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Ernie Kent after CSULA

Ernie Kent

Opening Statement:

Our focus going into the game without Josh was to just play a solid basketball game and have a game where everybody could play, played that hard and played that well. It was getting Conor an opportunity to really play and get on his game, and I'm so pleased for him that he's worked so hard to get his weight down, to get his conditioning, to get his body stronger and I thought he had a phenomenal game.

He and Val give you just a great one-two punch down there at that position. I thought we played well. I thought Ike played particularly well. I challenged those guys to rebound and he had seven rebounds, he makes up for Josh not being there. Just a good balance game for us, a good game for us to go to he break on.

Did Josh Hawkinson's absence make it easier for Conor Clifford to have a big night?

I don't know about Conor because they're different positions. Whether Josh was there or not, that ball was going to go in to Conor a lot to get him on his game. But what it did as a team was it allowed you to figure some things out, without your best player on the floor, and that's always a good things. Because you take 14 points 10 rebounds off the floor, and a guy who knows how to play so well, I thought we struggled out of the gate the first three or four possessions but then we got into a rhythm. The passing was phenomenal between Que and Conor and Junior on that baseline was the big point of the game. Now when you bring him back to the mix again, I think it makes us that much better.

Is this team able to make its own energy even with a sparse crowd?

They create their own energy because the competition is so good. When you have a team this deep – we try to talk to opposing team coaches. And the best compliment we got fro ma coach was you have no drop off when other players come into the game, and that guy in the middle makes you a lot different than last year, talking about Val. Without even seeing Conor on his game. I think the fact you have so much competition and it's so completive in practice, it just carries over to the game, whether you have people here or no, this is a group that is mentally conditioned to play hard, get out and do some things.

The guards are willing to feed the post?

Well, he's a huge target and if he gets the ball down low it's very difficult to stop him because he has such great hands and such great touch, whether with the right or with the left. And I think they had felt confident enough in practice with his ability.

Before he went down, about a month or so ago, he was just phenomenal in practice. You just could not stop him. You saw a taste of that tonight and he can get better.

How do you mix he and Josh into a rotation together?          

Well again, it isn't Josh because Josh will sub in at the four spot, Conor's at the five spot. So when you've got Conor, Val, Josh and Junior, that's a really good four-headed monster sitting in there, you just rotate those four in and out. Most of your better teams will have four big guys, well we've got another one sitting there in Robert Franks whose got a skillset that’s really, really good. And then we can play small and put Brett Boese there, put Derrien King there. We're just developing this bench. We don't need to blow people out by 30 and 40, we need to develop and get guys the opportunity to see footage of themselves and what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong and get them on their game, get them in a rhythm, get then in different combinations. And so when Josh comes back, he just makes us better. It just give us more weapons, more guys you can turn to over the course of a game.

Would you like to keep seeing different players take over?

You know what, we've talked about that before, that we have the ability to do that. Because it's a team that's so evenly balanced, one night it could be Renard. You saw him in the exhibition game, he had that monster game. Then came Viont'e. Ike has a career night. Then Josh does his thing. Here comes Val. Here comes Conor. I'm looking forward to the night where they're all on their game at the same time, that's going to be something to behold and that's what we're striving to do – to where everybody is on their game. Any combination you put on the floor, I'm getting their best game out of them.

Do you anticipate having Hawkinson back by Gonzaga?

I'll know more on that over the next few days but I would hope so. I hope he'll be back by Saturday.

Were the 17 turnovers too many for your liking?

There were. There was a negative, I thought we were a little precarious with the ball, and I didn't think we had enough assists, either. So we'll look at tape and figure out where that came from. I thought we had like a 10-point swing in the game at one point in time late in the second half after we were up (27), I'll look at tape and figure out where that came from. But we're going to have, the way we run, 12, 13 turnovers I can live with. 17, 18, 19, 20 turnovers, that's too many. We're not making the right reads or we're being careless with the ball when we have those kinds of turnovers.

WSU 74, CSULA 57

Courtesy of WSU Athletics.

Ernie Kent after Idaho State

Ernie Kent opening statement:

Really talk about the parity in college basketball. Understand, we played a team that had nine new players, completely changed their style of play and I thought they played really, really hard in the game. What they forced us to do was to toughen up, was to get better defensively, to block out tougher, be more accountable to 3-point shooters. Forced us to score against a zone. A team that played 95 percent of the time in zone, and we still scored 85 points, that's a lot of points against a zone. It tells you the parity that's in college basketball.

That was just a fight for us early on. But as we got control of the game, we grew up over the course of the game so it's exactly the kind of game we need to get us ready in this preseason, tougher games, tougher opponents and to get you ready for conference play.

Question: What kind of impact did Valentine Izundu have?
Ernie Kent: He had a breakout game for him, he's got many more of them in him. Valentine's a player who the more he plays, the more confidence he'll get. The more confidence, the more you'll see in his game. He's a tremendous, tremendous athlete, shot blocker. He takes pride in blocking shots. He can block shots without fouling, he can block them with his right hand, with his left hand. Obviously, he's great at rebounding and I thought he was above the rim on some rebounds tonight that were just fantastic.

