During his first two years at WSU, coach Ernie Kent is 22-40. The Cougars were 1-17 in the Pac-12 and 9-22 overall last season.

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Washington State coach Ernie Kent and senior forward Josh Hawkinson represented the Cougars at Thursday’s Pac-12 men’s basketball media day where WSU was picked last in the preseason media poll.

Here’s a transcript of their interview.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with Washington State coach Ernie Kent, and forward Josh Hawkinson. Coach, an opening remark about the season ahead?
ERNIE KENT: If there was ever a time that a team needed a summer tournament, it was us, an opportunity to go overseas. We went to Italy this summer and spent time in Rome and Florence and Pisa and Venice and also Lake Como. And outside of it being a wonderful cultural experience and bonding experience, the biggest thing I was looking for was to get our young players acclimated to playing basketball just at a different level. With the international rules abroad, it was a much more physical game, and I can’t even imagine starting the season with this many young players right now just in the last couple months, but having the opportunity to go overseas this summer was ver y, very valuable for us.
Q.:  Josh, I saw on your bio on the website your parents work for the company that run the Paradise Jam. You guys are going to be playing in that tournament this year. I was curious the involvement your parents had in bringing the Cougars to the Paradise Jam this year?
JOSH HAWKINSON: Yeah, actually, my dad was going on the company tour to Italy as well, so I got a chance
to be with them, my Cougar family and my actual family, when we were on the trip to Italy. Also going to the Virgin Islands with my dad’s company as well. It’s a place where I grew up going, and I used to be a ball boy. Ever since up until the 8th grade. So I’d go every year and they’d give me a break from school to go down there. I saw some really good players playing there. I remember specifically one time Hasheem Thabeet ran me over diving for a loose ball when I was six years old. So it’s going to be fun, all the memories of being there, and finally going back and getting to play in it.
Q. Josh, you guys are going to be incorporating a lot of new players this year. It looks like Malachi will probably start, and guys like Jeff and Langston will obviously play a lot. In the time you’ve been with those guys, how have they fit in with the group both culturally, and what have you seen from them on the court?
JOSH HAWKINSON: I think this trip from Italy has helped us out tremendously. It was almost a season in
itself where it gives us a chance for all our new guys to get acclimated in playing in a high-level competition.
Also seen a lot of really good things from our freshmen, especially Malachi and Jeff, they show me a lot of good things. Malachi and his high IQ, and Jeff, just how hard he works on both ends of the court.
Q. You’ve been at Pullman for a couple years now. How is the recruiting at Pullman going? I guess, what are the challenges, and have you made some strides in that area?
ERNIE KENT: The biggest challenges will be just the travel in and out. But once we get players to our campus, and I’ve probably heard this from 90% of the recruits coming in, either from a parent or an individual, they’ve all said the same thing: We didn’t know you had all this up here. So the challenge is to get them there, but once they’re there, Pullman, Washington State really sells itself. And we’ve got some very, very good players coming in with this class right now. Already some early commitments. Obviously I can’t talk about. But I think, again, needing to recruit the state is important. But at the same time, we feel like we have a lot to sell with those players coming out of state who don’t know a lot about Washington State.
Q. Maybe for both of you, with some of the rule changes in recent seasons to make the game a little more exciting offensively, what is your take on how those have worked?
ERNIE KENT: I think from a coaching perspective, the more freedom of movement that they allow in basketball, the more hand’s off, the more cleaning up post play is better for college basketball and certainly better for the way we want to play up and down the floor. So the rules that have taken place over the last couple
years have all benefited the game. I think the points per game are up 6 points now. They may have a few more fouls being called. But, overall, it’s made our game better, and we need to continue to head in that direction to create as much, what I would call, freedom of movement, getting away from the tug-of-war-type basketball that’s taken place in the past, particularly in the post.
JOSH HAWKINSON: I would agree. I think it also makes it a little bit harder to play defense. So defensive players, strong defensive players are at a premium, and a lockdown defender just makes it a little bit harder. But I also enjoy it with Coach Kent’s offense, the higher scoring as well.
Q. For Coach and Josh, I was wondering on that overseas tour this summer if there was kind of one moment or a couple moments that rallied the team together that served as a good bonding moment for you guys?
ERNIE KENT: On the floor, I think it was in Game 2, we had a really physical basketball team that we played in Pisa that really put us back on our heels early on in the game. It really cost this team to come together particularly defensively, and there was a particular possession on the floor where we trapped a ball down in the low block that really rallied this team. From that point on, I thought we got a lot tougher mentally and physically. Off the floor, it was having an opportunity to go to one of the army bases over there and serve the troops and meeting people from Pullman, from Seattle, from throughout the state of Washington, from Eugene that were actually there on the base, and see how thrilled they were to have us there. But at the same time, how
thrilled we were to be there and be a part of that and serve them. It really made you proud to understand what a great country we have when you can be in an environment like that and see those troops afar like that, men and women who protect us.
JOSH HAWKINSON: For me, I would agree. Just transitioning to see the style of play where everyone can shoot the ball, everyone can score and help us out. We really had to defend one through five, and everyone
was a viable shooter from the outside, so that really helped us for our season. And what Coach was saying, I think the army base was also one of the key moments for us. Just saying it’s not all about us, and like you said, we got to serve some of the troops and just kind of give back.
Q. Josh, you were able to follow up a breakout season in many ways an equally impressive season last year. What have you and Coach kind of talked about what is your next step for this season?

JOSH HAWKINSON: Me and Coach talk a lot about my stamina, my endurance, always working hard on both ends of the court, especially on the defensive end. He said I’ve got to continue to be a force offensively, but

then transition that to getting stops on the offensive end. Because if you’re not getting stops and scoring buckets, then it’s going to give me a tie game. So you always want to push to lock down your defender on the defensive end.
ERNIE KENT: If I could add to that, he may need to score a little less for us to gain a little more. Because Malachi Flynn is a really good point guard, along the caliber of Luke Ridnour, Aaron Brooks, and he has to obviously achieve that kind of success. But coming in the door, he’s every bit as good as them. He makes the game so much easier for everybody else. Ike Iroegbu is an outstanding point guard, but we need him to score more. We need Josh to hold up his numbers and everything. But both of those guys need help. We feel like we have help in our program right now where guys can score the ball a lot more than we’ve scored in the past two years.
Q. Ernie, you talk about going in and out of this year. Where do you feel this program is, and have you got your guys and your style in place at this point?
ERNIE KENT: You know, in year three of what you would call rebuilding a program is a really pivotal year.
Particularly with the group of seniors that we have. With Josh and Ike Iroegbu, and Conor Clifford, and Callison, that’s a really good group that should be able to lead this team, put up numbers. The success will depend upon, I think, just our mental approach, our confidence, and toughness in those areas. So the reason I feel good about this group is we have the opportunity to play overseas and have that miniature season. I can’t even imagine what it would be like sitting up here if we just started again two months ago with all those new guys. But they’ve had practices under the belt. They’ve competed now. They’ve gotten yelled at a little bit and responded well. We’ve continued to score the basketball overseas. We’ve scored it since we’ve come back. But I just feel really good that we have a chance now that we can move it. Move the needle, move the program, and start to do some things that in the first couple years even though we were competitive at times, you do feel like
you have a sense of playing your style of play now more so with your guys.