New Cougar hoops signee, Tacoma 4-star wing Roberto Gittens, has a message for WSU fans

TACOMA’s ROBERTO GITTENS, the 4-star wing who signed with Washington State Monday, plays with a chip on his shoulder and does not lack for confidence. In a brief conversation with during his lunch hour, the 6-5, 215-pound wing had a message for CougFans.

“Be ready. We’re about to start winning. We’re about to turn this whole program around,” said Gittens.

Gotten and his mom moved to Tacoma from Long Island, NY, when Gittens was a middle schooler, then went back to New York before finally settling in Tacoma. In the sixth grade, he said, he used to get teased that he couldn’t dunk. 

“They started teasing me when I got out here, ‘Why are you so tall and not good at basketball -- you can’t dunk?’ It was a whole bunch of guys in middle school. They aren’t doing anything (in basketball) right now,” said Gittens.

It can be a fine line between using criticism as motivation, and letting it negatively impact what happens on the court. Gittens said he had to learn to focus his emotions. In a Tacoma News Tribune feature. Foss High coach Mike Cocke’ talked about Gittens coming a long way from the “hothead” player he was his freshman season. Gittens said he found the right balance by his senior season.

“I just learned how to channel it and not let it overflow,” said Gittens. “I let it keep me motivated, but not explode. When I dunk though, and especially if we’re down and coming back, it’s a rush of emotion. I’ll scream or beat my chest. Gotta let it all out."

He had plenty of opportunities to let it all out.  He dunked 79 times this past season.

Gittens, the third-straight Player of the Year from the state of Washington signed by Ernie Kent averaged 22 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2 blocks this season in leading Foss to the Class 2A state title. He was named WIAA and Associated Press Class 2A Player of the Year, and the Tacoma News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year. ranks him among the top 30 shooting forwards in the nation and No. 9 in the West.

Kent’s vision for Wazzu resonated with Gittens while Cougar assistant Curtis Allen, also from Tacoma, also played a big role in his decision.

“They were a big factor. They stayed on me, they were talking to me and telling me what I needed and how they were going to get me to where I want to go. That was a big part of it,” said Gittens.

He tripped to WSU in mid April with his mom.

“When I went on my visit, it just felt like I was at home. Talking with the coaches, talking with the players, it was very comfortable and a great visit,” said Gittens.

Gittens might be known for his high-flying dunks but he said early on he learned the importance of both shooting a jumper and deft ball-handling from his dad, Roberto Gittens Sr., who played his college ball at Hofstra.

“My dad taught me -- he said when he was playing he should have learned how to shoot and dribble earlier … so he made sure I knew how to do that,” said Gittens.

With the signing of Gittens, Kent now has three members in his 2017 recruiting class. The others are Tyler (Texas) JC transfers Kwinton Hinson (6-4 shooting guard) and Davante Cooper (6-11 center). Two more spots are available. Look for the Cougars to put a priority on filling one of them with a back-to-the-basket big man. The other slot might go to a big man who can shoot inside and out, or the Cougars could bank it for the 2018 recruiting cycle.

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