His presence inside gives you an opportunity to really pressure guards defensively that are different. We took the 3-point shot away by getting up on them more and daring them to drive. And with Val in the game, he's a great weapon back on that back line I think, that shut people down defensively.

Q: What impact can it have on the rest of the team to have him put his shot-blocking on tape?
EK: What it does is he allows you to play more up-the-line, more pressure defense, which forces teams to get out of their offense. They end up playing you a lot more one-on-one and they start driving. He forces teams to do things differently offensively. He had (six) blocks in the game and as I go home and watch tape I guarantee I'll see where he changed another dozen shots in there, just because he makes you think before you go in there. Think twice and everything. So I'm happy with the way he played, I'll be even more happy when his running mate gets on his game, Conor.

It was a tough game because of the quickness on the floor, but you have yet to see his game and obviously we've got some more weapons over there as well.

Q: Did Idaho State do anything to take you out of your tempo?
EK: Playing a zone. When you play zone and get back, there's not a lot of layups. There's a lot of ball movement. We had 13 turnovers against that zone. I'm happy they played a zone because it gave us a chance to work against it. I think people can see we're going to be effective in transition and effective in man-to-man in half court, we'll be effective against zone in half court. Again, that's a lot of points to put up. We scored 85 points. I don't know what it is that they did. They didn't really do a lot to stop us from scoring.

They made us play a different way and we were able to do that. That's a pleasant surprise for everybody, I think, to have a team that can put up 85 points this early in the year against a zone.

Q: Why was Ike Iroegbu able to find success?
EK: I think again we put him at the point guard spot and to his credit he allows us to play him off the ball when teams are playing you man and you can get out and run in transition. I felt like he was the headier point guard on the floor tonight, so when we moved him over it gave us a chance with those shooters on the floor to spread the floor and opened up driving lanes and it gave us an opportunity to attack the basket, shoot the 3, get fouled, knock down a free throw. His quickness and athleticism was on display because that zone sort of opened up once we started knocking down some 3s.

Final stats: WSU 85, ISU 67

Courtesy of WSU Athletics.

WSU to play in 2016 Paradise Jam

The Washington State men's basketball team will spend part of next November in the Virgin Islands. WSU is one of eight teams that will play in the 2016 Paradise Jam, an early-season college basketball tournament held from Nov. 18-21 at the University of the Virgin Islands at St. Thomas.

Joining the Cougars in the tournament field are Creighton, Loyola, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina State, Oral Roberts and St. Joseph's.

Here is the release from the school.

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Washington State University men’s basketball is one of eight teams that will participate in the 2016 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, Nov. 18-21, 2016, at the University of the Virgin Islands at St. Thomas, the tournament directors at Basketball Travelers Inc., announced Wednesday.

Washington State will be joined in the field by Creighton, Loyola (Ill.), Ole Miss, Montana, North Carolina State, Oral Roberts and Saint Joseph’s.

WSU junior forward Josh Hawkinson has ties to the tournament as his father, Nels Hawkinson, started the tournament in 2000 after visiting the Virgin Islands on vacation. The elder Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers Inc., the company that puts on the Paradise Jam, as well as several other college and high school events, and foreign tours.

Next season will mark the first time that the Cougars will participate in the Paradise Jam, as it will mark their first game at the Virgin Islands.

Paradise Jam, held annually at the University of the Virgin Islands, has become one of the premier preseason destination tournaments for men’s basketball. It is a multiple team event (MTE) tournament, counting only two of the three games against participants’ 29 allotted games. Hosted at the $11 million state-of-the-art UVI Sports and Fitness Center, Paradise Jam attracts thousands of tourists to the U.S. Virgin Islands each year, while immersing participating fans and teams in the culture and travel experience that has made the U.S. Virgin Islands one of the premier destinations in the Caribbean.


WSU basketball inks two in early signing period

Forward Jeff Pollard and guard Milan Acquaah ended their recruitments by signing National Letters of Intent with Washington State on Wednesday.

The early signing period runs from today, Nov. 11, until Nov. 18.  Teams will also have a chance to sign prospect in the regular signing period, which begins April 13, 2016. Pollard actually signed with the Cougars last year but delayed his enrollment to spend a year at the Impact Academy in Las Vegas. Acquaah is a senior at Cathedral High, where he averaged 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season. 

Below is a transcription of coach Ernie Kent's signing day press conference, with some highlights videos thrown in.


I want to start by saying both of these young men committed to us some time ago. Jeff Pollard almost a year, Milan last basketball season. And the fact that they stood with their commitments, even though they both had excellent years last year and continued to get recruited, I think number one it says a lot about Washington State and our basketball program. But more importantly, it says a lot about the character of these two young men. To commit to us, to allow us to not have to recruit those two scholarships, and them having the ability to stay with their commitments and honor their commitments, was huge. We're getting two outstanding players.

