First Kent WSU verbal: High-ceiling JUCO PF

NEW COUGAR HOOPS COACH Ernie Kent has his first verbal commitment -- East Los Angeles CC forward Aaron Cheatum pledged crimson on Monday evening. The 6-7, 240-pound power forward, who met with Kent earlier today, tells CF.C the lure of the Pac-12 conference, along with the energy of Kent and his staff, is why he'll wear crimson this upcoming season.

Cheatum was offered by Washington State last week and wanted to do some thinking before he made his college decision. At 4 p.m. today, though, Kent arrived to his school and the two sat down for a lengthy conversation, Cheatum said.

A little bit later, Cheatum gave Kent the news he was hoping for.

"Yes sir, I'm committed to Washington State," Cheatum said moments ago. "I've enjoyed getting to know the coaching staff and I met Coach Kent in person today. I love the energy surrounding the program right now and the Pac-12 is a great conference.

"I'm also familiar with the area already. I took a visit to Idaho earlier this year and I enjoyed the feel over there. WSU is close, so I already have a good idea of what the school and college life will feel like."

Cheatum, who checks in at 6-7, 240-pounds, chose WSU over offers from Central Florida, Tulane, Idaho, Morehead State, Cal State Bakersfield and a few others.

SO WHAT KIND of player did Wazzu land in Cheatum? One who can make plays around the basket, he says. As a sophomore at East Los Angeles CC this season, the newest Coug averaged 15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He was also named the 2013-14 South Coast Conference Player of the Year.

"I feel like I can do pretty much a little bit of everything," Cheatum said. "I'm a versatile guy. I shot 44 percent from the floor this season and 35 percent from the three-point line. The Cougs are looking at me as a power forward right now, but like I said, I can help out in a lot of different ways.

"I spoke with Coach Kent about that today and he told me I need to be ready by the time I get there. He's a great guy, I enjoyed speaking with him and I know this is going to be a great experience for me."

HIS FORMER AAU coach, Clint Parks, who worked with Cheatum for two years with Team Eleate, said the Cougs just landed a player who has a high ceiling.

"He's a Jamal Mashburn type player," Parks said. "He's big and athletic and can play above the rim. He's going to be a strong player, especially the way that Coach Ernie Kent pushes guys. Once he gets in tip-top Division-I shape, he'll be ready.

"He's the kind of kid you need to help rebuild a program. He's low maintenance, high character and he's a little more mature because of his experience."

When Cheatum, who has three years to play two, does arrive to Washington State later this year, he'll join fellow Team Eleate alumni Que Johnson, who will be a redshirt sophomore for WSU in 2014-15.

"Him and Que being together will be fun to watch," Parks said. "Que will benefit a lot from the discipline that Ernie demands of his players. We think he'll be a big-time wing like Freddie Jones or Luke Jackson was for Ernie at Oregon. Ernie will push him and when Que is back to 100 percent, you'll see the kind of player WSU fans heard about when he first committed to Washington State.

"We couldn't be happier to have two kids from our program help WSU go in the right direction. It will take time, but we believe in Ernie Kent and his staff."

Cheatum joins Garfield High point guard Tramaine Isabell as the second member of WSU's 2014 class.

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