Ernie Kent, the shot clock & replacing Lacy

YAKIMA — All six members of Washington State’s incoming basketball recruiting class will be in Pullman to start school in the six-week summer session that begins June 22, coach Ernie Kent tells Cougfan.com. He also says the NCAA's new rule reducing the shot clock to 30 seconds from 35 is "not going to affect us at all -- we get down the floor as fast as possible."

While the shot-clock change is inconsequential to the second-year Washington State coach, academics aren't. He told CF.C while in Yakima this past week for a Cougar Athletic Fund event at the Apple Tree Golf Courses that each member of his incoming class should be academically cleared to play by summer’s end -- a development of note simply because the group is so heavy in junior college transfers.

The six newcomers are JC transfers Conor Clifford, Renard Suggs, Charles Callison and Derrien King, and in-state prepsters Vionte Daniels of Federal Way and Robert Franks of Vancouver.

Kent said he’s confident they’ll mesh well with his seven returning players. The six were recruited not only because of what they can so on the court, but because of their attitudes and character, he said.

“They feel like they fit in already (as a result of their official recruiting visits),” Kent said.

He thinks the team may be sluggish at the beginning of the season as everyone works to find their rhythm together, but he’s confident that transition period will be quick.

One of the pressing challenges will be replacing the leadership and scoring of DaVonte Lacy.

On the leadership front, Kent is counting on team captains Junior Longrus (pictured above with Kent), Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson to step up. Longrus is a senior, the other two juniors. Last month the three attended a four-day “captains camp” in Ohio sponsored by Athletes in Action to hasten their leadership development.

In terms of Lacy’s scoring load out of the backcourt, Kent believes junior Que Johnson could be foremost among his returning players taking up the slack and that some of the new players could be key as well.

With 7-foot center Jordan Railey’s graduation, Kent also has a hole to fill in the post and says the 7-foot, 270-pound Clifford and 6-foot-10 shot-blocking Houston transfer Valentine Izundu will "be our big guys” and play important roles.

One spot on the stat sheet Kent doesn’t have to worry about is the 14 points and 10 rebounds per game that Hawkinson averaged last season. “The most improved in the conference and in the country – that player was at WSU,” Kent gushed about Hawkinson’s breakout sophomore season.

Hawkinson broke the decades-old WSU record for most double-doubles in a season, collecting 20, and was the only player in the Pac-12 to average a double-double.

NOTABLE:

  • Kent said Lacy has his Pro Day workout coming up and that he expects several NBA teams to invite him in for private workouts.

  • Railey reportedly was in Philadelphia last week for a workout with the 76ers.

  • Asked about former Pac-12 coach and current Pac-12 Network analyst Kevin O'Neill's recent prediction that the Cougars would finish in the upper half of the conference, as opposed to the cellar as a couple of pundits have projected, Kent was succinct: "He understands."

  • Athletic director Bill Moos said at the Yakima event that new locker rooms and a new training room are slated for Beasley Coliseum. He’s hoping to have those upgrades completed in time for the upcoming basketball season.

  • Marcus Graham, a walk on with the WSU basketball team last season following two seasons of JC ball, is transferring to Division II Seattle Pacific University, according to verbalcommits.com, which reports that the 6-3 shooting guard from Boise has committed to the Falcons. He didn't appear in a game for WSU and will have two seasons to play two at SPU, where he will be joining another one-time WSU walk on, Bryce Leavitt, who joined SPU a year ago.

  • In a story this month at FishDuck.com, Kent's son -- former three-sport Oregon standout Jordan Kent -- said his favorite memory of playing football for the Ducks came in 2005 against .... Washington State. Kent scored the first TD of his career in that game to help the Ducks to a come-from-behind 34-31 win "in front of a crowd of 27,595 screaming Cougar fans."

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