Jeff Pollard is a very, very smart young man on the floor. Plays a physical brand of basketball. Can really score on the low block. Has a perimeter game to go along with it. I love the fact that, we saw him as a high school senior, very vocal on the floor. His leadership capabilities are outstanding. He's going to fit nicely with what we're trying to do.

Milan Acquaah, one of the best point guards, in my opinion, in the west. Very heady, a very strong basketball player. Both of these guys already have great bodies on them, in terms of hteir physical strength. Milan I saw quite a bit. And every time I saw him, he seemed to get better. I think he opened a lot of eyes as the summer went on when people saw him back in Chicago, in Los Angeles, where I just thought he was outstanding. Really has an ability to run a team, understands it completely, and can really score at the same time.

We're getting two outstanding players in terms of their character, their academic integrity and their leadership capability. They're going to fit in nicely with our Cougar family here.

Question: It looks like Milan Acquaah handles the ball well. Do you see him playing on the ball much?
Ernie Kent: If Milan, he's what I would call almost like a throwback point guard. He really understands the game of basketball. He handles the ball extremely well, which gives him an opportunity to not only get up and down the floor quickly, he's strong enough where he really snaps the ball on his passes, but what I really like about him: he can score going to his right or his left and he finishes really well at the hoop. I would compare him to Tim Hardaway type of player. Real strong body, excellent crossover, can finish in the lane. He takes a pounding but can still get his shot off with his right hand or his left hand. That's the thing I was most impressed with: How well he can score with his strength, and size, and ball-handing skills.

Q: How early in his recruitment did you form a relationship with him?
EK: I think again, when we start to recruit a young man, and in Milan's case just like Jeff's case, both of them were really early on heading into the end of their junior years. When you have the opportunity to get them here to campus, I think it solidifies them. Because you go into a home, go into a school and start to sell a young man on your program, your school, what it's like to be on campus. But until they get here, and you're talking about someone coming from Los Angeles, up to Pullman, again. But until they can understand the beauty of this campus, how peaceful this community is, the support we have here. They, like so many recruits, get here and are surprised at everything we have up here. I think the final thing for Milan is just getting up here and seeing the environment. His parents were sold instantly, just like Pollard's parents. As soon as they got on campus, they knew it was the best fit and best place for their sons to be.

Q: Are you going to emphasize shooting ability in big men recruiting?
EK: Not necessarily. He's not so much like Josh, where it is just big guys that have skillsets who can play both positions. If need be they can play with their backs to the basket and score, if they need to step out and shoot the ball, they can do that, too. He might not have Josh's range or Josh's variety of skillset to really get a lot of different shots off. But what he is is a physical, smart basketball player.  Very sound, very solid in his fundamentals.  He's been very well coached.

Q: What was the benefit of stashing him for a year?
ML: I think the benefit will be, again, if you had a young man who you could redshirt in your program, it's similar to that. Not only that but he has a redshirt year still left now. The fact that he could take one more year to get bigger and stronger, and was willing to do that, because he was recruited, and yet he was willing to come here and wait a year until the scholarship opened up – he wanted to be a part of our program so badly – I think that again says a lot about his character. Will we do it again? I think it just depends on the situation warrants it.

Q: Will he redshirt?
EK: No.

Video and transcript: George Raveling


What was it like being back at Washington State today?

It certainly allowed me an opportunity to revisit a lot of pleasant memories during my 11 years here at Washington State. I think perhaps maybe the most unique part of the visit has been the change in the physical structures on campus and particularly the athletic department. It's just stunning what has transpired over the last 10, 15, 20 years.

I don't know if I could find my way around in the building now. Every time I turn a corner I feel like I'm lost. But one of the things I said at the luncheon today and I think it's manifested in what I said about the positive physical changes in the campus, is that I think that one thing that's been consistent from 1972, when I arrived, until this very day, is the university's always been very blessed with sterling leadership and I think that's what's kept the university progressive, it's kept them being able to take advantage of and a lot of times because geographically, it makes it tough, the leaders have always been able to make a way out of no way.

And as we all know the university lost a great leader in the president and he certainly was a game changer, a positive difference maker. So when I look back from '72 to now, it's just mind boggling what's been achieved and I don't know that any of us in our wildest dreams would have thought that the university would be in the position it's in today from an athletic standpoint, facility-wise. And some of the buildings I've seen on campus from an academic perspective and housing perspective are gigantic steps up, too.

So all of those things, when you marry them together, it puts the university in a position to be a solid contributor in the Pac-12 conference. In the early days when I was hear, there was always this thought, a lot of it perpetrated by John McKay, that we shouldn't be in the conference and we were kind of the step child of the conference. But I think those days are gone forever and I think the university will continue to be a positive contributor to the conference in the coming years.

