Unofficial mayor of Pullman bids farewell

Pollard's hard work, personality, love for basketball made him popular among fans

Senior+forward+Jeff+Pollard+high-fives+teamates+as+he+returns+to+the+bench+during+the+game+against+OSU+Jan.+18+at+Beasley+Coliseum.

OLIVER MCKENNA

Senior forward Jeff Pollard high-fives teamates as he returns to the bench during the game against OSU Jan. 18 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen men's basketball reporter

Cougar veteran and local favorite senior forward Jeff Pollard finishes his fourth and final year at WSU in the end of the 2019-20 season.

Before WSU, Pollard went to high school in Bountiful, Utah. He achieved back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior at Bountiful High School. During his senior year, Pollard averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game and was named to the 4A All-State First Team.

After graduating in 2015, Pollard attended Impact Academy in Las Vegas to further develop his game. Once he received an offer to play for WSU and went on his official visit to Pullman, Pollard knew he felt right at home.

“Coming to Pullman, you feel that sense of community,” Pollard said. “For me I was like ‘Yeah, this is the one.’”

Pollard played in 24 games for WSU as a freshman and started in one game against Colorado in Feb. 2017. WSU finished that season at 13-18 overall and 6-12 in conference play while finishing ninth in the Pac-12.

 The following year he played in 27 games while starting in four and improved in most statistical categories. WSU won the Wooden Legacy tournament that year, while Pollard came off the bench and scored 16 points in the championship round against San Diego State.

Pollard said he will take this accomplishment with him as one of his most memorable moments as a Cougar.

After winning the tournament and starting the year 6-0, WSU fell dramatically for the remainder of the season and finished the year at 12-19 overall and 4-14 in conference play.

Pollard became a routine starter for WSU in his junior season as he started 23 of the 29 games he played. Despite making further improvements in his stats and partially incorporating a 3-point shot into his game, WSU finished the season 11-21 overall and 4-14 in conference play, which was the worst record in his time at WSU.

Pollard, frustrated with the lack of team success at WSU, entered the transfer portal that offseason in hopes of finishing his basketball career with a winning program.

At the same time, WSU made the decision to fire former head coach Ernie Kent and hire Kyle Smith as head coach.

I think he’s a throwback, but I think Washington State needs more throwbacks.

Head coach Kyle Smith

Smith said he sat down with Pollard and senior guard Jervae Robinson in the offseason and gave them the run down on how he would handle the team this upcoming season.

“I said ‘listen, I’m here for Washington State, you came here for Washington State. You want to be about Washington State? You’re in,’” Smith said to Pollard and Robinson.

Smith said he could tell that Pollard wanted to keep close to his home away from home. He wanted to keep Pollard’s experience at WSU to help bring in a new culture to WSU basketball, Smith said.

“He didn’t want to give up the equity he had put into Washington State,” Smith said. “He’s had a good experience despite not having the most success on the court.”

Pollard takes a deep sense of pride in being a Cougar and that is what ultimately influenced him to stay in Pullman for his senior year.

“Kind of in the back of my head I always wanted that storybook ending of finishing where I started,” Pollard said.

Up to this point in Pollard’s last season at WSU, he has started every game for the Cougars and averages 8.8 points per game, almost double his average from last season. Pollard has made more field goals, 3-pointers and free throws this year while making an improvement in total rebounds as well from previous years.

For the first time in his WSU career, Pollard led the Cougars in scoring at the end of a game with 16 points against Colorado State. Pollard never tallied double-digit rebounds at the end of a game once in his first three years. He has achieved double-digit rebounds three times so far this season.

Sophomore forward CJ Elleby said Pollard’s grit and determination toward basketball is always admirable for anyone even if his game is not the “flashiest.”

“Jeff is one of those guys who’s obviously not the most talented,” Elleby said. “But his work, his dedication, his discipline really puts him ahead of a lot of people in life.”

Elleby reflected upon a fun memory of Pollard when they sang together at the Pac-12 Media Day this past summer. Pollard’s fun presence off the court is one of his traits that Elleby said he would always remember from Pollard.

“He’s a really goofy guy. I like watching his Instagram posts,” Elleby said. “He hasn’t made one in a minute, but [he’s a] super funny guy when he makes those singing posts.”

With two remaining games left in conference play and at least one guaranteed first round visit in the Pac-12 tournament, Pollard will finish with at least 109 games played.

However, Pollard will not be able to catch the WSU all-time leader in games played as former Cougar guard Marcus Capers will still hold the record at 135 games.

Smith said he could not ask for a better attitude from Pollard, and he admires his four-year dedication as a student athlete.

“Someone that understands the four-year experience, and those are important especially in today’s culture of college basketball,” Smith said. “I think he’s a throwback, but I think Washington State needs more throwbacks.”

Elleby, who played two years with Pollard, said he will remember Pollard’s presence no matter where his basketball career takes him.

“He left Pullman in a better place than when he came,” Elleby said. “Just what he stands for and goes about his daily life, it’s rubbed off on me, and it will help me forever.”

Pollard said he hopes his playing days are not over yet. Whether that takes him overseas or someplace else, he wants to keep that dream alive.

He believes that he left a good amount of success behind him at WSU that will provide future Cougars a foundation to build off in the coming seasons.

“I love being a Coug, and I’m definitely going to be a Coug for life for sure after this,” Pollard said.