HOOPS LOI DAY: Cougs expected to ink four

ERNIE KENT IS expected to sign four players when the early signing period in college basketball kicks off Wednesday. The emphasis for WSU is squarely on the bigs, with three forwards -- each 6-7 or taller -- on the verbal list. Here's everything you need to know before Wednesday including the chances of a Signing Day surprise, and why at least one signee won't arrive until 2016.

Jeff Pollard tells CF.C he’ll fax in his signed LOI on Wednesday to Kent but will spend next season at a prep school. (Pollard is an exceptional student, the year at the prep school is purely based on basketball development. More on Pollard below.)

The Cougs graduate three seniors next year in DaVonte Lacy, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Jordan Railey. If everyone else on scholie returns, Kent would have three spots to fill to reach the maximum 13 scholarships and it looks like he'll fill 'em all in the early signing period. (Things can and do change when it comes to scholarship math over the course of the year, so it's certainly possible Kent could again be in the market when the late signing period begins in April.)

Robert Franks (6-7, 210 pounds) is the highest ranked player in what is officially Ernie Kent’s second recruiting class -- despite Kent being on the job at Wazzu only a little over seven months.

Franks, a three-star forward from Vancouver, Wash. gave his verbal pledge to WSU in late September. He told CF.C he loves Kent’s system and is ready to buy in. Franks chose WSU over offers from Portland, Portland State, San Francisco, and Liberty.

As a junior last year, Franks averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game for Evergreen High. A quick clip of Franks at the Adidas Gauntlet shows his range extends to beyond the arc. Franks has been described as an offensive threat who can score in bunches, with work to do on the defensive end of the court.

Derrien King (6-8, 175 pounds) gave his verbal commitment to the Cougars immediately after his official visit to Palouse in September. King (pictured above) pledged WSU over offers from Nevada, Utah State, UTEP and others. After attending Middlebooks Academy (prep school) in 2013, this fall he will suit up for Santa Monica College and arrive at WSU with 4-to-play-3.

“Darrien can really shoot the basketball,” SMC coach Jerome Jenkins said in an interview with the Los Angeles Sports Journal. “He has gotten a lot of interest but has a lot of work to do. He is really learning to be an all-around basketball player, but is very coachable.”

Renard Suggs (6-3, 200) out of Gillette College in Wyoming is the lone guard in the quarter. In 2013-14, he was named second team All-region as a freshman, hitting 103 treys on 38.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Overall, he averaged 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 27.8 minutes, starting 31 of the 33 games he played. He will arrive at WSU with two years of eligibility in 2015.

POLLARD WAS THE first pledge in Kent’s 2015 recruiting class. He boasts a 3.8 GPA but he’ll attend Impact Prep Academy in Las Vegas – just like his brother, Nate Pollard, did before he went on to a career at Rice. The younger Pollard said the goal is for a year at Impact to help further his skills and strength to the point that when he does arrive in Pullman in ‘16, it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door time.

“It’s another year of development so I can come in as a freshman and just be an animal,” said Pollard.

The 6-8, 215-pounder out of Bountiful, Utah, chose WSU over Southern Utah back in June and was receiving interest from Portland and Weber State.

Pollard’s eventual role at WSU: to get rebounds and score in the paint. But he’ll also be working on something else this coming year.

“I’m trying to expand my outside game – I’ve got a pretty good presence on defense and being able to score in the post, but I’m not as much of a threat as I (want to be) outside in scoring, from three-point range, driving and kicking,“ said Pollard.

He averaged a near double-double at Bountiful High last season as a junior, with 9 points and 11 rebounds per game..

What’s next for WSU men’s basketball recruiting after the early signing period?

The early signing period closes on Nov. 19. The late signing period runs April 15 - May 20, 2015.

Highly touted Gig Harbor prospect JaQuori McLaughlin recently took an unofficial visit to WSU in October. McLaughlin is a four-star prospect in the 2016 recruiting class and the No. 11 shooting guard on Scout.com.

In an interview with CF.C over the summer, Kent said his top priority is to recruit in the state of Washington – he’d love to build a championship Pac-12 program with in-state recruits. However, Kent did say it’s just as important to find a player who wants to be a Cougar and he’s more than comfortable going after the right guys, no matter what geographical area they’re in.

Indeed, Kent feels he can recruit, and recruit effectively, anywhere.

“It’s more about where your contacts and connections are at,” Kent said. “We have contacts and connections all over the United States and outside the United States as well too. We’ve already reached out the contacts that we’ve already signed and had success with their players in the past and there still there, they understand we have track record, we have a blueprint for graduating our student athletes.

The Cougars open their season this Friday at UTEP, followed by a tilt at TCU on Monday. Both games are radio-only.

NOTABLE SIGNING DAY NOTES:
  • There’s a slim chance WSU could pull of a Signing Day surprise on top of the quartet listed above. Gligorije Rakocevic, a 6-11, 245-pound native of Montenegro, gave his verbal commitment to OSU on Friday after deciding between his two finalists, the Cougs and the Beavers. It’s expected he’ll now sign with Oregon State on the first day of the signing period on Wednesday but as is always the case when it comes to recruiting, it’s never truly over until it’s over. Besides the two Pac-12 schools, Rakocevic also held offers from WSU's season opening opponent UTEP, and Hawaii, Cal-State Northridge and others.

  • It’s worth noting Cougar big Valentine Uzundu (6-10, 245) signed a financial aid agreement back in August and is listed on this season's WSU roster. A shot-blocking specialist during his time at Houston, he'll use his redshirt season this year at Washington State due to NCAA transfer rules and have two-to-play-two starting in 2015.

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