I think it's pretty obvious that Ernie's got the program headed in the right direction, he's got some really nice pieces. I love both of the freshmen kids, they're what I call keepers. Great attitude, camaraderie out there tonight. If people are looking for any overt evidence that Ernie's the guy, I think it was never more evident than it was tonight that he was the right choice at the right time and he's going to take the program to higher levels of achievement.

Ernie Kent has called you a mentor, do you see any of yourself in him as a coach?

Not really because I was a lot more emotional and cuckoo than Ernie. Ernie's got a lot more mental stability than me, I was kind of a rah-rah, crazy, crazy guy out there. I'd be jumping up, telling the students to get up and cheer and stuff like that. A lot of that was just mental desperation.

Ernie's a lot more civil than I am. So I don't know that we could compare each other, other than we're both African-Americans and we both coach basketball and love the game. After that, I don't know, there's not many similarities between us, because I was kind of cuckoo.

Are you able to watch the games as a fan?

No I watch them strictly as a coach. I'm sitting there thinking, he should have back cut or whatever. I'm kind of mentally coaching the game myself. It was a great feeling to be back here. Of all the places that I coach at, I always feel uncomfortable making comparisons because I always think the people at Iowa or USC think "oh, he didn't think we were good enough." But it really isn't that at all. It's just this is where it all began for me. You were really a coach.

When I came here, you were really a coach. Today you're a doctor, you're a lawyer. You have to where so many hats today as a basketball coach and when I was here, that was truly all you had to do, was to coach. Things have changed. It's a totally different culture now than when I was here.

What was your message to the players in the locker room today?

I would suggest that a lot of it was about opportunity, that they have a unique opportunity as student athletes and it's a wise person who takes advantage of opportunities when they're place in front of him. And they have to be mindful that the opportunities don't reside just on the basketball court but they reside all over this campus in the academic chambers, too, and that the greatest victory that they're going to have and the greatest lesson that they'll learn is how to win in the game of life. Maybe one of them will be lucky enough to play in the NBA but at the end of the day they've got to equip themselves to go into society and become responsible citizens.

 They're learning a lot of great life lessons by participating in athletics but they also have to make certain that they take advantage of the academic opportunities that are provided here and be appreciative of them. So probably more a philosophical type of address but I hope I got a couple of them to think about what their responsibilities are to the team and to themselves and the university.

Video: Ernie Kent, Renard Suggs and Viont’e Daniels after Pacific


Opening statement: I thought for a second exhibition game we did some things well. It's nice to get these two out of the way. Next week I'm hoping that we'll start with a lot of confidence at home, and particularly continue to shoot the ball.

One of the things we've noticed in all of our scrimmages, whether it's a scrimmage between ourselves, or bringing in a scout team to scrimmage, or the two exhibition games, we continue to shoot over 50 percent from the field. I felt, coming into the year, like we had a really good shooting team here and I'm happy to see a couple more guys  are starting to, what I call "get on their games" and shoot it with confidence. That's the encouraging part.

I think a big area we've got to continue to improve on is shooting the basketball. With these two smaller teams we've played, obviously Conor will help with that when we get him back this next week, but we've got to do a better job of rebounding. Those are points that we're leaving out on the floor, giving teams so many second shot opportunities. But to play that fast and only have 14 turnovers, 34 buckets off of 21 assists, guys are sharing the ball, they're doing some really good things right now.

Were you happy with the team's pace? You averaged 13 seconds per possession.

I think at Oregon we were like eight seconds getting up and down, so 13 is pretty good with this group. And with the new 30-second shot clock, hopefully you can see that's not really going to affect us. Because we like to paly fast, we like to put up shots, we like to turn it over defensively so we can get out and run. But that is pretty good, that's about where we need to be and I think we can even play faster. And guys will see that on tape, by getting the rebound cleaner, the outlet cleaner, but I love the way we're running the floor right now, I love the way we're sharing the ball right now.

What did you think of your team's press today?

There's a couple more presses that we have that we didn't show and we didn't want to yet, that we need to work on. For so many new guys they're doing a pretty good job in that area. I think for us right now, defensively, we need to do a better job of being more mentally locked in on a possession-by-possession basis. And with so many new guys, I still don't feel like we're running offense in the half court as crisp or as hard or as smooth as we need to run it right now. And that's a big focal point this week coming up, offense and rebounding the ball.


How about your night shooting?

First of all I want to thank my teammates for finding me and getting me open looks. Without them I wouldn't be able to hit those shots. Before the game I was just working on my shots and it just felt good tonight.


Were you trying to get the ball to Renard Suggs?

You really start to look for him because you know he's hot. And when he gets hot, he gets going. So when he was involved in the game, that's what I wanted to do. Keep getting him shots and for him to keep knocking them down.

Did you and Robert Franks raise your games once it got more physical?

That's what we're supposed to do: be physical, be tough. It's a part of the game. You don't want to come into the game soft and have people take advantage of you, so what me and Robo do very well is we play tough.


