WSU hoops: Kent has his rotation set headed into Pac-12 play Friday

ERNIE KENT said Tuesday that Washington State’s three games in Hawaii at the Diamonhead Classic helped solidify his rotation for the start of Pac-12 play on Friday (USC, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

“We’re set in our rotation," said Kent. "I think (Hawaii) solidified our rotation and how we want to coach this team. We’re definitely ready for Pac-12 play."

Kent didn't detail his rotation on the conference call Tuesday but he started the same five for the three games in Hawaii – guards Charles Callison (6-0), Ike Iroegbu (6-2) and Que Johnson (6-5), forward Josh Hawkinson (6-10) and center Valentine Izundu (6-10).   Forwards Derrien King (6-6) and Junior Longrus (6-7) were Kent’s primary players coming off the bench, with G Ny Redding (6-2), C Conor Clifford (7-0) and F Brett Boese (6-7) also seeing playing time.

Guard Renard Suggs (6-2) did not play the final two games in Hawaii, with Kent saying there was “nothing wrong” injury-wise with Suggs.

“Viont’e Daniels had a bad back but he’ll be ready to go, but Renard has always been ready to go,” said Kent.

Daniels (6-2) missed all three games in Hawaii but before that had played in all nine. He’s averaging 11.7 minutes this season.

Washington State went 1-2 in Hawaii, getting blown out by Oklahoma and losing a close game to Northern Iowa. Kent, however, was pleased with the journey.

“I thought the tournament was really good for us because the competition was so good…we got better throughout the tournament
I felt like there was great individual growth, that allowed our team to grow also, so Mission Accomplished,” said Kent.

Washington State ranks 120th in the nation and last in the Pac-12 in the Pomeroy College Basketball rankings. But Kent remains sunny on his team’s 2015-16 outlook.

“I’ve been very impressed with how quickly our new guys have come and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” said Kent. “For us to come out of (non conference play) and have one of the best shooting teams in the conference (.492, 2nd) one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country (6.0, t-16th) , those are some really good numbers. We shoot free throws well, we have depth, we have size, our bigs can score - there are a lot of positives with this team.”

Kent’s watchword this season for WSU: competitiveness.

“Until you get into the grind of the conference… you have to make some adjustments to that as well, too,” said Kent. “But I’m very confident and comfortable that this team will be a very, very, very competitive basketball team.

“I think the Pac-12 has shown it’s one of, if not the premiere conference out there… It hasn’t been like this in a long time… night in and night out the games are going to be extremely competitive… On any given night anybody can beat anybody in this conference.”

Kent was asked if it’s the coaches, players or something else responsible for that competitiveness in the Pac-12.

“I think No. 1, it’s coaching,” said Kent. “I think No. 2, it’s the consistency of coaching with some of the schools that have not made the coaching changes. And I think it’s recruiting – I think you’ve got a nice crop of young players in this conference to go along with returning veteran players… And then quite frankly I think the new rules have enhanced the conference, I think this has always been a conference that wants to get up and down and play freely.”

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