Ernie Kent put one of those recently vacated scholarships quickly to use when 6-foot-2 guard Viont'e Daniels from Federal Way, Washington, announced on Wednesday that he was committing to WSU.
Daniels is the newly crowned 4A state player of the year by both the Associated Press and The (Tacoma) News Tribune who led his team to a state championship just a few weeks ago. Daniels, rated three stars by Rivals but unrated by Scout and 247sports. ESPN rates him two stars, seemingly based on an evaluation from last summer. He reportedly chose WSU over Saint Mary's and Portland State.
"First of all, the coaching staff is fantastic," Daniels told The Seattle Times. "Coach (Ernie) Kent, he's been known to turn around programs, as far as Saint Mary's and Oregon. I like their style of play, and plus, I'm home. My parents and my family, they will be able to see me play. It was a good fit all around."
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It's tough to know exactly what WSU is getting in Daniels, as there doesn't seem to be much in the way of publicly available video on him. I didn't see him play in person this past season, either, as Federal Way is no longer in my school's league. I did, however, see him play twice in the 2014 season. And I'll be honest: I have no recollection of him. That's probably partly because FW steamrolled us twice, but consider: Daniels was only a second-team all-league selection after his junior season. Also for what it's worth, it's tough to get noticed in FW's system, since so many of the Eagles' points come via turnovers and fast breaks.
That likely explains Daniels' light recruitment; he apparently had offers from Idaho and Northern Colorado that were eventually pulled before Daniels' monster senior season when the teams landed guys they liked better. That's the weird reality of college recruiting: If you haven't made a name for yourself by your junior year, it's awfully tough to get noticed, considering the early signing period is before most guys' senior seasons even begin.
So, I guess I would put it this way: Daniels didn't have the athleticism or skills to stand out to scouts who saw him even in light duty, so your expectations for his potential should be set accordingly. But there's also no reason to think this is a bad pickup and that he can't be a nice contributor for WSU.
You can learn more about Daniels in the News Tribune video at the top of the page (warning: the voices are a lot softer than the basketball clips), and you can catch some of him below, where he dropped 27 on Union High School in the state semifinals. He's No. 24:
While I wouldn't try to cobble together a comprehensive evaluation based on that, I think we can conclude that Daniels appears to have more Pac-12-ready tools than the two guards who depart this offseason (Trevor Dunbar and Jackie Davis Jr.). He's looks athletic enough to get his own shot and tall enough to guard most Pac-12 point guards. He's also coming into a situation where he likely won't be counted on to make a heavy contribution immediately, if at all, given that Ike Iroegbu and Ny Redding will continue to man the point.
Additionally, if you like fun coincidences, the Cougars' last 4A state player of the year worked out OK for WSU.
Daniels' commitment brings the Cougars' current recruiting class to four (or five - more on that in a minute).
So, the question remains: Do the Cougars have one or two scholarships remaining in this class? We've put Jeff Pollard in the 2016 class, because it was said by Kent when Pollard signed that the plan was for Pollard to delay his enrollment to attend a prep school. However, Kent left open the possibility that Pollard could play his way into the 2015 class.
Here's what we think we know: There have been no indications that Pollard had an enormous senior season, Kent appears to have thrown out a slew of junior college offers, and WSU just gave one of their n scholarships to a kid who appears he's going to need a little seasoning. Those three things don't really reconcile with the idea that Pollard is coming and the Cougars have just one scholarship left to offer.
However, something to consider. There have been rumblings from time to time that Robert Franks out of Evergreen High School -- perhaps the most gifted player in the class -- might not qualify. So maybe Pollard's coming and Kent's still trying to land a pair of jucos to infuse some immediate contributors?
If you're looking at the potential size of that 2016-17 senior class with the addition of a couple of jucos and it stresses you out a little bit, I guess I would just say ... don't get stressed? As you can see, these things usually work themselves out.