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

Don’t look now, but WSU’s coach is saying ridiculous things again.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Ernie Kent is pretty bad at coaching basketball, but I’ll give him this: His propaganda game is always on point.

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

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

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 what’s 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 I’ve 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 I’m happy for. Our competitive energy, our toughness, and just our speed is a lot better than I’ve had before.

“Upper echelon”??

Yes, the Ministry of Information is in full swing. What follows is more than 1,500 words on all of Kent’s preseason baloney, and to be honest, it’s probably more attention than Ernie Kent deserves. But the blatant lying he does just drives me to a place where I can’t let it go — especially when the other media outlets who regularly cover the team refuse to critically push back on Kent’s perennially ridiculous — and blatantly self-serving — assertions. Somebody has to push back on it.

And I guess it’s me.

Talking Point No. 1: WSU is now “long and athletic”

From reporters to broadcasters, you’re 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:

June 5,

August 1,

September 28,

October 3,

October 4, Spokesman-Review beat writer Theo Lawson:

October 5, The Daily Evergreen:

October 9,

October 11, Pac-12 media day:

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.

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 WSU’s 12 scholarship players.

Here’s Kent’s reasoning:

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

“Let’s bring in a JC player that has good stats, that’s led his team, that’s one of the better players in the country, and work with them for two years. There’s no more transferring there. We’re not the only ones who are doing this, but with the transferring that takes place, it’s knocked us out of whack a little bit.”

This led Kent to say:

*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 he’d 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.

Thing is, neither of these talking points have much truth to them

I’m 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 we’ve come to expect under Kent.

Mythbusting “long and athletic”

Let’s tackle Talking Point No. 1. For reference, since you’re probably not very familiar with WSU’s roster, here’s the team’s positional breakdown with projected starters in bold — and for what it’s worth, these are the positional designations on WSU’s roster, not my own designations:

  • Point guard: Jervae Robinson (6-2/185), Ahmed Ali (5-11/165)
  • Guard: Viont’e Daniels (6-2/175), Carter Skaggs (6-5/215)
  • Small forward: Marvin Cannon (6-5/170), Aljaz Kunc (6-8/198)
  • Forward: Robert Franks (6-9/225), Davante Cooper (6-11/233), CJ Elleby (6-6/185), Jeff Pollard (6-9/240), Arinze Chidom (6-9/200)
  • Power forward: Isaiah Wade (6-7/215)
  • Center: James Streeter (6-10/270)

If you simply look at some of these players individually, yeah — it seems like there’s some length. But here’s the thing: You have to put it in the context of both the player’s 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, they’re undersized. Skaggs is 6-5, but he’s going to be playing the wing, where most of WSU’s 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 that’s 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 you’re stuck with a short point guard no matter what, and anyone who replaces Franks at the 4 is going to be similarly sized — unless it’s Wade, then you’re 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 ... we’re 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 I’ve seen of Elleby and Kunc tell me they’re athletic enough, but not “athletic” in the Arizona/UCLA/Oregon/UCLA/Washington sense. Cannon’s the one new guy who looks to have some bona fide athleticism, but that’s about where the list ends for me.

Mythbusting juco recruiting

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

But when it comes to Kent’s 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 won’t find six jucos.

Maybe one could argue this is a good strategy if the level of juco player was exceptionally high. That’s ... not what we’ve got here. Kent says, “Let’s bring in a JC player that has good stats, that’s led his team, that’s 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 aren’t 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 he’s facing Washington’s 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 he’s battling players who are much larger?

Additionally, you just can’t 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 he’s No. 55. None of them appear here.

Then, there’s this was this little nugget in the quote above: Kent says he’s bringing in jucos as a direct response to TRANSFER EPIDEMIC that’s plaguing college basketball.

“Let’s bring in a JC player that has good stats, that’s led his team, that’s one of the better players in the country, and work with them for two years. There’s no more transferring there. We’re not the only ones who are doing this, but with the transferring that takes place, it’s knocked us out of whack a little bit.”

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

Juco Recruiting Under Ernie Kent

Player Signed Status
Player Signed Status
Aaron Cheatum 2014 Transferred, March 2015
Renard Suggs 2015 Transferred, March 2016
Derrien King 2015 Transferred, December 2016
Conor Clifford 2015 Graduated, 2017
Charles Callison 2015 Graduated, 2017
KJ Langston 2016 Transferred, May 2018
Kwinton Hinson 2017 Transferred, June 2018
Davante Cooper 2017 On track to graduate
Carter Skaggs 2017 On track to graduate

Independent of these things, could WSU actually be better this year? I suppose it’s possible, but that says much more about the baseline than anything else — Kent’s teams have finished 186th, 186th, 193rd and 186th in the rankings since coming to WSU. They’ve 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 isn’t terrible and maybe fun to watch.

But you should know better by now. Ernie Kent is, and always has been, a snake oil salesman.