Basketball treats fans to season opening exhibition


Redshirt junior guard Ike Iroegbu dribbles around a Stanford player during the game against the Cardinal in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 1, 2015.

Washington State senior forward Junior Longrus says this is the worst part of the season.

Putting in countless hours in the weight room, on the track, and scrimmaging against the same core of guys in practice for eight months with no official games can be tough for players.

Especially for the seven new athletes on the WSU men’s basketball team who have yet to experience playing in front of the Cougar fan base at Beasley Coliseum.

“I tell (the new guys), ‘Man there’s going to be some point in the season whether you hit a big shot, or get a big rebound, or you hit a big free throw, and you’re going to feel like those eight months of work (in the offseason) were all worth it,’” Longrus said. “For the vets it’s just a big thing to kind of keep reminding guys that there’s no greater feeling than going through the Pac-12 and having those big moments.”

The new players will finally get their chance to develop those moments as the WSU men’s basketball team will play its first exhibition game of the 2015 season tonight against Lewis-Clark State at 8 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum.

In these first three weeks of official practices, Head Coach Ernie Kent is pleased with what he’s seen from the group of new faces.

“I’ve been really impressed with how quick they’ve picked up our offense and picked up things,” Kent said. “So we continue to give them more and now we’re kind of in a fine-tuning stage.”

The second-year Cougar coach added that he plans to teach more to the new players before the team heads into conference play in January.

Besides Kent and his coaching staff, the six returning players from last year’s team have also been mentors to the first year Cougars.

“Sometimes the coaches just step out of the gym and some of the captains and the seniors will teach all the new guys some of the plays and how coach wants to defend and all that stuff,” WSU junior guard Ike Iroegbu said. “So by the time we come to practice he doesn’t really have to teach it that much.”

Iroegbu is entering his third year with the WSU program and believes this year’s team is more balanced in terms of scoring than the previous two years.

“It’s going to be harder for teams to guard us because in the past when we just had one dominant scorer, one person who wants to shoot all the shots, defenses could just double team him the whole time,” Iroegbu said. “Now if you double team one player we’re just going to kick it to another and he’s going to have a good game.”

With the departure of former guard DaVonté Lacy, WSU junior forward Josh Hawkinson returns as the leading scorer from last season – he averaged 14.7 points per game during the 204-15 campaign.

“We’ve got some really good guards that I’ve not noticed Josh as much in practice because the scoring is shared so much all over the floor,” Kent said. “But there are times that (Hawkinson) goes into that mode that he starts to dominate and he has the ability to do that as well.”

When asked what the starting lineup would look like for Friday’s game against Lewis-Clark State, Kent stated Iroegbu will likely start at the two guard spot, Hawkinson at the forward position, and the other three spots will be determined as the game approaches. However, the starting lineup can change throughout the season, Kent said, depending on the type of matchups the Cougars face on the court.

There will be no television broadcast for the Cougars’ exhibition against Lewis-Clark State today at 8 p.m.