Is becoming EWU South a path to success?

Depends on how you're measuring 'success.'

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Happy Monday! Let’s get your week started with some Coug news and analysis. It’s that slow time of year, but we’ve still got some stuff for you that will hopefully get you through to the weekend — before the weather gets nice here in western Washington.


In this newsletter

We’re going to need more than EWU transfers

The initial post-basketball season transfer portal window closed up shop on May 1, which means we have a tiny bit more clarity about next season’s men’s basketball roster under new coach David Riley.

Entering the portal shortly before it closed was — sigh — Jaylen Wells. He maintains he is focused on the draft as is merely seeking to keep his options open, which you can interpret however you like. Additionally, both Andrej Jakimovski and Kymany Houinsou found new homes in the last couple of weeks, with Jakimovski heading to Colorado (for what I’ve heard is a relatively modest amount of NIL) and Houinsou is off to Loyola Chicago.

With the additions of a trio of transfers and a couple of high schoolers, the roster currently looks like this:




G - Isaiah Watts

G/F - Jaylen Wells (draft/portal)

G - Myles Rice (Indiana)

C - Ethan Price (EWU)

G - Joseph Yesufu (portal)

F - Isaac Jones (graduation)

F - LeJuan Watts (EWU)

G/F - Spencer Mahoney (portal)

F - Andrej Jakimovski (Colorado)

C - Dane Erikstrup (EWU)

C - Rueben Chinyelu (Florida)

G - Kase Wynott (HS)

C - Oscar Cluff (South Dakota State)

G - Marcus Wilson (HS)

G - Jabe Mullins (Montana State)

G - Parker Gerrits (walk on?)

G - Dylan Darling (Idaho State)

G/F - Kymany Houinsou (Loyola Chicago)

This roster is projected by as 124th, but that’s a little silly — that’s with four players with college experience and the rest of the minutes being filled out by high school recruits and walk-ons. It won’t stay that way, obviously, as David Riley has either six or seven scholarships he’s going to need to hand out in one way or another (depending on the status of Parker Gerrits), either to players currently in the portal (COME ON HOME JAYLEN!!) or to recruits (presumably more transfers).

It’s mildly concerning at this point that WSU has only landed three transfers, all following Riley from EWU. It was never reasonable to expect the Cougs to be major players in the initial phase of player movement, given our dearth of NIL funds, but still, it’s been more quiet than I expected.

In terms of recruits WSU has been seriously connected with, we can start with two more Eagles: Casey Jones and Cedric Coward. If they both come — no guarantee, but it’s looking good for at least one of them — that would mean Eastern’s top five players all migrated south to Pullman.

Using’s RosterCast tool, that projects like this.2 There’s a key in the caption if you need it, but the bottom line is … well, at the bottom.

MINS = % of minutes played; ORTG = offensive rating, a measure of points produced per 100 possessions; USAGE = % of team possessions used a player with a shot/turnover while they’re on the floor; ADJ. OE/DE = adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency; RK = projected ranking based on projected efficiency margin.

Adding both Coward and Jones to the existing roster improves the projection from 124 to 81. That would be a good start, but still only takes you to 81, which isn’t a projection that gets you into the conversation for a return trip to the NCAA tournament. It’s worth noting that Kyle Smith’s teams often started with that kind of projection,1 but Smith’s teams also had a lot of opportunities to pick up the kinds of wins that earn you an at-large bid. You’re now going to have an uphill battle on that front by playing in the WCC, so you need a team that can beat Gonzaga.

The interesting thing here is that, individually, all these Eastern guys are actually quite good. When they announced their intentions to transfer, they all were connected with high-major programs, and they all would be really nice contributors to a high major. But when you put all of them back together on the same team, you’re looking at a group of guys who ranked 152 on kenpom and 167 on barttorvik. They’ll improve by virtue of experience, but if they were still in Cheney, we’d probably put the ceiling on improvement at around a ranking of 100.

Put simply, it’s really unlikely to be good enough to just add the guys from EWU without also adding even more impact players. Maybe that’s Jaylen Wells sticking around — simply adding him back in to a roster with Coward and Jones takes you up to a projection 42(!). However, I don’t think his return is likely, and it shows you the level of player you need to add to get where you want to be. It’s also possible to get there by adding multiple players who are a notch below Wells’ level, but, frankly, WSU hasn’t been connected with anyone like that.

NCAA tournaments have never been the expectation at WSU, but like anything you get a taste of, you want more. A roster that ranks in the 80s is a roster that likely finishes in the upper half of the WCC but outside the top tier. Some might consider being competitive in the WCC “successful,” but I’d sure like to be able to do better than that.

Around Coug world …

Football bolsters its depth

Speaking of transfers, football added a few at the conclusion of spring practices.

  • Jerrae Williams (DB, 5-10/200, from UNLV)

  • Ricky Johnson III (DB, 6-1/185, from UNLV)

  • Austin Lawrence (OL, 6-5/290, from Northern Colorado)

I love the way that head coach Jake Dickert continues to add useful bodies to the secondary, which lost so much after last season. Johnson (who I think has two years of eligibility?) looks to be the one most primed for immediate contribution, having played corner last season and racked up a team high in passes defensed. Dickert has had a lot of success with long, rangy corners like Johnson. You can check out a highlight video here.

Williams, meanwhile, seems to have been a nickel back-type for the Rebels last season. He started his career at Division II back in 2019 and had his 2023 season disrupted by a foot injury. He’ll likely be a nice rotational depth piece.

Lawrence adds to the depth on the offensive line, where it would be a bit of a surprise if he came in and started immediately. But he does have two years of eligibility.

Cougar Collective teases a big reveal

If you’ve been around social media at all, you’ve likely seen this:

May 10 is Friday, which (not coincidentally) is also the same date as the CougsFirst! trade show in Bellevue. There also have been other tweets that say “something’s brewing,” which isn’t leaving a lot to the imagination at this point!

Anyway, if you’re interested in the big reveal and you can get to Bellevue on a Friday because don’t have to work all day in the South Sound like I do, you can register (for free) for the trade show here.

If supporting the NIL with consumption is more your thing, you can head to noted Coug bar Marco Polo in the Georgetown District on Saturday:

Favorite things I read this week

Favorite thing I listened to this week

As a massive Pearl Jam fan, I’ve been super geeking out the last couple of weeks with the release of their 12th album, “Dark Matter.” This video cracked me up:

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1  They were ranked 84 by and 71 by before last season, for what it’s worth.

2  Kase Wynott isn’t in Bart’s system yet, but even if he gets in there, it probably won’t move the projection needle much — Wynott is an unrated recruit at 247, so he’d be treated more or less as a generic mid-major recruit, even though he’s clearly not after WSU beat out UW for his commitment.

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