Kent introduces new Cougs

Men’s basketball head coach breaks down freshmen, transfers who are new to court for WSU this season



Men’s basketball head coach Ernie Kent watches the game against Stanford from the side of the court on Jan. 11 at Beasley Coliseum. Kent invited members of the media, including the Evergreen, to join him for a film session Thursday morning in Smith Gym.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball program has a lot of new faces and Head Coach Ernie Kent sat down with the media Thursday morning to unveil his new cast for the 2018-19 season as well as break down some film of his team.

So far Kent is pleased with the additions he made to his team this offseason. They’re a lengthy group that know how to score, he said. The one big problem Kent acknowledges is the lack of experience. His challenge will be to bring the newbies up to speed in time for when they fly to Seattle on Jan. 5 to open up Pac-12 play against University of Washington.

“We aren’t focused on what we’ve lost, we’re focused on what we’ve gained,” Kent said. “We don’t need our new guys to be the nucleus — we already have that. We need our new guys to add to the nucleus that we already have.”

The Cougars bring in seven new student-athletes after a few key departures. Forward Drick Bernstein graduated last spring and point guards Malachi Flynn and Milan Acquaah left via transfer.

So without further ado, let’s meet the newcomers to the WSU hoops squad.

CJ Elleby: freshman small forward

Elleby is perhaps the most anticipated hooper of Kent’s 2018 recruiting class. He graduated from Cleveland High School in Seattle and adds to what might define this team in the upcoming season: length.

Standing at 6 feet 6 inches and 185 pounds, Elleby is a lengthy all-purpose guard who is just as capable of scoring as he is of defending.

The former runner-up Washington High School 3A Player of the Year is still figuring out how to find his shot at the Division I level, but he possesses the natural it-factor that you can’t necessarily coach, Kent said.

Aljaz “Jaz” Kunc: freshman small forward

Kunc is the second of two players Kent got out of high school and the Slovenian-born guard fits the lengthy mold the Cougars boast. Kunc has a 6-foot-8-inch frame and has begun adding weight — 17 pounds, to be exact — bringing him to 198 pounds.

Kent called the freshman “the most pleasant surprise so far” for his team because of Kunc’s high basketball IQ. Kunc has adapted to the Division I speed a hair quicker than Elleby, Kent said.

Who knows, if Kunc turns out to be what Kent thinks he can be, the Cougars might try their hand with foreign hoopers more often.

“The success of Jaz has people overseas looking at us,” Kent said.

Ahmed Ali: junior point guard 

Kent said Ali, a 5-foot-11-inch, 165-pound guard, has shown a lot of promise in taking over the backcourt. The Toronto native from Eastern Florida State College is a high-motor point guard who Kent described as the kind of guard who will be right in the opposing point guard’s face after he has scored a bucket.

If the Cougars want to overcome their inability to finish late in games, Ali will play a factor in that, Kent said. He added that his team needs a point guard who will make the right decisions late in games if they are to shake that bad habit.

Jervae Robinson: junior point guard

For now, Robinson will split time with Ali at the point guard position until one of them separates himself as the starter, Kent said. Kent has what he likes to call “Separation Saturdays” where the two point guards compete against each other to try and distance themselves from each other as well as promote some healthy competition.

The transfer from Otero Junior College has some tangible assets Ali lacks with first and foremost being size. Robinson, 6 feet 2 inches and 185 pounds, is a healthy 3 inches taller and has 20 pounds on Ali. Robinson can give the Cougars a little more flexibility on the defensive end because he is a bigger guard, Kent said. 

Isaiah Wade: junior forward

Wade, a junior college transfer from Iowa Western Community College, gives Kent a little more size in the paint. Like Kunc, Wade has added 18 pounds this offseason to handle bigger bodies in the paint. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches and 215 pounds, Wade’s frame resembles Bernstein but by trade is a more traditional undersized forward.

Kent labeled Wade as “the best rebounder on the team” and the in-house stats align with that praise.

Marvin Cannon: junior small forward

Cannon has Kent excited because of his ability to score and rebound. The 6-foot-5-inch, 170-pound transfer from Barton Community College led his team in scoring with 15.8 points a game and was tied for second in boards, reeling in 7.1 a game.

Like most of the new Cougars, Cannon adds length to a team that Kent sees as having a lot of interchangeable pieces.

James Streeter: junior, center

Streeter, 6 feet 10 inches and 270 pounds, adds some much-needed size to the Cougars. However, it is likely he will redshirt this season, Kent said. Streeter is down 20 pounds since he first arrived and is still getting used to the Division I speed.