Kent talks recruits, staff hires and more

NEW WASHINGTON STATE basketball coach Ernie Kent says the Cougars have "an outstanding point guard" coming to Pullman. It remains to be seen, however, if that player is coming to Pullman next season. Meanwhile, will assistant Curtis Allen be retained by Kent? We asked Kent about Allen and he offered some interesting thoughts on that and his remaining staff hires.

Kent, just back from interviewing job candidates at the Final Four, said all-state point guard Tramaine Isabell of Seattle's Garfield High is headed to WSU on Friday to meet with Kent.

Isabell, who developed a good relationship with former head coach Ken Bone and Allen – a finalist for the one remaining full-time assistant coach job on Kent's staff – has yet to officially declare he'll honor his signed LOI.

The same is true of junior college forward Jermaine Morgan, the other recruit who has signed a national letter of intent with the Cougars. When he was hired last week, Kent was quick to contact Isabell and Morgan by phone.

(Note: Kent, in a subsequent interview with CF.C's Braulio Perez on Thursday, was asked if he anticipated Isabell and Morgan to be in the fold next year. "Yes I do," said Kent.)

Kent said he wants to visit with Morgan when the Moberly (Mo.) Community College sophomore makes his first campus visit to WSU in the near future. New Cougars assistant coach Greg Graham is set to sit down with Morgan in the next few days, Kent said.

Kent said all of WSU's scholarships are currently tied up, and that he does not know if any players with remaining eligibility will be leaving.

Kent, speaking by phone from Spokane before meeting with WSU boosters Wednesday night, said he has yet to decide whether Allen will remain on the staff. Kent said Allen is one of "five or six" finalists for a full-time position.

"Curtis has a lot of good qualities," Kent said. "Those are some of the things I'm looking for. But there are several others that had outstanding qualities."

Kent said Allen was one of "somewhere between 15 and 20" candidates he interviewed for the assistant coach, basketball operations and graduate assistant positions. Interviews took place in the Dallas area, where Final Four games were played Saturday and Monday.

Kent said he did not interview Ray Lopes, and that Lopes is not a candidate to remain on the staff "at this time." When he was hired last week, Kent said he planned to meet with Lopes at the Final Four. Kent said the two have texted but not met in person since Kent's arrival.

Kent said "there's always a chance" Lopes might be retained, but Kent hinted broadly that he believes Lopes may wind up joining new Houston Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson. Lopes assisted Sampson at Oklahoma (where both men drew NCAA sanctions for illegal contact with recruits) and Washington State.

Kent said he expects to add his other full-time assistant "probably some time within the next week or so." Kent said he can afford to be "very deliberate" with the hire because Graham and Silvey Dominguez, two longtime Division I assistants who have worked with Kent before, "can hit the ground running" and "understand what it takes to build programs."

Kent, relentlessly energetic at 59, said he's positive his staff can rebuild the Washington State basketball program with similar success to what he experienced when rebuilding the programs at Saint Mary's and Oregon, his other college head coaching stops. Six of Kent's teams played in the NCAA tournament, and two reached the Elite Eight.

Kent said he was impressed with the quality of people who interviewed with him and believe he can be successful at WSU.

"You can win at Washington State," Kent said, "and we WILL win at Washington State."

Kent told 1090-AM radio in Seattle yesterday that he's taking the annual NCAA recruiting rules exam today (Friday); and until completed he can't recruit off campus.

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