WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

After a year of training in Las Vegas, will incoming forward Jeff Pollard be Ernie Kent's surprise WSU hoops contributor in 2016-17?

THE NUMBER SITS there like a blinking light: 24.7. That’s how many minutes per game graduating Cougar forwards Junior Longrus and Brett Boese collectively averaged this basketball season. How that court time will be taken up next year figures to be a question whose answer runs prominently through Robert Franks and Derrien King. But there’s another name to plug into your thinking.

It’s Jeff Pollard.

Yes, the seemingly forgotten man of Ernie Kent’s 2015 recruiting class is now --  after a year of training with Impact Basketball in Las Vegas – a bigger and stronger member of Kent’s 2016 class.

“I've grown a half-inch to an inch,” Pollard told Cougfan.com last weekin an exchange of text messages. “I've put on about 15 pounds and definitely have gotten stronger.”

The Bountiful, Utah, product now tips the scales at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds.

When he originally signed with the Cougars, in November 2014, the intention was that he take a gap year to hone his game and build his body. He’s done that with Impact Basketball – a highly regarded player development academy. The program focuses not just on strength and skills development, but mental toughness, nutrition, proper stretching and more. Alums include such notables as Kevin Garnett, John Wall, Rudy Gay, Ricky Rubio and Chauncey Billups.

In the just-concluded Impact Academy season, Pollard averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks per outing over a 35-game schedule primarily against junior colleges and prep schools.

He re-signed with the Cougars this past November and says he plans to arrive in Pullman at the end of June.

As for filling the void opened up by WSU’s graduating forwards, Pollard chuckles and says, “As far as minutes, I'm not sure what the plan is. I'm not too worried about minutes this first year … Just gonna work hard and grind and let the playing time take care of itself.”

He says he has kept in close contact with the WSU staff throughout this season, talking on a weekly basis, often with assistant coach Greg Graham.

In 2014, Kent said he envisions Pollard being a “skilled big guy that can score with his back to the basket and has a good face-up game too.”

Longrus (1.8 points, 2.3 rebounds per game and 19 blocks this season) wasn’t a scoring threat inside or out and Boese (2.2 points and 0.9 rebounds) had a jumper out to the arc but wasn’t a back-to-the-basket guy.

Pollard, it seems, has the body and skills to blend a bit of both their styles. So while lightly recruited out of Bountiful (Southern Utah was his only other scholarship offer besides WSU), his year of growth at Impact Academy may give Kent a 2016-17 contributor that few people see coming.

NOTABLE:

·       As a senior at Bountiful High in 2015, Pollard led his team to its second-straight state title after averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds per game and earning consensus first-team Class 4A All-State honors. He was second-team All-State as a junior.

·       With the recent granting of releases to guards Ny Redding and Renard Suggs, Pollard’s recruiting class at WSU will likely number four players. He and 3-star Los Angeles/Catherdral High guard Milan Acquaah signed in November and two more now are expected to join the fray when the regular signing period commences April 13. For more on how WSU might fill those two additional scholies, check out What will Kent do with two new spots? and Kent offers Bellarmine Prep point guard.


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