PULLMAN – As a final result, it doesn’t a hold candle to Taylor Rochestie’s crosstown dagger over Arizona State in 2009. And no, it criminally won’t even check into the same weight class as Josh Hawkinson kissing the Cougar head logo at half court before his 79-71 besting of rival Washington in 2017.
An 85-77 loss at the hands of Oregon State smeared Robert Franks’ senior night which manifested itself in a career high 37 points on 8 three-pointers and a flawless 9-9 from the foul line.
“Normally on a senior’s last day at home, those performances can be huge,” Ernie Kent said. “He got into a rhythm and when he does that you just let him go. Take away the turnovers and to me he had a perfect game.”
Despite a 43-38 halftime advantage, WSU found ill-advised comfort in their old ways. Stagnant perimeter passing coupled with a 7 percent reduction in shooting percentage – 12 percent from downtown – diagnosed the closing minute’s free-throw contest with a case of too little too late.
But that’s just one game.
Franks was tough as boot in his 4-year Cougar career. He’s been referred to as Robo, Mr. Reliable, the Pac-12’s top scorer, an NBA talent, the Pac-12 most improved player of the year, and – for the foreseeable future – irreplaceable.
The in-state product balled at Evergreen High School before donning crimson and grey threads. And upon coming to Pullman, the 6-foot-7 Vancouver native made in immediate impact making minutes in 23 games his freshman year. Flashes of brilliance at Arizona State (11 point on 8 shots) and Utah (10 points, 7-7 from the foul line) that season were accurate predictors of what was to come.
“To see him have a season like he had, he’s just one of those special players” Kent said. “He developed himself into that. He had the opportunity, the facilities, a stage, and he took full advantage.”
Since then, Franks has shown near linear improvement from season to season and been a cornerstone to any shred of Cougar success. But sadly, his tenure in Beasley may be compared to likes of a rocking chair – it was something to do, but it got you no where.
He never went to the dance, played in front of a packed Beasley, contended for a conference championship or even experienced a winning season. In any quantitative measurement, he – and his talent – was shorted.
He did anything and everything that was asked of him, and gave all he could offer to Washington State. The senior has grown into somewhat of a role model for kids in the community, and aware of his status, Franks stayed late after a Saturday’s heartbreaker to thank those in attendance and sign autographs for kids.
“It’s something I didn’t even think of going in as a freshman,” Franks said. “To know so many kids and parents look up to me, it means the world.”
But it almost wasn’t so. Franks initially declared for the NBA draft at the conclusion of his Junior season but withdrew for a final chapter on the Palouse despite the announced transfer of sidekick Malachi Flynn to SDSU.
But he didn’t just come back, he doubled down flipping the script 180 degrees. The 6-foot-7 forward didn’t make a single cent but played like he was offered millions leading the conference in points-per-game all season long. And in the era of transfer-prone basketball, the senior deserves major props for sticking it out at Wazzu amid some barren years.
“Coming in as an 18-year-old, I was kinda lost, out of shape, and not really focused. WSU treated me like a family ever since I stepped in the door, and they were patient with me,” Franks said.
One day we’ll all look back at No. 3 through a nostalgic lens. And for those who are yet to make heads or tails of his collegiate run, know his legacy will inevitably be written as one of the best to ever do it for the crimson and the grey.
“I just want them to remember me as a hardworking kid that gave everything to this program for four years,” Franks said. “It’s something that I won’t forget. I’m gonna be a Coug for life.”
Robert Franks and Co. contests for their first ever Pac-12 Tournament win in Kent’s tenure. The first round of the Pac-12 Tournament tips off Wednesday in Las Vegas.