PULLMAN – Viont’e Daniels is over how frustrating his recruiting process was. And if we’re being exact, it only took him one minute and 17 seconds to bury that frustration with the first 3-point shot of his collegiate career.
And then he hit another, and then another and then, for good measure, he hit two more. In fact, the Federal Way High School star and State 4A Player of the Year in Washington didn’t miss at all from beyond the arc. He was a perfect 5 for 5, accounting for all of his 15 points in his debut.
In his first three minutes on the floor he tallied six points, three rebounds and an assist to Josh Hawkinson. It’s safe to say he made his mark early in Washington State’s 82-70 season-opening win over Northern Arizoan at Beasley Coliseum.
He hopes he made his mark on coaches that looked past him, too.
“I was under recruited, that all motivates me to be a better person, be a better player and it helped me out in the long run,” Daniels said. “So … whoever didn’t recruit me now sees they messed up.”
Saint Mary’s and Portland State were two of three schools who thought Daniels worthy of a full-ride scholarship by the time he lifted state championship hardware at the Tacoma Dome last March.
Then there was WSU coach Ernie Kent, who couldn’t care less about your recruiting rankings and analysis.
“It’s about fit. What’s the prototype fit per position for what we’re looking for. He’s one of those players who when I went to the gym and saw him, he looked just like he looked today,” Kent said.
Kent went on, rattling off name after name of guys on this year’s iteration of the Cougs who fit the same mold. Charles Callison, Renard Suggs, Robert Franks and Derrion King are guys Kent expects to have their nights soon enough.
“Everybody … can walk into a gym and pick out the McDonald’s All-American,” Kent said. “Recruiting is finding a kid who fits your style of coaching, your style of play, fits a community, fits a campus and when you plug him in that system they just blossom.”
Callison, a feisty defensive point guard from San Bernandino Valley College, didn’t have quite the WSU debut as his freshman teammate did. He forfeited his starting role to Ny Redding due to missing classes and finished with four assists in 17 minutes of action, but Kent doesn’t expect that to continue.
And then there was Valentine Izundu. Boy, was he hard to miss. The 6-foot-10 transfer from Houston saw his first game action in nearly two years, swatting away NAU shots four times and punishing the rim three times with thundering dunks, twice dished out from Suggs.
Izundu only played 14 minutes, but showed glimpses of how he’s going to allow WSU to play a more full-court pressure on defense and free up Josh Hawkinson more on both ends of the floor.
Hawkinson benefitted from his towering teammate with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I’ve been bragging about Val for a year now. He’s just been in practice and no one gets to see any of the stuff he does, all the blocks or the people he’s dunked on,” Hawkinson said. “Now that he’s available to play I think the students and everyone across the country is just going to see how athletic and how much of a player he is.”
Those students will get to see more of Valentine and WSU’s new cast of characters on Nov. 20 when they host Idaho State at Beasley Coliseum.
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