Its almost basketball season, which means Ernie Kents propaganda machine is in full swing

It\s almost basketball season, which means Ernie Kent\s propaganda machine is in full swing

Pac-12 hoops Media Day: Cougs have more playmakers, Kent says

Share Share Its almost basketball season, which means Ernie Kents propaganda machine is in full swing tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports Ernie Kent is pretty bad at coaching basketball, but Ill give him this: His propaganda game is always on point.

Ernie always — always — has an angle hes working to try and convince everyone hes doing a better job than he actually is, even though the results speak for themselves. Sometimes, its excuses after losses that are unfailingly laid at the feet of others. Other times, its preseason talking points designed to inspire (false) hope that a turnaround is just around the corner.

He said Elleby reminds him of Elleby’s dad, Bill, whom Kent coached against when pops was a player at Cal: tough, competitive and understands the game. The younger Elleby isn’t just surviving in practice the way some freshmen do but thriving, Kent said. Asked about winning the recruiting battle for Elleby, Kent lauded two of his assistant coaches — Ed Haskins, the former coach at Garfield High, and Bennie Seltzer, a former WSU star — who helped convey the message that the staff at WSU is more than coaching, but also mentoring, and that was important to Elleby’s parents.

Today was Pac-12 media day. Heres what Kent had to say about the prospects of his Washington State Cougars:

ASKED WHO HAS SURPRISED HIM MOST IN practices, Kent said Ali — a 5-11 point guard from Toronto by way of Eastern Florida State College — “is just a jet, can really score and knows the game.” He also singled out the rebounding prowess of 6-7 power forward Isaiah Wade out of Iowa Western CC. He’s not a skyscraper but “he knows how to get the basketball.” In a scrimmage yesterday he pulled down 17 rebounds, Kent said.

I felt like coming out of this year with Malachi Flynn returning, that we were upper echelon. All of a sudden, he leaves our program. With whats come in our door, Robinson, Ahmed Ali, I am thoroughly impressed with this team. We will not miss a beat with this team. The JV guys we recruited are long. They have a length Ive not had before, speed, quickness, things we can do defensively. Our two freshmen are good players, C.J. Elleby and Jaz. Those two kids understand how to play. We have a different element with our team that Im happy for. Our competitive energy, our toughness, and just our speed is a lot better than Ive had before.

Kent was joined at Media Day by senior starters Robert Franks and Vionte Daniels. Asked about Franks — one of the top scorers in the league last year — Kent quipped that he just needs to “give him the ball and let him shoot.” He said NBA scouts told Franks in the spring that he has an NBA body and jump shot — that “hes right there” — but needs another year of college seasoning. Confidence is a huge part of Robos game, Kent said, and he has it.

Yes, the Ministry of Information is in full swing. What follows is more than 1,500 words on all of Kents preseason baloney, and to be honest, its probably more attention than Ernie Kent deserves. But the blatant lying he does just drives me to a place where I cant let it go — especially when the other media outlets who regularly cover the team refuse to critically push back on Kents perennially ridiculous — and blatantly self-serving — assertions. Somebody has to push back on it.

The Cougars were picked to finish No. 12 in the conference in the preseason media poll. Kent said there’s “no question” this team has better talent than year’s club, which went 4-14 in conference play. They can score and play defense, he said.

From reporters to broadcasters, youre going to hear the word long — usually paired with the words and athletic — more than you can possibly imagine this season when they talk about WSU. This is not an accident, because as you saw in the first quote above, Kent is going to say it a lot to anybody who can amplify his message. Observe:

Gotta think theres only a few CBB coaches out there letting reporters crash film sessions. Know infinitely more about #WSUs 2018-19 roster than I did an hour ago. Cougars are longer than theyve been under Ernie Kent & have six players shooting 40% or better from the outside. pic.twitter.com/2ZyzRjMDHx

The Cougars are longer, more athletic, faster and quicker than last year, Kent said, noting that it gives him the ability to vary things up on defense. “We can put two 6-9 guys on the head of a zone,” he said.

Talking Point No. 2: Building with jucos is the new market inefficiency By now you know that Ernie has abjectly failed at what was ostensibly the skill that got him the job in the first place — the ability to lure attractive high school recruits to his program. After five recruiting cycles, he has yet to even be seriously associated with a top 100 recruit (generally the marker of program-changing players), and has only signed one recruit thought to be in the top 200: Roberto Gittens, who failed to qualify academically.

Ten of the 13 players on the roster are 6-5 or taller. Being bigger and longer adds up to a practical benefit on defense. The Cougs “take up more space,” he said.

In lieu of that, Kent has turned almost exclusively to the junior college ranks to stock his roster — in the last two classes, Kent has signed seven junior college transfers, one graduate transfer, and two high schoolers. As it now stands, jucos make up half* of WSUs 12 scholarship players.

Kent called Kunc “a phenomenal basketball player.” The 6-8, 200-pound small forward can shoot, pass and handle the ball and possesses excellent court sense.

After being here for four years now and going the high school route, Im not going to go away from it. But you are susceptible to transferring, which is the norm now. …

There will be more freedom of movement, more cutting and more passing, Kent said as a result of breakdown down opponents off the dribble and creating more looks.

Lets bring in a JC player that has good stats, thats led his team, thats one of the better players in the country, and work with them for two years. Theres no more transferring there. Were not the only ones who are doing this, but with the transferring that takes place, its knocked us out of whack a little bit.

