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?