UPDATED: CF.C talks to newest Cougar, as Washington State's Ernie Kent wins Pac-12 recruiting battle on 6-11 big man Davonte Cooper

ERNIE KENT and Co. scored on the recruiting trail Tuesday night, securing the verbal commitment of 6-11 Davante Cooper out of Tyler JC in Texas over others including a Pac-12 school. CF.C talked to the newest member of Kent’s class – and the second member of Tyler to have gone crimson in this cycle. With Josh Hawkinson set to graduate after this season, could Cooper become the Cougs’ new inside-outside big man?

Cooper (6-11, 235) gave his verbal pledge to Kent about 20 minutes ago. It was a very big decision, he said.

“The biggest one of my life, I hope,” said Cooper, who played at Bradley last season.

What are the Cougs getting in Cooper?

“I think Coach (Greg) Graham, who works with the big guys, really liked my versatility – I can shoot in, out, I pass very well and I’m light on my feet so I can defend multiple positions. I move well on both ends, I have good hands, good vision and a high motor,” said Cooper.

Okay, so that's the Graham thumbnail view.  What about head man Ernie Kent?

“Coach Kent saw that I fit in with what they’re going to lose with Josh (Hawkinson) a big-time Pac-12 player who has (averaged) a double-double the past two years. I think Coach Kent saw that I could come in  and pick up some of what they’ll lose with Josh graduating,” said Cooper.

Does Cooper see himself sliding apples-to-apples into a Hawkinson-type role next season?

“I’m not 100 percent sure but I think it could be very similar to that inside-outside role that Josh plays,” said Cooper.

Cooper also was very clear about the fact he isn’t coming to WSU to help the Cougs make slow, steady progress during his time in Pullman (3-to-play-2).

“I think it should be known… Washington State in the past may have been in a bit of a slump. I don’t think my teammate (Cougar verbal Kwinton Hinson) knows about my decision yet, I’m going to go talk to him, but the two of us I feel will bring a lot to the WSU team… I want to come in and leave my mark, help the team in a positive way and to help WSU be a (top tier) Pac-12 team and tournament contender,” said Cooper.

COOPER WILL JOIN Hinson at WSU next year, a guard/wing who verbally committed last month to WSU’s 2017 class. Cooper said things got serious with WSU in October but there was also a slight delay. 

Cooper was battling an illness and didn’t practice the day WSU was there (but Hinson earned his WSU offer a short time after that practice). When WSU came to watch Hinson play in one of Tyler’s exhibition games, then they saw Cooper in action and a crimson offer soon followed.

“They did the extra stuff,” said Cooper. “They talked to my parents, and every WSU coach there has now seen me play multiple times. They didn’t change anything on the (Pullman) visit – they showed who they were. And the guys on the team were great. I feel like it’s going to be something special at Washington State.”

Cooper chose WSU over offers from Oregon State, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Central Florida. In the end, it came down to the two Pac-12 schools.

“I only took visits to Oregon State and Washington State -- Oklahoma State came into it a little too late so they kind of missed out,” said Cooper.

Cooper was in Pullman for the Cougs’ homecoming football game vs. UCLA.

“The biggest thing about the visit was just the coaches. I liked how Coach Curtis Allen was very cool. I felt like all the coaches were just as involved as the head coach, everybody was important. (For example,) I didn’t feel like they felt the GA role wasn’t as important… guys like Junior (Longrus) are very important, that’s the feeling I got,” said Cooper.

And Kent and the other coaches encouraged Cooper to go talk to Longrus one-on-one and pick his brain on all things WSU, Kent and the hoops program.

“They told me to go ask Junior anything. He just graduated, he played for Coach Kent for a time, he’s very smart, he’s … pursuing his Master’s, so I asked him as much stuff as I could,” said Cooper.

Safe to say, Cooper liked what he heard.

Cooper grew up in Atlanta, you can still hear the Southern drawl on the phone with him, but he prepped at Orangewood Academy in Southern California, where he played basketball and volleyball.  Cooper was the 2014 Express League MVP by the Orange County Athletic Director’s Association and a first-team all-conference selection in the San Joaquin League by the Orange County Register. He then enrolled at a prep school in Florida before signing with Bradley in 2015-16 over offers from Tennessee, Central Florida and Tulane.  He played in 26 games (with one start) for Bradley as a true freshman in 2015-16, averaging 8 minutes, 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He also made the honor roll at Bradley this spring as a true freshman but ultimately decided the Bradley basketball program wasn’t the right fit. He enrolled at Tyler this summer.

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