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Cougars sign Malachi Flynn

Washington State received a letter of intent from Bellarmine Prep guard Malachi Flynn, and coach Ernie Kent had good things to say about the scorer.

Flynn was one of the state's most prolific scorers last year, averaging 29.7 points per game. Below we have some videos of Flynn playing, as well as the transcript of Kent's press conference this morning, in which he praised Flynn and also addressed the recent spate of transfers from WSU and elsewhere.




 

ERNIE KENT

(Could you give us an overview of Malachi Flynn's game and how he can contribute?)

Malachi really reminds me of the guard play that I had when we built those really good teams at Oregon. The skillset, the feel for the game, his ability to score, his motor, and, more importantly, his drive to be successful. I just thought he was an incredible get for us, and not only for what he does on the floor; he's one of the top students that we've ever recruited here yet. That recruiting class with him, and Jeff Pollard and Milan Acquaah, all of them are outstanding players, but outstanding students as well, and that's important to us. We're looking forward to getting Malachi here. Along with Milan, the two of them give me that one-two punch, if you talk about skill and playing the game at a high pace. I'm thrilled that we have them. And (sports information director Jessica Holmes) is thrilled to have his family, which has just been outstanding throughout this whole deal.

(How quickly do you expect his scoring ability to translate to Pac-12 games?)

Freshmen are still freshmen when they come in the door. But I equate him to (Luke) Ridnour, (Aaron) Brooks and Tajuan Porter. All of them, when they came in the door had their moments as freshmen. From Ridnour averaging about eight points a game, Aaron I think nine, Tajuan 15 points a game. But the impact that they had on the game, getting 30-plus minutes, was huge. So, I think the good thing about all of these incoming players, is the summer trip that's sitting there. We have an opportunity to work with these young men during the summer, and then take them abroad and play. That's going to be huge in their development and how quickly they get ready for Pac-12 play. What I would call a miniature version of a practice season out of the way, before the season starts.

(All the freshmen will be on campus before that trip?)

They all will be here on campus for summer school.

(When is the trip?)

The trip is August 4-14.

(So Flynn could play 30 minutes a game as a freshman?)

I always tell freshmen they will determine that and they can handle what they can handle. Meaning, if they can handle 30 minutes a game, that's great. If they can only handle 20 minutes a game, that's great. I don't put a lot of pressure on freshmen. But certainly, in this case I feel I have a high caliber player who really understands the game, can really score and what I really look at, with any of these guys coming in the door, how quickly we can get them stronger, to where their bodies can handle practice and handle the pounding. He will determine that, but I'm hoping he can handle enough minutes for him to make a difference in what we do on the floor.

(As a spring signee, what did you need to see from him before extending an offer?)

It wasn't so much of what I needed to see from him as what I needed to see from my own team, and feeling like I needed to get another piece still. And what I mean by that, the point guard position is so, so critical. Skill on the floor is so, so critical. And I saw a player that just emerged throughout his snior year. He put up numbers his junior year, but his senior year was special considering the fact he got that double-team and triple-team at times. He still played within himself. Didn't force up a lot but still had an ability to score and keep his teammates involved in the game, and play at such a high basketball IQ level. So, what I saw was somebody that emerged to be one of the top point guards in the west, and one of the top guards in the west.

(How likely is it you use your remaining three scholarships?)

It is very likely. I think in this day and age, with all the transferring that's occurring in college basketball, I think they're anticipating over 800. Over 400 already. Had over 700 last year. And kid are transferring because of opportunity to play, which I understand, and this opportunity to be seen and get ready for the NBA, which I don't quite understand. But those are the decisions that are made and they're made for the best interests of young people.

For us, however, it gives us an opportunity to strengthen in some areas we feel like we can do that in. So we will continue to recruit, in anticipation of filling all of those scholarships.

(When Que Johnson asked for his release did you put stipulations on where he could transfer?)

I want to say one thing on that, and let's keep the focus on this because this is a signing day for a great player and family to come into our program, and I don't want to take away his spotlight in talking about those other things.

There are some issues there that I cannot discuss with you between the university and Que, that I don't need to discuss for that matter, and yes there are some stipulations there now, but there are also more than 300 Division I schools he can attend. And I'll leave it at that for right now.

(Do you have to sit and wait on those scholarships to see what transfers become available?)

No, because we're not just looking at transfers. We're looking at high school players, junior college players. We're looking overseas. So that's not necessarily the case that we have to sit and wait to do anything. We are actively recruiting and, quite frankly, we stay actively recruiting throughout the course of the year in anticipation of something like this happening at the end of the year, because it's happening too frequently all over the country, and in a lot of the conferences and to a lot of the programs.

