Hoops: WSU players eye Utah 7-footer

PULLMAN — Washington State had a longer Tuesday practice than expected. It went so long that Ernie Kent only had time to answer three questions before bolting off for his radio show.

In talking with the media before Washington State takes on Utah Thursday night (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1) Kent did say he expects Utah to come out with a “tremendous amount of energy,” and that the Cougs “need to match that energy."

Junior Longrus also talked Utah, focusing on the Utes' leading scorer, sophomore forward Jakob Poeltl.

“He’s a really good player,” Longrus said. “Anytime we get a good big (man) coming in we take it as a challenge—I like a challenge."

Junior forward Josh Hawkinson also offered his thoughts on Poeltl, saying the 7-footer has “definitely gotten a lot better” since the last time the two played.

“His rebounding numbers are high,” Hawkinson said. “So continuing to box him off, and keeping him off the glass is going to be another thing.”

Cougar forwards Robert Franks (freshman) and Derrien King (sophomore) saw extended minutes last week, and Kent liked what he saw. Franks and King each scored 11 points against ASU, with Franks scoring eight points at Arizona.

“When you have players that are starting to get into the season a little bit and start to get comfortable with what we’re doing, players tend to rise up and start to play better,” Kent said. “I’m happy for those two guys because they’re starting to play really well and doing some good things and it certainly has carried over into practice today.”

Since arriving at WSU in 2012, Longrus has been asked to lead, which wasn’t always easy.

“When I got here I was 17 1/2 so it was kind of weird (for) them telling me to lead 22-year olds,” he said. “I think the group that we have now—they make it a lot easier—they let me make my mistakes as a leader … I think the biggest change is having guys this year that kind of let me accept the role of being the leader.”

Longrus, a fourth-year senior, says he enjoys helping guys like Franks and redshirt junior Conor Clifford with “tricks of the trade.”

“For (the young guys), it’s kind of just educating them on what they haven’t seen yet and kind of getting them ready for arenas and just a lot of little stuff that I see just from being around the game for four years,” Longrus said.

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