 Was it a confidence boost to make that first 3?

It's a big boost of confidence. Again, I just want to thank my teammates for finding me and giving me open looks.


Did Ny bring a lot of energy to the team?

When we looked at starters and rotations, the thing we looked at with Ny, what we wrote by his name, was we needed some toughness and energy, that was the guy we turned to. I felt like he gave us a great spark in the first half, and he really got us going in the second half when I felt like that second unit didn’t' start the game with the unit they needed to start with. It's nice to have those kind of numbers and that kind of depth on this team, because it just allows you to hold guys accountable to playing hard and staying focused and Ny was certainly really good in the game. He really turned the game for us in terms of the energy tonight.

Is Valentine Izundu getting more comfortable?

We try to get him to understand if he would just run, dunk and block shots, and rebound, he doesn't need to worry about much else. I thought he was a little bit more comfortable. You've got to realize he hasn't played in about two years, he transferred coming out of Houston, so for him to get in front of people, it's going to take some time. We just remember the days where you cannot score in practice because he's so dominant in the paint. But I thought he did a good job adjusting to the smaller team. It'll be nice to get Conor back because he needs to start getting his feet wet and understanding how to play smaller guys, as well. But the bigger teams in the conference, the bigger teams on the schedule, I think those two guys are going to do a good job against them.

Can Conor play?

He is getting closer. This week coming up he'll get into some live contact drills. We're just working on his conditioning right now but he's been cleared to do as much as he can handle and so far he says he feels great. Hopefully if everything goes according to plan, we can play him a few minutes, not major minutes, next Friday.

For all three of you, what did it mean having George Raveling present?


I'll start I think any time you bring back one of your own at a school it's just a tremendous feeling. The town was abuzz, people were so excited to have coach here. The fact that he's meant so much ot the game of basketball, not only as a coach and getting inducted into the hall of fame, but an ambassador of the game, and continues to be an ambassador today. So we should feel extremely fortunate to have him a part of this school, a part of its history and tradition, and for him to come back just means the world for our program and for these players, too. The job he did in our locker room today speaking about Dr. King and his experience there, that's just invaluable. For these guys to understand, that's a history lesson in itself. I wish this entire campus could have been in our locker room to hear that talk.


Just to piggyback on what coach said, he paved the way for coach, he paved the way for pretty much our whole entire team to be here. It's an honor for me, for him to be here, and we appreciate everything he's done for this whoel entire school, university, and basketball itself, too, and what he's going to continue to keep doing. We'll never for get him.


It was a good moment for me just being in the gym when they announced his name. I was like, dang, he's really here. It just hit me and I just want to thank him for coming.

WSU 97, Pacific 70: box score

Courtesy of WSU Athletics.

WSU vs. LCSC: postgame press conference

Ernie Kent opening statement:

There were some moments in the game with the right group on the floor that I thought we did some really good things, both defensively and offensively. I wanted to play everybody in the game tonight, got some strange combinations out there. It's hard to fly in and out of games, be stiff, and jump back in there again but I wanted to give everybody to get on the floor so we can look at tape, and teach and make corrections and things of that nature. I thought when we were really locked in defensively, we did a really nice job in this game. When we were locked in offensively, we shot the ball well, also. But when we broke down defensively, as these guys will learn, it doesn't matter who you're playing. Everybody can score at this level. If you're not locked in on your defensive assignment, you forget to rotate and are not ready to move your feet and play defense, anybody can score on you.

It's going to be a great teaching tape for us. But at the same time, obviously when we get going, we won't play everybody. I'm trying to find a rotation of probably about eight, nine, maybe 10 guys and those will be the guys that really get locked in for us defensively.

Question: How concerning were the unforced turnovers?
Ernie Kent: We had 16 turnovers in the game. And again, playing that many people, I'm not really too worried about that because that will start to take care of itself as you shorten your bench, and play the people who understand. We had the one violation, that was because of a new rule. That wasn't a 10-second violation. When the ball gets tipped, the clock doesn't get reset. So it's kind of on us to educate and make sure guys totally understand what that is, even though we've talked about it.

I'm not too much worried about that. As fast as we play, and the way we get up and down the floor, if we can keep it between 10 and 16 turnovers, that's really good. Particularly playing that many different combinations on the floor.

Q: What did you think of your perimeter defense?
EK: Well, when you start throwing up 36 threes, that's a lot of threes. And when you get upon a team the tendency is to relax a little bit. And then all of a sudden, again, trying to get guys in and out of the game and guys kind of got lost at times on defensive assignments. And shoot that many threes, you're going to make your fair share of them. So overall, I don't think we did a very good job with our perimeter defense when you look at how many threes they got up, how many uncontested ones they shot, but yet, at the same time, they hit some tough ones.

What I'll look at is where we were at on the floor when we broke down, work with those guys, get them tougher mentally in terms of understanding what they need to do.

