have watched him play between six and eight games a year, making it a point to see the Cougars during warm-weather swings to Los Angeles and Arizona. And they have hit the road this month, taking trips to Denver and Charlotte.

In the process, they have seen Weaver etch an impressive resume.

“People assume you try to live up to your dad, but he was my role model,” Kyle Weaver said. “Having him in the house and at my games, I could come home, and he could critique me a little bit.”

And how much was “a little bit?”

“A lot a bit,” Weaver laughed.

There wasn’t much to quibble with last week in Denver, where he appeared a step quicker than everyone else on the floor at times during a first-round rout of Winthrop.

It was a typical performance for Weaver, the lone player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 175 steals and 75 blocks. Those numbers, combined with Washington State’s first consecutive NCAA appearances, have solidified Weaver’s place as one of the finest players in program history.

“They came to Pullman, took their licks, were supposed to come in last place and have a taste of success,” LaMont Weaver said. “There’s nothing like it. I think it made him a complete person. He’s been losing, and he’s been winning. Now he can pick a choice, whether to win or to lose.”

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