WSU hoops: PREseason FUNKtion matches hype

PULLMAN - WSU men’s basketball’s first-ever PREseason FUNKtion was the biggest party on campus Saturday night. Senior guard DaVonte Lacy danced electric in front of the students and freshman guard Trevor Dunbar laid out a rap, but it was head man Ernie Kent who stole the show performing his own routine with the Crimson Girls. And fans got a chance to really see Kent's system for the first time ...

Indeed, Cougar Nation on Saturday relished seeing Ernie Kent’s up-tempo offensive system in action in a scrimmage-type setting.

First though, the event began with DJ Goldfinger and DJ Royal playing multiple songs by artists such as Bow Wow, Chris Brown and more which got the student-heavy crown energized and rowdy. The energy continued to build when prizes, such as featured Beats by Dre, an Xbox One, a Play Station 4 and more, were raffled off.

The WSU men’s basketball players were then introduced one by one, starting with the freshmen class and finishing up with the seniors. The party was just getting started as the Cougs split up into four teams.

Each "team" performed a different dance routine. While the first two squads got their moves in it was Team Three, including DaVonte Lacy, Trevor Dunbar, Josh Hawkinson and Junior Longrus, that raised the roof. The routine started with Hawkinson showing off his vocal skills, and then Lacy taking off his shirt and getting down.

“It took us, I want to say, two or three days to get (down) a couple choreography moves,” Lacy said. “A lot of it was just being ourselves, so it wasn’t hard -- but we've got a couple guys that were a little rhythmic challenged, so we had to work on them. But it was fun.”

Yet, it was Team Four, made up of Ernie Kent and the Crimson Girls performing the Hustle dance, that brought the crowd to their feet.

If you’re thinking there was too much flash and not enough substance, Kent said it was important for his players to perform their dance routines.

“That’s very difficult to do (to perform in front of the students), but they needed to do it to show the students a different side of them and bring the students in,” Kent said. “So I was happy the fact that they tried and made attempts and did a pretty good job.

After the dance performances Kent addressed the students and emphasized how important it is for the students to fill Beasley, and to be loud and put pressure on their opponents.

“When those teams (in the Pac-12) come to Pullman and when they play over in Beasley you need to put the heat on their tail,” Kent implored the students. “The biggest thing I can tell you is when teams come in, make sure they feel your pressure, make sure they feel your noise because we need you to be successful.”

After that, the Cougs finally got a chance to hit the court and compete in a five-on-five scrimmage. They split up into two teams: Crimson and White. The starting five for the Crimson team was made up of Lacy, Que, Dunbar, Jordan Railey and Brett Boese.

The starting five on the White team included Longrus, Jackie Davis, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson.

The scrimmage was supposed to consist of two halves of 15 minutes, but Kent stopped the scrimmage with about 6:30 left to play in the second half due to, from this chair, his players being fatigued.

There were certainly bright spots, including a few nice alley-oop dunks, flashy passes and a lot of running. But Lacy believed the team could have put on a better performance.

“I don’t think we played our best,” Lacy said. “I think we did play a little shaky at first, I think it was fun, no one got injured so there’s always a silver lining, but we’re okay.”

Dunbar said he was a little nervous playing in front of the Coug fans for the first time ever.

“I was nervous yet excited,” Dunbar said. “I had a lot of energy coming out and even got a dunk during warm ups because I was so excited so I think the excitement makes me nervous which really affected my game.”

Though Dunbar made a few turnovers, the freshman guard looked comfortable in Kent’s system and dished out a few assists.

“This is how I’ve always been playing my entire life,” Dunbar said of Kent’s system. “… My high school coach’s offense was more strict than this (Kent’s offense). I would still push the fast break and make something happen on the break, get us into the offense, and that’s basically what we’re doing now: looking for the fast break if the fast break’s not open then we find the shot out of the offense -- and it’s really catered to my game and I really see myself doing some big things in this offense.”

Big men Hawkinson and Railey had a few high moments in the scrimmage. Railey looked more aggressive to me in taking more shots in the paint and Hawkinson showed everyone he’s added a midrange shot to his game, knocking down a couple deuces from the baseline. Hawkinson said he worked on his jump shot a lot over the summer and plans to shoot it from there this season.

“That’s one of the things we’ve all work with these guys (is to be aggressive),” Kent said of the two big men. “The pace of the game is going to be a lot faster (so) those two guys - to be effective, (they) have still got to get in better shape so that they can run and stay on the floor, and I thought they both did a really good job.”

The Cougs on Nov. 7 host Azusa Pacific in an exhibition game.

• Transfer Aaron Cheatum did not participate in the scrimmage. Kent said the forward was a little banged up.

• Center Valentine Izundu showed off his defensive skills by blocking two shots in the scrimmage. Izundu was on the Crimson team.

• Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and Farmhouse fraternity were each awarded $1,000 to their philanthropy after tallying the highest attendance among all WSU sororities and fraternities.

• No students made the $10,000 half-court shot.

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