Kernich-Drew goes high-cal under ex-Cal coach

PUNS ASIDE, Dexter Kernich-Drew makes no bones about it. When Scott Thom wants you to put on weight, there will be no rest until you do. Thom is in his first-year as strength and conditioning coach for the Washington State basketball team, and his work with Kernich-Drew has been dramatic.

When the Cougars host Division II Azusa Pacific in an exhibition game tonight at Friel Court, the fifth-year senior guard from Australia will step on the court weighing 210 pounds.

That’s 20 more than he weighed last season.

At 6-6, he still looks like a strong gust could take him away. But the difference is notable -- inside and out.

“I feel a lot healthier and a lot better with myself and it’s also improved my confidence,” said Kernich-Drew, who is expected to be in the starting lineup tonight.

He said Thom, who came to WSU after four seasons with Mike Montgomery at Cal, has been “on my head since summer,” texting early and often with queries about food intake.

Kernich-Drew’s weight gain has not gone unnoticed by head coach Ernie Kent.

“When you change the mentality of players, where they start to feel something and believe in something, they go to work even more and they get a little bit more focused,” he said.

“His (Kernich-Drew’s) commitment to be successful is far greater than it was before, and that, in return, has resulted in the weight gain and the confidence. His game is starting to come up to another level right now.”

In order to gain muscle mass, Kernich-Drew needed to eat the right foods, and a ton of ‘em, he said.

Unlike legendary Cougar basketball string bean Robbie Cowgill, who pounded down 10,000 calories a day to barely keep 210 pounds on his 6-10 frame, Kernich-Drew’s regimen worked like a televised baking of a Wolfgang Puck souffle.

The added bulk will help him maintain his strength and stamina throughout the entire season, he said.

OVER THE LAST THREE SEASONS, Kernich-Drew’s role was to primarily stay on the wing and shoot the three pointer. Last season, 99 of the 160 field goals he attempted were from downtown. He averaged 6.3 points per game, shooting 39 percent overall and 36 percent from the arc.

This season, his role will expand.

Kent runs a motion offense and that means movement, Kernich-Drew notes.

As a result, you won’t find him “out there playing like a robot, standing in a corner, or standing on the wing” and then being out of the action after he comes of a screen, K-D says.

Kent has a “free-flowing offense, he wants everyone to be involved, so it keeps everybody’s confidence up and obviously has kept my confidence up,” he says.

Kent thinks Kernich-Drew could be the energizer the team needs.

“We don’t have guys that play with that kind of energy that can run down to the defensive end and run back to the offensive end,” Kent said. “I think that can be contagious with your team.”

ANOTHER HUGE OFFSEASON GAIN that Thom oversaw as strength coach was sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu’s vertical jump.

“He (Coach Thom) did a great job with me over the summer and the beginning of the year,” Iroegbu said. “He had a lot of crazy workouts and I increased my vert by about seven inches.”

Being in the business of coaching for more than 30 years, Kent said he’s never seen anyone improve their vertical jump by that much in the span of one offseason.

Irogebu’s improvement illustrates one of the key messages Kent wants to impart on his players: that they control much of the future through their individual will power and ability to get themselves into the gym on their own.


  • Azusa Pacific is also called the Cougars. They opened the season on Halloween, losing an exhibition to UCLA 80-53. They are led by senior guard Troy Leaf, a two-time all-conference pick who is expected to contend for Division II All-America honors this year.

  • Azusa Pacific has a familiar face on the team. Sophomore forward Corey Langerveld is a Pullman High grad and his dad, Todd, has been close to the Cougar basketball program over the years through Athletes in Action.

  • Tip off tonight is at 7.

  • WSU will open the regular season with two games on the road, against UTEP on Nov. 14 and TCU on Nov. 17. Neither game is listed at as being televised.

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