Q: What did you learn about your team?
EK: I learned that we can be a team that can really score. If we share the basketball, we'll be able to shoot it. I learned that if we get out in transition, we're athletic enough – a lot more athletic than last year. I learned that we will not miss the scoring punch that graduated from our program; we've got some guys that can come in and score. And I learned that we can be a really good defensive team. We have the right mindset, the right combination on the floor, we have can be a really, really good defensive team.

There were moments I thought our energy was tremendous in the game and we defended extremely well. And there were other times with a different lineup when we broke down.

Q: Charles, it must be nice to get those first couple dunks out of the way?
Charles Callison: Yes, sir, it gives us some momentum.

Q: Did they help you get into a rhythm?
EK: Actually, it did. It really helped me get the jitters out and helped me get more comfortable in the game.

Q: What's your evaluation of the game, Josh?
Josh Hawkinson: I thought I saw a bunch of different lineup groups that we went with and tried to figure out which ones worked, and which ones mesh with each other. I think that's the main thing. We have seven new guys, just trying to figure out the chemistry and cohesiveness with our team.

Q: Why was it harder to respond to their runs in the second half than the first?
JH: Shots just started falling for them, and when they shoot 36 threes, eventually some of them are going to start to drop. They started making them and we knew had to do something about that and we couldn't let them come right back in the game.

Q: What did you see out of Valentine Izundu?
JH: He's really long, athletic defender and, you know, he had to guard (Jacob) Wiley, who was kind of a tough matchup for him out on the perimeter, so I think that was little bit hard for him, since he's used to being more in the paint as a rim protector. But I think it was a good test for him, and for me, guarding him, because he's a really good big who can play inside and out. So I think it was good for both of us.

Q: Do you see Ike continuing to distribute at the rate he did tonight?
EK: I think offensively he did some good things. He should be able to distribute, because he understands the system. The thing he needs to get better at is the mental part on the defensive because he allowed breakdowns on the floor that we just can't have happen with a veteran player like that. But I was really pleased with the way he shared the ball offensively.

Q: What did you see from Izundu and what do you envision his role being?
EK: I want to say this the right way. In a sense, it was good that we didn't have Conor (Clifford), because it would have been hard for Conor and Val to play in that game, because the players were so small. That's what happens in exhibition games, and sometimes even in the preseason games. You don't matchup well with teams, because you're big, and typically they'll put five guards or five ball handlers on the floor and it's going to be hard for a guy like Val or Conor to play away from the basket. That's not their forte. I'm just happy that he was able to get in the game, get some of the jitters out. Here's a guy who hasn't played in two years. I thought he handled himself well, even though he didn't have a big guy, per se, just to lean on and stay in the paint. He had to get out on the perimeter and guard at times. Overall, I'm pleased with him but he's also going to see some things on tape that he can get better at. And I would hope that, in time, he would be a really good shot blocker on the back line. I like the way he can make his free throws and I like the way he can catch and dunk. But  we didn't get him the ball in very good positions on the floor and that had to do with, again, their lineup and what they had on the floor.

Q: When do you expect Conor back?
EK: He'll see the doctor again on Monday. He's doing some things already in the pools and everything's responding well. He has a strained knee. I'm hoping to get him back sometime in the next couple weeks.

Josh Hawkinson named to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watch list

Washington State junior forward Josh Hawkinson is one of four Pac-12 basketball players named to the 20-member watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award Watch List, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Friday.

The others are Arizona's Caleb Tarczewski, Colorado's Josh Scott and Jacob Poeltl of Utah.

The award is named for UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was named the National College Player of the Year all three years he played for the Bruins varsity team (1967-69).

The list will be winnowed to 10 players by mid-February and then five finalists will be presented to the award's selection committee in March. Here is all of Hawkinson's competition for the award:

2016 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award Candidates 

Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Mamadou N'Djiaye, UC Irvine
Josh Scott, Colorado
Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga
Thomas Bryant, Indiana
Jameel McKay, Iowa State
Cheick Diallo, Kansas
Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
Diamond Stone, Maryland
Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV 
Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina 
Zach Auguste, Notre Dame
AJ Hammons, Purdue
Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
Josh Hawkinson, Washington State
Joel Bolomboy, Weber State
Devin Williams, West Virginia

2015-16 Pac-12 men’s basketball media poll

The reporters who cover Pac-12 men's basketball teams picked the Cougars last in their annual preseason poll.

Arizona, last year's champion, received 18 of 36 first place votes to claim the top spot. The media have correctly selected the Pac-12's winner 14 times in 23 tries.

In the name of transparency, here is how I see the Pac-12 shaking out this season:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Utah
  4. UCLA
  5. Oregon State
  6. Oregon
  7. Stanford
  8. Washington State
  9. Washington
  10. USC
  11. Colorado
  12. Arizona State

Cougars conclude their first practice of basketball season

I'm sitting in a well-worn chair at SeaTac airport, which means I wasn't at WSU's first practice. But the team was kind enough to pass along some photos.

