The first piece of McKale Center’s current renovation will make an unmistakable debut tonight: a video board over center court that is about 25 percent larger than the old one.
The new board, part of a $30 million initial phase of renovation, has four 12-by-19 feet video boards. Workers were putting the final touches on it earlier this week as it sat on the McKale floor like a grounded spaceship.
“It’s crazy,” guard Nick Johnson said. “It’s big. It’s gonna look good.”
It’s even more than that, the way coach Sean Miller sees the video system. It’s about the fan experience and recruiting, too.
“It enhances the environment, but it also brings to life what something like that can do in the future,” Miller said. “When you think about all of our seats changing and the new court (that will be installed later), the scoreboard sets the standard for how a court of this age can almost look brand new.
“It can have an entire new brand of energy. That’s what we want. We want to make sure we’re competing against the best programs in the nation.”
Saying he now considers himself a Tucsonan after four-plus seasons at Arizona, well-connected assistant coach Book Richardson finally decided to drop his longtime New York-based cellphone for one with a 520 area code this season.
But he soon found a problem when he set out to alert his contact list.
There were 3,200 names on it.
“I asked Verizon to do it because I couldn’t,” Richardson said. “I felt so bad for the people at Verizon. They said, ‘Are you serious?’ One lady said, ‘I’ve never seen that before.’ She said, ‘I guess you’re good at your job because you’re a relationship person.’ ”
When Washington State guard Que Johnson stepped in for hospitalized teammate DaVonté Lacy and scored 19 points against Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, he didn’t really come out of nowhere.
It just may have seemed that way. Johnson was one of the most heralded recruits at WSU since Klay Thompson in 2012, but he was ruled a partial qualifier last season after attending Phoenix’s Westwind Prep and couldn’t play nor practice.
“Not being able to practice set me back a little,” Johnson said.
Upon formally joining the Cougars last summer, Johnson had knee issues and a stress fracture in his foot. He started slowly this season but has now scored in double figures for three of his past four games.
“He was really out of it for a long time,” coach Ken Bone said. “It’s been one thing after another, and he’s just starting to come around. But he’s got a lot of talent, he’s a great kid, he’s very coachable, and I do feel he’s continuing to get better.”
Having attended Westwind for three seasons, Lacy said he expected many friends and family on hand tonight, when Bone will again be looking for him to score.
More expectations “definitely gave me the confidence to shoot more and take advantage of the opportunity,” Johnson said.
Although Washington struggled to an 8-5 record in nonconference play, the Pac-12 has collectively pulled off a number of big wins early this season.
Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said he’s not surprised to see what’s happening around him.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going in our conference,” he said. “I wouldn’t say surprised, though. We were in the process of making improvement.”