Kent adds speed and D, looking for one more

ERNIE KENT PRAISED the speed and defense of the latest additions to his 2015 recruiting class -- JC combo guard Charles Callison and Federal Way High wing Vionte Daniels -- but he didn't (and couldn’t) utter a word about 7-foot, 270-pound Conor Clifford. And thus the pulses of WSU fans figure to remain in overdrive awaiting word on where the touted JC center plans to play the next two seasons.

Clifford, a former UC Irvine player who blossomed this season at California's Saddleback JC, has been reported to have narrowed his list to WSU and South Carolina. He tripped to both schools this month.

He doesn't need to be in a rush to decide. This late signing period, which began today, runs to May 20. Clifford averaged 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game at Saddleback JC this season.

“We have still one scholarship left,” Kent said Wednesday at the official announcement of his two latest signees. “We are actively recruiting that and will continue to do that. It’s a very important scholarship because we feel like we still need to bring more size into the program, and we’re looking to do that.”

Prospect Andy Van Vliet, a 6-10 lefty center out of Europe, has also recently been tied to WSU. The Belgian Youth Basketball account on twitter said Van Vliet is officially visiting Washington State as soon as this week or next, and also has planned trips to Utah, St. Mary's and Miami.

Meanwhile, the big takeaway on Wednesday from Kent on Daniels and Callison (pictured above) was that they bring speed to the table -- and that's just what was needed to replace DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew, Kent said.

“What I’ve already noticed about our team during this short offseason is they’re so much faster down the floor ... it usually takes about a year when putting in that speed game. Both Vionte and Callison are speed guys with the ball, they get out and run, they see plays they can make plays.

“Vionte Daniels … he can score, he can shoot he can run. Charles is another shooter who is big and strong… I just feel we have a chance to be faster next year. We’ll be deeper. I feel really good about the direction we’re headed in.”

Defense also factored heavily into the decision to sign both players.

“They’re both excellent on-ball defenders, where they can handle their guy. Now, Vionte has to get bigger and stronger. Callison is already there,” said Kent. “…We’ve really got to figure out our defense and that’s on me. We will get that piece figured out. I told Coach (Greg) Graham the other day (former UO coach) Dick Harter is probably rolling over in his grave with the way we played defense last year. We will be better in that area, trust me we will.”

Daniels was named the state of Washington's Class 4A Player of the Year by the Associated Press after averaging 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this past season. Callison was the Foothill Conference Player of the Year, averaging 15.4 ppg, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds.

Daniels and Callison join a class that includes forward Derrien King (6-7, 175); forward Robert Franks (6-7, 215) and guard Renard Suggs (6-3, 200), all of whom signed in the early period in November. WSU also signed prep forward Jeff Pollard (6-9, 220) in November but Kent confirmed Wednesday he will spend a year at Las Vegas prep school before joining the Cougs in 2016.

“Derrien King can really score the basketball and he can run. Renard Suggs is a 3-point shooter and he brings a tremendous feel for the game. And then Robert Franks is really skilled also, at a position that is hard for us to find,” said Kent.

Kent already also has a verbal commitment for the 2016 class on board in Milan Acquaah. The 6-2 guard out of Cathedral High in Los Angeles verbally committed to Kent back in February.

Acquaah in AAU play through four games with the California Supreme is averaging 14.0 ppg, along with 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s shooting 41.5 percent (40 percent from 3-point land) and 75 percent from the line.

  • Kent said the three junior college players – Callison, Suggs and King, “have got to come in and help the program right away, otherwise there would be no reason to go in that direction.”

  • Kent said Daniels and Callison didn’t remind him specifically of players he’s had in the past but that they possess the skills set that has “always made this system go.”

  • Kent mentioned Ike Iroegbu, Que Johnson, Brett Boese and Josh Hawkinson specifically as examples of players moving faster this offseason. He said Valentine, along with Iroegbu and the two new signees, will enable the Cougs to play better defense.

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