So, let's see what they sent us.

First we have this picture of Valetine Izundu, who I suspect is pretty happy that the NCAA will start allowing dunks during warmups.

By analyzing the cues in this photo we can deduce that the Cougars did some conditioning on Friday.

Point guard Charles Callison, a junior college transfer, wraps a pass around sophomore Ny Redding. 

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I don't actually believe Ernie Kent is trying to poke assistant coach Greg Graham in the eye.

The Cougars think really highly of Izundu's shot-blocking ability, but I suspect he wasn't able to get a piece of this Que Johnson floater.

After practice, a few of the Cougars took to social media to celebrate the first day of basketball season.




Pac-12 announces men’s basketball schedule

The Washington State men's basketball team will play three nationally televised conference games during the 2015-16 season.

Those include a home game against Utah on Jan. 21 that will be televised on Fox Sports 1, and a Feb. 21 game in Pullman against California that will broadcast on ESPNU. The Cougars will wrap up their regular season in Seattle with a rivalry game against the Huskies that will also air on ESPNU.

The Cougars have a Pac-12 slate full of late games, with 11 of the 18 conference contests tipping off at 6 p.m. or later. WSU will skip the Bay Area road trip this year, but will host Stanford (Feb. 18) and California (Feb. 21).

WSU finished 7-11 in conference play last year, a four-win improvement over the previous season, en route to a 13-18 record in Ernie Kent's first season as the Cougars' head coach.

Rising juniors Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson give the Cougars a decent foundation to pair with six newcomers: Iroegbu improved played his best ball toward the end of the season and Hawkinson was the only Pac-12 player to average a double-double, scoring 14.7 points and collecting 10.8 rebounds per game, breaking the school record for double-doubles in a season with 20.

The Cougars begin their conference season at home on Jan. 1 against USC in a 6 p.m. game. You can view the entire WSU schedule here.

WSU basketball will stay close to home early on

Washington State will begin its 2015-16 nonconference schedule with eight home games, sandwiched around a trip eight miles east to Idaho. That's welcome news for coach Ernie Kent, who felt his team suffered in his first season last year from beginning the season with two road games and only having five total nonconference home games. 

After that jaunt across the border the Cougars will host Texas-El Paso and Texas State before heading to Honolulu, Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic from Dec. 22-25.

Also of note: On Dec. 2 the Cougars will host Gonzaga for the first time since the 2012-2013 season and WSU will hold two preseason exhibition games this year, playing Lewis-Clark State on Oct. 30 and holding a "Flashback Friday" game in Bohler Gym on Nov. 6 against Pacific of Forest Grove, Oregon. The latter game will be held on "Dad's Weekend" and will harken back to the days when the Cougars played in Bohler until Beasley Coliseum opened in 1973.

Here's the release from the school.

How to watch DaVonté Lacy and Jordan Railey this summer

Former Washington State hoopers DaVonté Lacy and Jordan Railey will be playing in the NBA summer league during July.

The summer league is really three separate leagues in Orlando, Utah and Las Vegas where rookies can get their first taste of professional basketball while other young players can work out the kinks in their games. The rosters are dotted with players like Lacy and Railey who went undrafted but still have a chance to show NBA teams they're worth another look.

Lacy will be playing in Orlando with the Indiana Pacers team. He'll play alongside first-round pick Myles Turner out of Texas, and former Pac-12 rivals Solomon Hill (Arizona) and Conference Player of the Year Joe Young (Oregon). He'll have an opportunity to learn from head coach Frank Vogel and former Sonics coach Nate McMillan, who is one of Vogel's assistants.

Here is the schedule for Indiana's games, which run from July 4-10. It costs $14.99 to watch all the summer league games on your computer, tablet, phone or two-way wrist radio.

Railey will be playing in the Utah summer League with the Philadelphia 76ers. There he will play alongside No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor who just won a national championship with Duke, former Duck Arsalan Kazemi, Colorado's Askia Booker and Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell. Here is the Philadelphia schedule.

Hometown team gives Jordan Railey a long look

The Portland Trail Blazers have hosted Beaverton-native Jordan Railey for a pair of workouts in advance of Thursday's NBA draft, the second one coming on Monday at the team's practice facility in Tualatin.

CSSNW.com has video of Railey speaking with reporters after the workout.

The 7-foot center averaged 6.6 points and 3.2 rebounds as a senior at Washington State last season, his third year after transferring from Iowa State University.

While those numbers are pretty measly for a fifth-year senior, Railey also showed that he's still improving with some breakout performances, like when he scored 17 points in a close win at California or when he blocked five shots at Utah.

He also did this.

Ultimately, the Trail Blazers were likely throwing a bone to a local guy while bringing in a good workout partner for another 7-footer they're taking a look at. The team doesn't currently have any second-round picks, so they won't be taking any flyers on a project unless they're willing to do some draft day trading. Railey has told me in the past that he's excited about the prospect of playing in Europe and getting to see the world while getting paid to play.

