WSU hoops: Who takes up the minutes?

ERNIE KENT relied heavily on seniors and sophomore Josh Hawkinson during his first men's basketball season at Washington State. It won't look anything like that this coming season as those departing seniors take significant playing time with them. Exactly how does it look for the 2015-16 season? Here's our estimate of how the minutes will be spread.

First, a look back. Guard DaVonte Lacy, center Jordan Railey and guard Dexter Kernich-Drew played a collective 2,100 minutes last season, just over one-third of Washington State's total minutes.

Those minutes must be replaced, particularly Lacy's. He played 1,005 minutes last season, an average of 32.4 minutes per game.

Combined with Kernich-Drew, who played 587 minutes, the Cougars must replace at least 51 of the 80 minutes for the traditional two guard positions for 2015-16.

Fortunately, there's plenty of firepower coming, as Kent drained a barrelful of ink on letters of intent during the past seven months. Expect to see a quartet of junior college transfers gunning for the minutes left behind by the last year's seniors, and as well as some minutes played by those on the current roster.

Those returning this season played 3,870 minutes last season. In addition to the departing seniors, three others have left the program -- Aaron Cheatum, Jackie Davis, Trevor Dunbar -- but their 2014-15 minutes were minor, only 305 total.

The big returnee is Hawkinson, who led the Cougars with 1,015 minutes last season, an average of almost 33 minutes per game. It's reasonable to expect something similar this season for Hawkinson, although competition for playing time among forwards is deeper than it was in 2014-15.

Other returnees who played significantly last season are Ike Iroegbu (836 minutes), Ny Redding (602), Que Johnson (559), Brett Boese (494) and Junior Longrus (364). Combined with Hawkinson, the returning players were on the floor for approximately 124 of each game's 200 minutes.

It's reasonable to expect those minutes to decrease a little this season, given the influx of talent coming into the Cougars, four of whom are JUCOs.

In the front court, Hawkinson figures to be the man. Pencil him in for 30-35 minutes a game. But the shape of the lineup depends on the play and progress of JC transfer Conor Clifford (pictured above).

He could be the gem of the 2015 recruiting class, as the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Clifford gives the Cougars an element many teams don't have -- a rugged big man who can pound defenders down low as well as pop out to the perimeter and do damage with a jump shot. Clifford was a wanted man shortly after his sophomore season at Saddleback JC this winter, as schools like Utah and West Virginia came calling. He was the only member of Kent's recruiting class to have received an offer from another Power 5 school.

Clifford, who can score with either hand close to the basket, figures to get thrown into the mix as soon as preseason camp begins -- he has two years to finish up his two years of eligibility. Regardless, some of the big man minutes are likely to go to Houston transfer Valentine Izundu, who sat out the 2014-15 season per NCAA transfer rules. Izundu's strength is defense and his shot-blocking ability.

The backcourt is also interesting. Iroegbu, WSU's third-leading scorer at 8.9 points a game last season, figures to earn a prominent role again. But how much depends on JC transfer Charles Callison's fit. Callison, a combo guard, brings elements of speed and defense to the lineup, something Kent treasures and especially so given WSU's failings in that area last season.

Then there's Renard Suggs, a JC transfer who is outstanding from the perimeter and should sop up some of the scoring and minutes that Lacy leaves behind. Redding also figures in the guard rotation. Extending the backcourt to the wing, or the small forward, look for freshman Vionte Daniels and JC transfer Derrien King to compete for time. Daniels exploded as a scorer during his senior year at Federal Way.

The guess here is that the backcourt leaders in minutes are Callison and Iroegbu, with Suggs having a chance at big minutes depending on how he progresses as a scorer. King's versatility in playing the 1, 2 and 3 positions could get him on the floor quite often as well.

Freshman Robert Franks has some potential at power forward, but he may need time to physically develop. With six newcomers, it's ridiculous to think all will play a significant role next season. Franks, and perhaps King, are two that could be ticketed for some weight-room development before turning their games loose in the Pac-12.

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel


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