WSU hoops: Frosh need to improve focus on D?

PULLMAN — The Cougar basketball team played Nevada in a secret scrimmage on Saturday, and while players and coaches aren’t allowed to talk about or even acknowledge the existence of such preseason contests, it was fairly clear Tuesday that WSU coach Ernie Kent left The Biggest Little City in the World less than impressed with his club’s defensive effort.

Intensity will be an area of focus when WSU plays Azusa Pacific in an exhibition game at Beasley Coliseum this Friday at 7, Ernie Kent said during a media conference.

He wants his troops to play intense, poised and confident, and continue to shoot the ball well, he noted, before adding “defensively there’s an intensity level that you need to play at, I don’t care who you are playing or when you are playing. And that’s something we’ve been working on this last week or so in practice, having come out of a situation where we need to correct some things and I’m hoping we’ll see improvements in that area before we head out on the road down to UTEP.”

The word “situation” in that quote is almost certainly code for the scrimmage at Nevada that shall not be named.

Reading between the lines, Kent might have been directing all or some of his defensive intensity concerns at his three freshmen guards: Trevor Dunbar, Ny Redding and Jackie Davis.

“This is different than high school basketball at this level,” Kent said Tuesday.

“In preparation of what’s coming, next week on the road at UTEP, TCU, they’ve (the freshmen) got to take care of the ball, they got to be locked in on what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do … defensively, offensively. Their rotations have to be pretty much perfect defensively.

“There’s a lot that the freshmen are going to have to get accomplished before we go on the road, even though they’re freshmen,” he said. The Cougars open the regular season at UTEP in Nov. 14.

Asked which new face on the team has progressed most, Kent took turns assessing them.

“I think they come and go. At first, starting out, I thought that Trevor Dunbar was moving and then all of sudden here came Jackie Davis and got on his game,” Kent said. “As of late it’s been Ny Redding who got on his game and then certainly last week (JC transfer) Aaron Cheatum is a gamer because all of a sudden when the bright lights came on (at Nevada?), he stepped up to another level.”

Consistency, he said, is what they must work on.

Kent said senior guards Dexter Kernich-Drew and DaVonte Lacy will be in the starting lineup Friday, but the other three spots have yet to be determined.

“These next few days will be critical for some of these guys in terms of where they fit in the rotation coming up to this weekend, the amount of minutes they play,” Kent said. “Even though I’ll be looking at different lineups first and foremost, you want to get a group in a nice groove and a nice rhythm that you can kind of count on going into next week. That’s the first thing I’m going to be looking for and then hoping to get enough playing time for everybody so we can continue to do our evaluations.”

Kent said not having coached in four seasons will make Friday’s tipoff “a special moment” because he enjoys coaching so much.

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