Ernie Kent tells the crowd this is the best team hes coached in Pullman in his 5 seasons here #GoCougs #Wazzu pic.twitter.com/SoOkbKjMlg

*Walk-on James Streeter, a 6-foot-10/270-pound behemoth, is also a junior college transfer. WSU still has a scholarship open, and the guess here is that Streeter was told there was a possibility hed be put on scholarship second semester if Kent was unable to successfully recruit another player early in the year. To that end, you probably could say accurately that jucos make up 7 of the 13 roster spots.

Im sorry to inform you that the Cougars are not particularly long or athletic by high major program standards, nor is stocking your roster with jucos likely to lead to more wins than weve come to expect under Kent.

Lets tackle Talking Point No. 1. For reference, since youre probably not very familiar with WSUs roster, heres the teams positional breakdown with projected starters in bold — and for what its worth, these are the positional designations on WSUs roster, not my own designations:

If you simply look at some of these players individually, yeah — it seems like theres some length. But heres the thing: You have to put it in the context of both the players position and how much length can be on the floor at one time.

For example, consider the starting lineup. Neither Robinson nor Daniels are what you would consider long for a guard — in fact, theyre undersized. Skaggs is 6-5, but hes going to be playing the wing, where most of WSUs Pac-12 opponents will be starting someone at least as tall as him. Franks and Cooper will be facing players of similar length.

Now apply that to other players on the roster. Is Cannon long for a small forward at 6-5? Is Elleby long for a forward at 6-6? Is Wade long for a power forward at 6-7? Is Pollard long for a power forward at 6-9? To that end, you could make a strong argument that WSU will actually be undersized(!) at many positions when these guys are on the floor, presuming Kent deploys them conventionally, as he has typically done throughout his tenure.

But thats the one caveat: If Kent chooses to deploy his talent in unconventional ways, some of that length could come to bear. For example, if Cannon or Skaggs or Elleby plays the 2 and Franks plays the 3, WSU might be able to do some things with length.

But the fact remains, WSU does not have anyone tall who can handle the ball, so youre stuck with a short point guard no matter what, and anyone who replaces Franks at the 4 is going to be similarly sized — unless its Wade, then youre actually sacrificing size. And when Cooper — the only player on the roster taller than 6-9 — leaves the floor, who guards the post? Franks or Chidom, both of whom is smaller than most 5s?

In terms of actual length relative to position, about the only guy on the roster who could be considered unusually long is Kunc, a true freshman. If Kent plays Chidom, Franks and Kunc together, that could make for some interesting moments of zone defense. However, most of the potential creative configurations will require a sacrifice of shooters, something Kent has proven loathe to do.

And as far as athleticism … were supposed to believe Robinson or Ali are big athletic upgrades over Flynn? Or that Wade is a big athletic upgrade over Drick Bernstine? Or that Skaggs is suddenly jumping out of the gym? The highlights Ive seen of Elleby and Kunc tell me theyre athletic enough, but not athletic in the Arizona/UCLA/Oregon/UCLA/Washington sense. Cannons the one new guy who looks to have some bona fide athleticism, but thats about where the list ends for me.

Let me start here: This is not a rant against the players themselves. Im sure theyre all fine, upstanding young men, and Im absolutely thrilled for them — legitimately thrilled, no sarcasm whatsoever — that they got to realize their dream of obtaining a college basketball scholarship. Its a fantastic accomplishment.

But when it comes to Kents strategy, I promise you: You will not find another high major program in the country that has built a successful program by primarily recruiting jucos. The proportion of jucos on this roster is the sort of thing you generally find at low majors. I cannot find any hard data to this end, but you can pick whatever high major roster you want, and you wont find six jucos.

Maybe one could argue this is a good strategy if the level of juco player was exceptionally high. Thats … not what weve got here. Kent says, Lets bring in a JC player that has good stats, thats led his team, thats one of the better players in the country, and work with them for two years.

If you look at their stats, they look OK — each guy averaged double digits while posting at least respectable secondary stats in assists or rebounds. But juco stats arent always good indicators of high major potential. Is Ali — who was a 2nd team NJCAA all-American — going to be able to produce at 5-11 when hes facing Washingtons matchup zone with only one dude shorter than 6-4? Is Cannon, who shot 29 percent on just 65 threes in junior college, going to be able to score without the threat of the 3 ball? Can Wade still pull down a bunch of rebounds at 6-7 and 215 when hes battling players who are much larger?

Additionally, you just cant make the argument that any of these guys are one of the better players in the country. Only Ali appears on this list of top 100 2018 jucos, and hes No. 55. None of them appear here.

Then, theres this was this little nugget in the quote above: Kent says hes bringing in jucos as a direct response to TRANSFER EPIDEMIC thats plaguing college basketball.

Lets bring in a JC player that has good stats, thats led his team, thats one of the better players in the country, and work with them for two years. Theres no more transferring there. Were not the only ones who are doing this, but with the transferring that takes place, its knocked us out of whack a little bit.

Huh. Its like Kent wants you to forget that among his (astounding) 12 transfers in four years, nearly half — five! — were junior college players!

Independent of these things, could WSU actually be better this year? I suppose its possible, but that says much more about the baseline than anything else — Kents teams have finished 186th, 186th, 193rd and 186th in the kenpom.com rankings since coming to WSU. Theyve won seven Pac-12 games in the last three years.

I know we all want to believe the things Kent says. That would mean the team isnt terrible and maybe fun to watch.


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