PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University men’s basketball rising-seniors Conor Clifford, Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu have withdrawn their names from the NBA Draft and will return for their senior seasons, they each announced Tuesday.
“I’m happy that Josh, Ike and Conor all had the opportunity to explore the NBA and the draft process,” WSU head coach Ernie Kent said. “I think it’s going to not only give them, but also their teammate, Charles Callison, an excellent feel for what they need to do during the off-season and this upcoming basketball season, that’ll put them in the best position to play at the next level.”
The trio declared for the draft in early April, but didn’t hire agents. Men’s basketball student-athletes are afforded the opportunity to put their name into the draft process, but maintain their collegiate eligibility as long as they don’t hire an agent. The NBA Draft Combine ran May 11-15, and players who did not hire agents have 10 days following the combine’s conclusion to make a final decision to return to school or remain in the draft.
Hawkinson, a 6-foot-10, forward, led the team in scoring and rebounding, while leading the Pac-12 and ranking 11th in the nation with 11.1 rebounds per game in 2015-16. His 9.5 defensive rebounds per game and 20 double-doubles each led the conference, ranking second in the league and 12th in the nation, respectively. In the middle of the season, the Shoreline, Wash.-native set a WSU record with 11-consecutive games with a double-doubles, while he ranks eighth in WSU history for career rebounds with 700 following his junior year and is on pace to finish with a school-record 1,037 rebounds. Hawkinson holds the school single-season record with 334 rebounds set as a sophomore and the third-spot on WSU’s single-season list with 321 rebounds as a junior, as well as the school record for single-season double-doubles with 20 done both as a sophomore and junior.
From his freshman (2013-14) to sophomore years (2014-15), Hawkinson statistically had the second-best scoring improvement in the nation with 13.5 more points his second season than his first He also had the biggest rebounding improvement with 9.2 more rebounds as a sophomore than as a freshman. He was named Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year in 2014-15 and All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. Hawkinson is also a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic Honoree, was a 2015-16 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team honoree.
A native of Sacramento, Calif., Iroegbu was the only Cougar to start all 31 games in 2015-16 and has started 61 of WSU’s 62 games over the last two seasons. The 6-foot-2 guard led WSU and ranked 11th in the Pac-12 and 225th in the nation with 3.6 assists per game as a junior in 2015-16. He had five 20-plus point scoring efforts that season and has seven over his career, including a career-high 28 points in WSU’s overtime loss to Washington, Jan. 9, 2016. Iroegbu’s had two-career double-doubles, including one as a junior with 17 points and 11 assists against New Mexico at the Diamond Head Classic, Dec. 25.
Iroegbu is tied for 13th in WSU’s career record books for assists with 263 and is on pace to finish his Cougar career in the top-10 for total assists. He’s also tied for 18th on WSU’s career list for assists average at 2.83 assists per game. He had the ninth-most assists by a junior in WSU history and the sixth-most by a sophomore in Cougar history in 2014-15.
In just one season with the Cougars, Clifford averaged 6.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, while shooting at a .640 (89-for-139) Clip. Clifford’s field goal percentage ranks second all-time in WSU’s single-season record books. The 7-foot center also shot .825 (33-for-40) from the free throw line.
With Clifford, Hawkinson and Iroegbu returning, WSU returns seven letterwinners and three starters from last season’s team, including four of its top five scorers from 2015-16, bringing back 67 percent of its scoring and 68 percent of its assists.