Sophomore Harthun to transfer from WSU

After weighing the pros and cons of continuing with the Washington State men's basketball program, Michael Harthun decided Sunday that it was in his best interest to move on.

The former South Medford High standout confirmed Monday night that he sat down with Cougars head coach Ken Bone last Thursday and mentioned that he was leaning toward transferring out of the Pacific-10 Conference program. Harthun, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, said Bone asked him to reconsider, but by Sunday his mind was made up.

"It was definitely a tough decision for me because I didn't want to leave my teammates and the foundation I've built here with friends and everybody around me," Harthun said. "I felt really bad leaving the program. I felt like I was letting the program down, but at the same time people told me that I had to do what was best for me in this situation."

Harthun, 20, said he is still awaiting his official release from the school, and that could come any day. He's had no contact with other schools, as per NCAA regulations, and doesn't have a specific place in mind.

He would have to sit out one year as a Division I transfer — two years if he remains in the Pac-10 — but can play right away if he opts for a lower level.

The main thing is, he simply wants to get back to playing basketball the way he knows he can — and for a myriad of reasons, that simply didn't seem like it was going to happen at Washington State.

Harthun played in 14 games for a total of 84 minutes as a true freshman under then-head coach Tony Bennett, and averaged only 91/2 minutes of playing time in 26 appearances during Bone's first season with the Cougars. He scored 43 points this past season, shooting 17-for-54 from the field, and had 56 points for his WSU career.

"For me, I've always just wanted to be on the court and competing because I love basketball," he said. "I gave it two years here and in the next couple, I didn't see an opportunity presenting itself with the way I've performed the last two years. I just kinda wanted to get back to playing basketball the way I used to."

As a four-year starter at South Medford, Harthun played an instrumental role in helping the Panthers to their first boys basketball state title in 2007 after finishing runner-up in 2006. Both Panther teams included current Duke junior Kyle Singler and Oregon freshman E.J. Singler, and each championship game came against a Lake Oswego team led by Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Love.

Despite his all-state status as South Medford's second-leading scorer in school history behind Kyle Singler, Harthun simply was unable to transfer his on-court abilities to Pullman, Wash. Sporadic time in the Cougars' deliberate system took its toll on Harthun's confidence, as did the concern that any mistake would land him back on the bench.

"I looked like a different player out there and I heard that from so many people," said Harthun. "I could feel myself being too passive and found myself thinking about the game more than I ever did before, when I was using my instincts to perform. I just found myself worrying about making a mistake instead of making the right play. There were times when I wouldn't even look at the hoop or to dribble, I just looked to pass ... and that's not me."

Harthun said Bone was "really understanding" when informed of Harthun's decision and has offered to help with the transfer process, and his teammates didn't want to see him go but understand why he wants to move on.

"I really have no regrets coming here just because I have learned a lot about the game individually and as a teammate," he said. "I think defensively I've improved the most and really had great coaches and been taught at a high level of basketball. It's just the basketball side of things; other than that I'd love to stay here."

Harthun said he will remain at the university through the semester, which ends in early May, and hopes to have solidified his future plans by then. Style of play (up-tempo with more freedom) and playing time will be two main factors in his decision.

"I definitely want to stay at a high level, but I really just want to find the right situation for me," he said.

Freshman guard Xavier Thames was released from his scholarship Monday by WSU after also announcing his intention to transfer.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail

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