Renard Suggs, Derrien King, Robert Franks and Jeff Pollard each sent in letters of intent today to become the first (only?) four members of WSU basketball coach Ernie Kent's 2015 recruiting class.
Suggs and King are junior college guards, while Franks and Pollard are high school forwards. Suggs, King and Franks each are rated three stars by Rivals.com, but none of them appeared to draw any major college interest outside of Washington State.
Of the four, only the 6-foot-3 Suggs -- a reportedly excellent shooter who will come in as a junior from Gillette College in Wyoming* -- would qualify as something of a finished product. The rest are projects in one way or another.
*The school that gave us the gift that was James Hunter!
King probably is the most intriguing prospect in the group. He's a 6-foot-8 shooting guard who will have three years of eligibility after spending a year at a prep school; he is just now starting his first year at a junior college, and apparently is a full qualifier. He had concrete offers from some notable midmajors (Nevada, UTEP, Utah State) and there were some bigger programs sniffing around. Kent decided to lock him in before he could show what he could do at Santa Monica College.
"Derrien King is a terrific shooter from deep range. He has an excellent mid-range game and is very athletic," Kent said via a news release from the WSU athletic department. "He will need to put some weight on, very similar to Dex (Dexter Kernich-Drew) when he came in the door. He's a little bit taller, a little bit more athletic, has a little more offensive fire power and a really high basketball IQ."
There were three clear themes throughout the class, according to Kent: Players with high basketball IQ and length who can play multiple positions.
"Derrien and Renard Suggs both have the ability to play the 1, the 2, the 3 and in Derrien's case, the 4, because of his size," Kent said in his signing day news conference. "So again, their skillsets give them the ability to play multiple positions as well as Franks - he can play multiple positions. Franks could play actually the 3 with that kind of size.
"When you have guys that are not limited to just one position and they have a willingness to play multiple positions --because the more positions (you play), the more minutes you play -- the more versatile (a team is), the more you can score, the more problems you cause defensive teams against you. Ao that was a focal point, too, along with length, was that skillset. That ability to play multiple positions.
"In Derrien's case it depends on matchups. He could be the guy bringing the ball down the floor or it could be Suggs, or it could be Ike (Iroegbu), it just depends on who you're playing, and how you're playing and who rebounds the ball."
Franks comes from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash. At 6-foot-7 and 200ish pounds, he actually projects as an interior player who has the ability to face up -- he actually compares to Junior Longrus, stylistically, with perhaps better on-ball skills.
"Robert Franks is a skilled four-man that is strong," Kent said via the release. "He can score inside, outside, and is a very good passer. He has a tremendous feel for the game. He would be a tough matchup for people to have to guard because of his ability to put it on the floor almost with point guard skills with that kind of size, and his ability to score inside and outside."
Although the 6-foot-9 Pollard signed a letter of intent, he's actually planning to head to a prep school to continue to work on developing his game. It's a development that surfaced in the last day or two, explaining what looked like Kent oversigning to the class.
"Jeff Pollard comes from a basketball family and has great size," Kent said via the release. "He will be attending a prep school for a year, which we will continue to monitor. I see his role being as a skilled big guy that can score with his back to the basket and has a good face-up game too. He has tremendous leadership skills."
If Pollard does head to the prep school, the national letter of intent is no longer binding, meaning that if Pollard doesn't develop as expected, Kent can quietly part ways with the prospect. However, Kent's certainly not tipping his hand, as he didn't even rule out the possibility that Pollard could end up enrolling in the fall if he demonstrates sufficient progress during his senior year, as it's clear WSU still needs immediate help in the frontcourt.
"(Adding height) was definitely intentional. I feel like we need to be, for where we want to get to, we needed more length and size on this team," Kent said in his news conference. "Because our sights are set on the best teams in this conference - that's the Arizonas. And eventually you'd like to get your program to that ability and you look at their size, you look at their length, you look at the better teams in the country. It was length and it was skillset we were really looking for, the ability to score."
As for whether Kent would still add to this class? All of the scholarships currently are spoken for, but departures always are a possibility.
"You never, ever stop recruiting in this day and age," Kent said. "When you look at the numbers of three years ago - 400 transfers in Division I. Two years ago there were 500, last year there were 600. That's like 1.8 per program this year that are going to transfer out or leave early. You never know who's going to develop in this program. There's a body or two in this program that if they have a monster season they could look at going out.
"So you have to continue to recruit and you do that to protect your program. You have to have irons in the fire, you've got to keep your doors open, you have to keep contact with people because you never know what's going to happen, particularly in this day and age."
With that, here's a look at how the next few classes are shaping up after today's signings.