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WSU, Washington men’s basketball coaches will bump into each other again

PULLMAN – Prior to the game, coaches Ernie Kent and Lorenzo Romar spotted each other, shared a hug and chatted about the players who were getting ready to tip off.

The scene will play out again on Saturday, but with considerably more tension between the old friends.

On Wednesday, the two friends and longtime peers were both in Tacoma, taking advantage of only having one game this week to check out some prospects at the high school boys basketball matchup between Lincoln and Wilson.

On Saturday, the pair will coach Washington (Romar) and Washington State (Kent) in an in-state rivalry game, hoping to impress the same western Washington prospects that they so frequently observe together on the recruiting trail.

Those players have helped stock both rosters. Dejounte Murray and Matisse Thybulle are freshmen from the South Puget Sound region who start for the Huskies. Another Seattle-area first-year player, David Crisp, is one of UW’s primary contributors off the bench.

For the Cougars, freshman Viont’e Daniels, out of Federal Way, Washington, made five 3-pointers in WSU’s (9-5, 1-1 Pac-12) first game this season. WSU’s coaches have high expectations for Robert Franks, who spent last season playing for Evergreen High in Vancouver.

“I didn’t really play with (Crisp and Murray) a lot, but I’ve known them for a long time,” Daniels said. “I’d go to their games in high school, they’d come to my games in high school. We have a good relationship, so it should be a fun one.”

Kent acknowledges the appeal of recruiting the talent-rich western Washington area for both programs, but downplays necessity of recruiting success west of the Cascades.

“I think you have people that are growing up wanting to play at UW, and Lorenzo has done an outstanding job in his time being there of really recruiting the state of Washington, and particularly the Seattle and Tacoma area,” Kent said. “I always like to recruit the Northwest first … but there are players who would crawl to get here to Washington State, to get here with all we have to offer.”

Make no mistake, the game holds special meaning for the players. WSU’s best player, Josh Hawkinson, grew up in UW’s backyard. His mother played basketball for the Huskies, and still drives around with UW alumni license-plate holders, although she dons WSU gear for the game.

Beating the Huskies is important enough to Hawkinson that he said last year’s win in Seattle was “my favorite college basketball game I’ve ever played in,” even though he scored just eight points.

Likewise, UW (10-4, 2-0) is led by Andrew Andrews, who may not have grown up in the Evergreen State but played his high school ball in Portland. Andrews has twice been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week and presents an interesting challenge for the Cougars’ defense, given that only four players nationally draw more fouls per 40 minutes.

The Cougars are favored by 1 1/2 points, setting up what should be another close matchup. WSU and UW split last year’s series, with three points separating the teams in both games.

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