Still, Portland has given him an opportunity to play with talented players in front of NBA scouts and workout with NBA coaches. That's only going to help him, and if it leads to something more down the road, such as a summer league invite, then all the better.



WSU men’s basketball avoids APR restrictions

The first thing Ernie Kent did when he and his staff arrived at Washington State wasn't call recruits or install his scheme. Instead, he made sure the departing players that he would never coach—D.J. Shelton, James Hunter, Royce Woolridge, Will Dilorio—got their degrees and that the remaining players were in good academic standing.

The academic emphasis paid off for Kent today, as the Cougars narrowly avoided penalties in the NCAA's just-released Academic Progress Rate (APR). The NCAA gives each team a yearly APR score out of 1,000 that measures its academic performance and retention. If a team's average score over a four-year period dips below 930 it faces penalties, including potential postseason ineligibility.

The reason for Kent's urgency? A score of 900 in 2010-11 that, paired with a 926 last season, seemed almost certain to result in some sort of academic punishment for the WSU men's basketball team. In fact, because basketball has so few scholarships (here is an explanation of how the scoring works) even one player leaving in poor academic standing could have torpedoed the Cougars below the 930 threshold.

Instead, the Cougars posted a 963 for 2013-14, keeping their four-year rolling at to 938 and effectively out of the danger zone.  Next year that 900 score will no longer be included in the multiyear average, meaning the Cougars would have to post an especially bad score to face any sort of sanctions.

Here is the APR info for all the WSU athletic teams. No other teams appear to be in danger of sanctions and the men's and women's cross country, women's basketball, women's golf, rowing  and volleyball teams all posted perfect one-year scores.

Klay Thompson is first All-NBA Cougar

Klay Thompson was named to the 2014-15 All-NBA third team on Thursday, the first such honor for a graduate of Washington State University.

Thompson, along with NBA MVP teammate Stephen Curry, helped lead the Golden State Warriors to a franchise-record and NBA-best 67 regular season wins. The "Splash Brothers" and co. are currently up 1-0 over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals.

The 25-year-old Thompson averaged a career-high 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists over 77 games (all starts). Furthermore, Thompson's plus/minus of +10.1 is the third-highest in the NBA.

The Cougars have put good players into the NBA before, such as Craig Ehlo, Don Collins and James Donaldson. But none achieved the individual success that Thompson can already claim.

In 2011, the Warriors made the 6-foot-7 shooting guard the 11th pick in the NBA draft, the highest selection in school history, after Thompson led the Pac-10 in scoring with 21.6 points per game as a junior.

However, his school records in 3-point field goals made (242) and 3-point attempts (620), were bested this year by senior guard DaVonté Lacy, who will now try to earn a spot in a league that a fellow WSU alum is dominating. 

NCAA proposes rules changes to college basketball

The NCAA men's basketball rules committee has proposed some changes with the goals of reducing physicality in the sport (to increase scoring) and speed games up.

The proposals include:

  1. Reducing the shot clock to 30 seconds.
  2. Strict enforcement of defensive rules (apparently officials weren't doing this before?).
  3. Providing offensive players the same verticality protections as defensive players.
  4. Moving the restricted-area arc out from three feet to four feet.
  5. Decreasing the number of timeouts from five to four, with no more than three carrying over to the second half.
  6. Instructing officials to more strictly enforce resumption of play after timeouts and after a player fouls out.
  7. Team timeouts within 30 seconds of media timeouts will become media timeouts, with the exception of the first media timeout of the second half. 
  8. Coaches will no longer be allowed to call live-ball timeouts.
  9. The 10-second backcourt rule will no longer reset following a timeout.
  10. Eliminating the five-seconds closely guarded rule.
  11. Reducing the number of technical foul shots for hanging on the rim to one.
  12. Allowing dunks during pregame warmups.

​The committee has had some misses in recent years (the "let's never call charges" fiasco, for example) but these changes will likely be pretty popular, even if coaches are reticent to give up timeouts.These are all proposals, to become rules they must be approved by the NCAA's playing rules oversight panel on June 8.

Morning links: A good day for WSU

Yesterday was a pretty good day for the Washington State athletic programs.

The good news started in the morning, when highly-regarded junior college center Conor Clifford sent in his Letter of Intent, giving Ernie Kent a 7-foot center for next season and his biggest recruiting win since arriving in Pullman. We have a story on the signing and a blog post with Kent's comments.

Things continued into the afternoon with freshman Derek Bayley leading the Cougars to a great start in the Pac-12 golf championships, which are being hosted by WSU.

The WSU baseball team capped off the evening by beating Washington in a nonconference game in Seattle, their third win over the Huskies this year.

In other WSU news, Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times has this feature on Connor Halliday, and Bob Meseroll of the Missoulian caught up with Joe Pistorese. The Pac-12 Blog has a story about defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's desire for takeaways