Clifford signing big for Cougs in many ways

NEWS FROM THE Washington State twitter basketball account has vindicated the junior college coach who last week told junior college center Conor Clifford was Wazzu-bound. Clifford has signed with WSU, the school said, presumably putting the finishing touches on the six-member 2015 hoops class.

Saddleback coach Andy Ground told CF.C on Saturday that Clifford, a 7-0, 270-pound center and the SoCal MVP this past season, had verbally committed to Kent and the Cougars but a few hours later a trusted JC source called to say that wasn’t the case. Monday’s announcement by WSU removed all doubt, however, in announcing Clifford’s signing.

Clifford is likely to fill the minutes that became available from Jordan Railey’s graduation and also likely provide the opportunity to more strategically deploy 6-10, 215-pound shot blocker Valentine Izundu.

The WSU basketball account tweet announcing Clifford's signing would seem to indicate Ernie Kent has wrapped up his 2015 class of six new Cougars -- barring something unexpected. Andy Van Vliet, a 6-10 lefty big out of Europe, was said to have visited WSU recently according to twitter. It is unknown if WSU was still looking for a way to bring him on board or if that window had now closed with Clifford’s signing.

Clifford chose WSU over Utah, South Carolina West Virginia, Missouri, UTEP and others. He averaged 14.7 points, 6.2 and 1.1 blocks rebounds per game.

Kent has now completely remade his WSU roster heading into Year 2.

“Conor is the perfect fit for what we were looking for in order to continue our quest for a conference championship,” Kent said in a release. "Getting a player of this caliber is a big deal for us because it shows that Washington State is on the move. It shows that our system is valued in high regards and it also shows that the success that we have started to have here will continue.”

Kent added, “Conor’s strengths are his ability to be extremely productive in the low post and his mid-range game. I think people will be pleasantly surprised with how strong his skill set is. On top of his talent on the court, he’s one of the brightest young men I’ve ever been around. It is an honor to have Conor in our program, our job now is to make sure he reaches his maximum potential, because he has a tremendous upside.”

Given the enthusiasm Kent expressed in announcing two other signing members of the class earlier this month -- combo guard Charles Callison and Federal Way High wing Vionte Daniels -- one has to think the addition of Clifford has left him ebullient on this coming season's prospects.

The other members of the class are 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 he will spend a year at Las Vegas prep school before joining the Cougs in 2016.

Kent also said earlier this month the current team members are playing at a faster pace already this offseason. And he’s noted that he wouldn’t bring in junior college talent unless he believed they could provide an immediate impact in the 2015-16 season.

Four of the six members of Kent’s signing class are JUCO transfers (Clifford, Callison, King and Suggs).

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