Thursday marked a sign that college basketball is right around the corner as coaches and a player from each team in the Pac-12 gathered in the Bay Area for interviews and photo shoots. Head Coach Ernie Kent took along Junior Forward and reigning Pac-12 Most Improved Player Josh Hawkinson.
Before interviews got under way though, the Pac-12 media poll was released, and it doesn't appear that the voting members think much of the Washington schools. WSU and UW were voted to be the 12th and 11th best teams in the conference.
While being picked last doesn't look great right now, it's not too surprising, and it shouldn't dampen expectations too much for this team. Last season the Cougs finished tied for 7th with a record of 7-11 in conference play. That combined with losing arguably, their best player in DaVonte Lacy and not bringing in any highly recruited freshman like a lot of other teams in the Pac-12, makes it understandable that the media would underrate this team.
On paper it may look like this team will decline this season, but if you listen to what Kent said Thursday and at WSU's own media day event last month, he doesn't seem to think that way.
"As I looked at that, I have the best group of big guys that I've ever coached, since I've been in coaching, in terms of their ability to get things done," Kent said Thursday. "Josh being the anchor of all of that. But I've got two seven-footers that are pretty big basketball players that are going to help us."
To say this is his best of big men ever, means something with a veteran coach like Kent. Even if his best Oregon teams were led by excellent guard play. You don't make it to four NCAA tournaments and go to an Elite Eight without some good big men. Hawkinson being paired with the highly athletic Valentine Izundu should be lots of fun on both ends of the court this season.
Similar to the earlier media event, Kent couldn't stop talking about the chemistry of this group.
"With the type of character I've seen on this team and how hard this team has worked in the weight room this summer and they've done everything you've asked them to do," Kent said. "Their chemistry is really good right now, though they're going to go through growing pains."
Hawkinson broke through last season after a quiet freshman year and averaged 14.7 points and 10.8 rebounds a game. He said he's not going to change up the way he thinks about the game just because he's a more known commodity.
"This team has a lot more depth, so I know there's going to be a lot more guys behind you that can back me up and have the same type of production," Hawkinson said. "So I'm not worried about trying to increase what I'm doing or do too much. I'm just trying to stay even keel and continue on what I've done from last year."
Last year's conference champs, Arizona, was predicted to win the league again. Cal, who tied with WSU in the conference standings last season, was picked to finish second after bringing in two five star prospects in their 2015 recruiting class. You can find the rest of the rankings here.
An early look at the Cougs can be seen before the football game Saturday, as they will be conducting a 30 minute open practice at 11:30 am in Hollingberry Fieldhouse. They will be signing autographs after the practice.
Ernie Kent and Josh Hawkinson | The Spokesman-Review
The transcription of Ernie Kent and Josh Hawkinson's Pac-12 Media Day remarks.
Cougars picked last in Pac-12 basketball poll - Spokesman.com - Oct. 15, 2015
The Pac-12 held its debutante ball, er, Media Day on Thursday in San Francisco and while each head coach brought along a veteran player to represent the program, freshmen were the precocious focus.
Oregon St poses an opportunity for more big passing numbers by WSU - WSU Cougars | 710 ESPN Seattle
Oregon State allowed 644 yards last week in a loss to Arizona, and when you look at the passing numbers from WSU quarterback Luke Falk, it should be another big day for the Cougar offense on Saturday.
WSU Cougars links: What to expect from WSU vs. Oregon State? | The Seattle Times
A closer look at Oregon State with OSU beat writer Danny Moran of The Oregonian.
WSU practice notes: Thursday Night Football | The Spokesman-Review
Deion Singleton, James Williams and Nnamdi Oguayo stood out during Washington State's weekly underclassmen scrimmage.
Men's Golf Travels to Florida - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
The Cougars will compete at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational.
Director of Athletics Bill Moos Podcast - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
During his latest podcast, conducted Thursday morning, Director of Athletics Bill Moos shares his memories of Homecoming weekend and also discusses a busy weekend of Cougar Athletics action.