USA Today Sports/James Snook

Seen & Heard on Planet Coug: An ode to Hawk, Ike, Chuck and Conor

NO MATTER the sport, the change from one coaching staff to another is a disruption that can rock a program for years. Smooth transitions tend to be more the exception than the rule and the players have as much to do with the size of the ripples as the staff.  So as we close the book on THE Cougars’ basketball season, four much-deserved shout outs are in order.

First, to Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu, who came to WSU as Ken Bone recruits yet bought in fully to Ernie Kent’s program when he arrived in 2014.

Second, to JC transfers Conor Clifford and Charles Callison, who came in as JC transfers and joined with Hawk and Ike to help lay the foundation for the future.

I remember listening to Coach Kent speak at a Palouse Ridge event shortly after he arrived at WSU and being struck by his commitment to the academic side of college sports and his belief that his guys should be involved in the community.

He stressed than fans would be proud of the Cougars for their efforts both on the court and off.

Three years later, as I look at Josh, Ike, Charles and Conor today, I say mission accomplished.

JOSH HAWKINSON

What else could be said about this do-it-all baller that hasn’t already been said over the years?  Not much, except “thank you” and“Go Cougs.” Now the program’s all-time leader in career rebounds and a member of the Pac-12’s exclusive 1000/1000 club, Josh had some truly great performances on the court.

I think the most powerful testament to him is the work ethic and hustle he demonstrated for the younger guys. From where he started to where he finished makes for one of the great personal success stories in the modern history of Cougar hoops. The honors he received this speak volumes about his time in Pullman: he was named second-team all-Pac-12 on Monday and yesterday he was announced as the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

His freshman year, he was affectionately dubbed  “baby face.”  It wasn’t just his young appearance but also his true passion and excitement for the game that reminded us of a kid playing in the alley with his pals.  This level of enthusiasm remained a constant with Josh.  The two victories over the Huskies this season were fun reminders of that fact.

Despite battling constant double teams, he kept smiling and kept piling up double doubles (a record 56 in his career).  Josh is a guy we will remember for a very long time.

IKE IROEGBU

Big-time athlete,  boundless energy and a smile that would light up Beasley during player intros, Ike deserves a hearty “well done” from Coug fans.  He started more than 90 games at WSU and led more fast breaks and turned in more acrobatic moves to the rim than anyone I can remember.  The offense ran through him and he took on the opponent’s best offensive player for most of his time in Pullman.

Ike will stick out in my mind for his incredible quicks and athleticism.  Your heart rate couldn’t help but elevate each time he raced down the court to finish with a reverse layup or beautiful pass to a teammate spotting up for a three.  How about his game winner against Colorado in OT this year?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFs4Ng5aCA8

Full speed, going straight at two larger defenders, and having no fear. That is classic Ike right there. It's why more than a few of us pine for him to tryout for the Cougar football team. Would love to see his quick hips and big hops knocking down passes as a cornerback or making plays on special teams. What do you say, Ike?

CONOR CLIFFORD

Conor joined the Cougs for two seasons after transferring in from Saddleback JC and when things were going well, he was a huge help inside. A true center at 7-0, 260 pounds, he improved in a huge way in Pullman and put in tireless work to get his body right for the rigors of the Pac-12.  His proficiency in the paint, with both his left and right hands, was nothing less than a treat to watch.

His presence lightened the double teaming on Hawkinson and opened up the floor for the Cougar guards and others to step out and hit mid-range shots.  Meanwhile, he shot 58.9 percent from the field this season and a sterling 85 percent from the line. His fast start, with lay-in after lay-in, set the tone against the Huskies in the home finale.

My lasting impression of Conor is the smile on his face after he would hit a hook shot or a hard-contested lay-in. This spoke to his love for the game. It’s that kind of attitude that the Cougs rely on for success  — doing your job when your number is called.

CHARLES CALLISON

Charles was a solid role player for the Cougs who went out with a bang.  Often a starter, he averaged more than 27 minutes per game and improved dramatically in his shooting, both from the field ad the line. He truly developed into a Mr. Reliable for the Cougars this season, averaging 9.7 points per game, dealing 67 assists and posting a team-leading 39 turnovers.

He saved his best for last, scoring 18 points against the Huskies on Senior Night and a career-high 25 to keep things close with UCLA a week ago. He also dialed up 16 points in the Pac-12 Tourney loss to Colorado last night.

His work against UCLA was very memorable because you could see his confidence grow with each shot and his teammates’ confidence grew with him.  He is a quite fighter, always working to improve.

WHILE THE RESULT ON THE COURT over the last four years were too often not what the team and fans had planned, you never saw a lack of effort, hustle or passion.  This carried over to their work in the classroom and in their roles in the WSU and Pullman communities.

These seniors fought and scratched, creating a better atmosphere and reinforcing the expectations for the younger guys to carry going forward.

Hawkinson was quoted last night, in his final post-game press conference, saying, “I love being a Coug. I love everything about Washington State.”

No truer words.

As we say goodbye to these seniors, here’s one more salute and one last thank you for what you have given to the Cougar Nation. Go Cougs!

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL MEMORY OF HIGHLIGHT FROM THE HAWK, IKE, CHARLES AND CONOR YEARS? HEAD OVER TO THE FORUMS TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS.

About the Author: Chris Anderson is new to CF.C and dusting off the Seen & Heard column that Pat Mitchell had made a staple here for many years. Chris is a 2012 graduate of WSU with a lifetime soft spot for Chris Jackson, Jason Gesser, Marcus Truant, Will Derting and Collin Henderson.  He grew up a diehard Coug fan on the west side of the state and graduated from Curtis High. He lives in Pullman with his wife and manages the Palouse regional operations of The College Hill Group, a Cougar-owned and operated supplier of custom apparel and promotional products for groups, organizations and corporations of all sizes and industries.


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