PULLMAN – After mulling a transfer from Washington State, Jeff Pollard will return to the Cougars for his senior season, the forward announced on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
Pollard placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal, giving him the ability to contact other schools, not long after the Cougars fired Ernie Kent, the coach who’d initially recruited him out of Bountiful, Utah, and given him his only major offer five years earlier.
But Kyle Smith made a strong – and ultimately successful – recruiting pitch to bring Pollard back to Pullman when the new WSU coach was formally announced at a press conference last Monday.
“I’m too much of a Coug to be anywhere else,” Pollard wrote on Twitter.
Smith singled out the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward, telling a crowd of school officials, media members and fans that Pollard was on his second official visit in Pullman and that he’d “try to reel him back in.”
The coach added, “You are a Coug, so we want you back. I’ll go biblical and the story of the prodigal son, man, in open arms you come back. We’re all hugs, we’re all love. So I’d love to have him and I think we will.”
Pollard has averaged 3.5 points and 2.1 rebounds over his career at WSU, but he’ll return as the most experienced player on Smith’s roster next season, with 80 career games played and 28 starts. His junior season was truncated because of a concussion, but Pollard still played in 29 games – starting in 23 – and had career-high scoring (4.8 ppg) and rebounding (2.6 rpg) averages.
In a long message addressed to “Coug Nation,” Pollard explained the rational for dipping his feet into the transfer pool.
“I started this process as a contingency plan when Coach Kent and his staff were let go,” Pollard wrote. “… With their departure I needed to be prepared to make a decision that would be best for me on an athletic, personal educational level, no matter how hard that decision would be.”
A defensive anchor known for his grit and hustle, Pollard was often labeled by Kent as WSU’s “glue guy” and the Cougars pointed to his play and leadership as one reason they notched a road sweep of the Arizona schools last season.
On paper, Pollard’s playing style figures to be a good match for Smith’s system, which focuses heavily on defense and rebounding, whereas Kent’s was largely predicated on transition offense and 3-point shooting.
“In the short time that I’ve known Coach Smith, I’ve been very impressed with him and his vision for this program,” Pollard wrote. “… I am looking forward to having senior night in Beasley Coliseum and leaving my legacy with this program and this school.”
Pollard has twice been named to the All-Pac-12 All-Academic first team and carried a 3.73 GPA as a junior while majoring in business with an emphasis on management/operations. He’ll begin pursuing an MBA during his final season of eligibility at WSU.
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