(What do you say to fans who are concerned about the number of players transferring from the program the last two years?)

I don't think you need to be concerned about it at all. Because again, I just gave you a figure of 700-plus, over 800, it's happening in every program. It's not necessarily leaving a program because they're disgruntled, leaving a program because they don't like the style of play (or) don't like the staff. It's playing time. So, if players have to go elsewhere to have an opportunity to be successful, that's not a bad thing for them. I understand that. And unfortunately, with the graduation situation and having a graduated senior, there's two sides of that. College basketball graduation rates are close to 80 percent now. And the reason they're up that high is because young people are graduating early – think about that – to give themselves an opportunity that in the fifth year if they want to go somewhere else and play, they can do that. That's not a negative for them. It ends up being a negative for all the programs in the country that have spent time developing players, and then they get to that point and feel like they have a better opportunity to get into the NBA going elsewhere. That's their decision. We move on. But the side of it I look at is, our academics are outstanding. Our APR is not taking a hit because we have outstanding academics. And if people are leaving our program to better their opportunities you have to allow them to do that, and we just keep getting our program better.

So what I would tell fans, if you take a look at college basketball it's the norm. It's what's going on everywhere and if you look at the numbers and everything, we're a program that's in transition. It's expected in transition. But it's not going to stop. It's only going to get worse. It was the No. 1 thing talked about at the Final Four, with the NCAA and in our coaches association. The transferring situation that's taking place in college basketball, and the graduate transfer, that you cannot slow it down. There's nothing you can do about it. You have to deal with it and be ready to move on and keep recruiting and building your basketball program.

(Do the recruits fit your vision for the team's style of play?)

Ultimately, where I would like to take this program, is we need to play faster. To do that you need more skill. Players that can get out in the open court and make the read and react decision, and having a tremendous feel for the game and skillset. The ability to pass, dribble and shoot the ball. These two players are excellent in those areas. They both play fast, they both see the game and have a tremendous feel for the game. They both have an ability to score, maybe in different ways but they both can score, and they both are excellent basketball players and excellent students of the game. When I look at where this program is headed, we're transforming this program. With what was here and trying to play a particular way, bringing pieces in and trying to play a particular way, it just takes some time. These two players are going to be really good in getting us where we need to get to.

(Can players transferring every be a good thing?)

I don't think I ever said I was trying to get roster turnover. You're always in anticipation. If you look at the numbers in college basketball, it's going to happen, so you're always recruiting and what you do is, when you have something like this happens and a spot opens up, you try to go get better. You try to use it in a positive way and not use it in a negative way, and that's what we're trying to do. But keep in mind, with this team we've got a lot of work ahead of us. And fortunately again, for us we've got a summer to do it and go play and work some kinks out and make some adjustments before next season. I've got a great nucleus coming back with Josh and Ike and Conor, I think they can all really score. I think Charles Callison and Robert Franks and Derrien King and Viont'e Daniels, they're working extremely hard right now. And what's coming the door will be a nice fit with them to keep us – or get us headed again, I should say, in a positive direction.

(How do you make sure new players will fit in well with your roster?)

It comes in the process of recruiting and really taking a good look at where they're from, the environment. We talk to a lot of people before we bring a young man in the door. We're a little bit in a hurry-up mode when we got the job and didn’t have the opportunity to do a lot of research that way, when we first got  here. But with this group, everything came back really positive. The second indication is when you bring people on a recruiting trip. Just how they fit in with the guys. And we take a lot of feedback from our players, just in terms of what they think, because they spend a lot of intimate time with them away off the floor and those types of moments that are important to us to have those types of feedback come back, and it's been excellent with all three of these players coming in. And there's that piece there also when they come here and have a chance to play pickup ball and do things like that with out players, and they reinforce that you have a really good player here. And all the indications with all three of these guys, everybody is pleased with what we brought in the door.

(Have you been pleased with Jeff Pollard's development during his extra year before enrolling?)

I think any time you can get a player to have extra time to develop before they come up to this level it's good. This year for him has been outstanding, because it's given him a year away from home. Faced some adversity of being around a new team, new players, new culture, all that. We see somebody who has changed immensely in terms of his confidence. He's always had a super personality, always been a go-getter. And more importantly, you see a player who just can't wait, is just champing at the bit to get here. He's so happy he gets to be a Coug. As is Milan, and as is Malachi and his entire family, having ties to Washington State, with his sister going to school here, and her husband having gone to school here, too. I think with all three of these guys the thing that I'm most impressed with is their excitement about getting here and helping this program.

 



Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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