No doubt about it, Hawkinson looked like a different player than last season. He ran the court, finished in the paint and showed off a nifty jumper by going two-for-two on three pointers.
“I don’t care who the exhibition (game) is against, how many players in the country are going to come out with 24 (points) and 18 (rebounds) in game this weekend?,” Kent said following his team's 88-74 victory over the LA-area Christian college.
“We’ve known from day one, we’ve talked about him from day one, I think he is a very skilled basketball player," he added, noting that he Hawkinson is reminiscent of the European 4s everybody was looking for a few years back. "Shoots it outside, scores it inside, thinks the game, he can defend and rebound like a madman -- I’m talking about Josh Hawkinson.”
Hawkinson started on the bench for the Cougs, coming in at the 16:16 mark of the first half. RIght out the gate he scored seven quick points to help extend WSU's lead to eight. He would finish the first half with a team high 12 points while also grabbing eight rebounds.
“My teammates just did a really good job of sharing the ball and passing it to me when I was open,” Hawkinson said. “I was able to enough to knock down open shots.”
While Jordan Railey and Junior Longrus started over Hawkinson, he ended up playing the most minutes out of the Cougar big men: 30 to Longrus' 20 and Railey's 6. Besides Railey and Longrus, the other starters were Dexter Kernich-Drew, DaVonte Lacy and Ike Iroegbu.
Kent decided to keep Hawkinson in the game along with playing a smaller lineup in the second half of which he said was the difference maker.
“The game changed for us when we were able to go to the smaller lineup and switch all over the floor because that’s a very difficult team to guard for guys like Jordan - have your bigs on the floor where they take away the bucket and they have to play out of the perimeter defensively, they just can’t do that,” Kent said. “So small ball won the game.”
Playing a smaller lineup helped the Cougars get defensive stops which allowed the team to pull away with the game towards the four minute mark after Azusa Pacific turned the ball over four times. Kent mentioned how getting stops is crucial in his system.
“That’s the beauty of this system, you can score in it, if you defend and you get stops,” Kent said.br>
Another player who turned some heads tonight was the freshman point guard Ny Redding. Redding dished out eight assists and scored three points in his Cougar debut. A highlight of the game for Redding came when the freshman split two Azusa Pacific defenders in the middle of the free throw line and hit teammate Aaron Cheatum down in the paint for two points.
“Coach Kent always tells us... read the play, make the right read and make the extra pass,” Redding said. " ... so I kicked it and thought about making the extra pass.”
Kent said he thought Redding was the best point guard of the group in terms of running the system.
Asked who needs to make more strides on this Cougar team, Kent listed veterans Iroegbu and Que Johnson. Though Johnson finished with ten points, the sophomore guard looked hesitant in Kent’s system by only taking four shots from the field the entire game along with shooting four free throw attempts.
Iroegbu showed off his athleticism with the ball in the transition game by dishing a few flashy passes, but just managed to score seven points and tally three assists.
“They’ve got to get a better feeling for this system to play more comfortably and play their game,” Kent said.
Senior guard DaVonte Lacy started off slow in the first half by scoring five points off of four shot attempts. However, Kent got Lacy more involved in the game by running six to seven sets for the Tacoma Native in the second half. Lacy was able get a six quick points in the paint in the first four minutes of the half. Lacy would soon find his stroke later in the game and finished with 22 points.
“I think it was good (the exhibition game), it didn’t start off how we wanted to start it off, I think it was just because of all of the jitters and just getting our first game under our belt,” Lacy said. “ But it went good, he (Kent) made adjustments in the game and we followed him, I think we finished out strong.”
Besides Lacy and Hawkinson, Kernich-Drew, with 15 points on six-of-nine accuracy from the field, was the only other Coug to score in double figures.
The Cougars will officially begin the 2014-2015 season on the road next Friday at UTEP.
The Cougars’ next home game will be on Nov. 21 against Idaho State.