FROM PULLMAN -- The WSU men's basketball team hosted its on-campus media day Monday, and one might say that head coach Ernie Kent is excited for the basketball season to begin in earnest next week with the start of practices. Kent could not stop from gushing about his team, and his attitude is rubbing off on his players, too.
Kent led off the media day with his first press conference of the season. He raved about every aspect of his team's offseason -- the incoming players adapting well to the system, the improvement of guard Ike Iroegbu, various players going to Ohio for a leadership conference this summer.
Kent raises no questions about this team skill or ability. He couldn't stop talking about how this year the team will be big, fast and strong. The addition of freshman Robert Franks, junior college transfer Conor Clifford, and transfer Valentine Izundu (who had to sit out last season) adds a lot of height and muscle to the team's front court. Kent also praised Clifford and Franks for getting to WSU and working hard to get into shape quickly.
Kent believes that this team has the makings to be special, and that to put it all together they just need to be confident.
"It's all about confidence right now," Kent said. " we have the size, the depth, the talent."
In order to help instill some of that confidence, three of the teams leaders -- Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu, and Junior Longrus -- attended a leadership conference over the summer.
"I learned a lot (at the conference), how to deal with certain situations, good and bad," Iroegbu said. "How to lead guys, what to do in certain situations, say you guys took a bad loss, how to bounce back and bring everyone together."
Both Iroegbu and Hawkinson mentioned that while they learned a lot from the conference, coach Kent's enthusiasm inspires confidence in them and the rest of the team.
Kent loved that a few of his team's leaders went to the conference and that it was already paying dividends.
"They are the veterans, they are the leaders of this basketball team," Kent said. "And I think they learned some valuable tools going away that they've already implemented that's allowed us to be a closer-knit group."
Those three weren't the only three to travel this offseason, as Izundu traveled to China with Athletes in Action this summer. Izundu got to play in his first live games in over a year.
Izundu also raised some eyebrows at media day when Kent spoke of the big man's athleticism. When testing his standing jump reach, WSU's marker was not high enough to measure his until they put weights underneath the it to raise it up. When I spoke to Izundu he said he has a 40 inch vertical leap, which paired with his 6-foot-10 frame should make for some fun above the rim.
Kent said his team is ready to fight this season when asked about their energy this year.
"Round 2: Ding ding, lets go, we're in a prize fight, we're in round two," Kent said.
He believes this team is really ready to compete this season, and the players do too. Basketball season can't come soon enough