Tanner Lancona, a 6-9 forward from California who had signed with WSU in the early signing period back in mid-November, announced on Thursday that he and WSU were parting ways.
Per mutual agreement I have de committed from WSU today and am pursuing other offers as of today.Sorry to all my WSU supporters.— tanner lancona (@tjlancona) April 11, 2013
When junior college point guard Danny Lawhorn announced he had committed to WSU a couple of weeks ago, it created a problem: The Cougars had one too many players scheduled to be on scholarship next season. Someone had to go, and it appears that someone is Lancona.
But don't fool yourself for a minute into believing this was "per mutual agreement." That's just Lancona being classy. Here's a tweet from Lancona 10 days ago:
All you need to do is look up and down Lancona's timeline to see how excited he was to be coming to WSU. He did not choose to "decommit" from WSU -- even Scout.com's Evan Daniels said over at the Cougfan premium boards that he was hearing Lancona's offer was pulled.
If true -- and all the available evidence suggests that it is -- this entire situation stinks to high heaven.
Here you've got a kid who committed to you back in October and signed a letter of intent two weeks later. Of course, this stopped his recruitment, because once a player signs a letter, he's off limits to other teams because that letter is supposed to guarantee the player some measure of security: A signature for a guaranteed year on athletic scholarship.
This probably is the point where you're wondering how, if he signed a letter of intent, WSU can "pull" his offer. Glad you asked! The conversation with Lancona probably went something like this:
"Hey Tanner! Coach Johnson/Allen/Lopes here. Listen, we're still super happy to have you at WSU, but you probably should know that if you come, we really see you as being so buried on the depth chart, you won't play at all for at least the first two years - maybe three. But like we said, you know, if you still want to come, we understand. But ... if you'd like out of your letter, we can arrange that, too."
And if WSU really wanted to drive the point home, they could let him know that he'd be in Pullman on a one-year tryout and likely to lose his scholarship at the end of the year as the staff looks to upgrade the position.
So, imagine you're Lancona. What do you do? Tell them to screw off, head to a school where you know you're not wanted by the staff, and take your chances? And if/when you don't get into a game, you then waste a year of eligibility transferring? Or do you just bow out gracefully and explore your options, even though they've been greatly reduced? Lancona chose the latter (wiser) option.
I know this sort of scholarship juggling is common around the country. But when the power balance is so heavily tilted to one side, you have to acknowledge just how unseemly this is. Lancona's now suddenly looking for a place to land. Maybe the coaches told him that his scholarship was tenuous all along, and his loud-and-proud enthusiasm for being a Coug makes him the most tone-deaf kid ever. My guess is he's just a kid who truly believed he was coming to WSU and excited about it.
Beyond the ethical concerns, there are actual, you know, basketball ramifications for this decision. Lancona, a 6-9/225 stretch 4, is rated three stars by both Scout and ESPN, which generated this scouting report in December:
Lancona has a high-major frame with great length and extremely long arms. The lanky left-hander is a fluid athlete who runs well in transition. The most impressive aspect of his game is his shooting ability. He has a prolific stroke out to 22-feet and his release is ultra-smooth. He is a gifted passer off the dribble and generally displays a good feel for the game.
His weakness? He's not always engaged enough at both ends of the floor.
Just so we're clear: Ken Bone sent a signed, sealed and nearly delivered 6-9 freshman with good physical tools -- who needs to learn to mix it up a little more -- packing. He chose this option over letting go of, say, a noted garbage time layup-and-dunk misser who played 32 minutes this past season.
Unlike that guy, Lancona is a guy who I really think can actually play -- if not right away (most guys don't play much right away), then down the road. And if there's anything we've learned at WSU over the years, it's the value of bringing in big men to the program and developing them. It's what all but the elite programs have to do.
Ken Bone, though, has chosen to let other people gobble up the big men, (attempt to) develop them, and then take them on as sophomores or juniors. As the roster stands, WSU will have four players 6-9 or taller on the team in the fall -- D.J. Shelton (transfer, senior), Jordan Railey (transfer, RS-junior), James Hunter (transfer, junior) and Josh Hawkinson (freshman). WSU is now in a position where it's going to be taking on more junior college big men in a year. You can count on it.
This whole situation is just maddening to me. As I said on Twitter (and you can find more rant-ish thoughts there, if you're curious), whatever shred of faith I had left in Ken Bone in the deep recesses of my soul is gone now. That might seem like an overreaction, but I've simply had it with Bone's broken processes. Is Tanner Lancona destined to develop into a star? Probably not. But I'm confident he'll be a useful piece for someone. Can't say the same for a few guys on WSU's roster right now.
Maybe there's a chance Lancona is just another David Chadwick. But I have to be honest. I'm really hoping Lancona lands on his feet at a Pac-12 school, is awesome, and destroys WSU every time he plays the Cougars.
What do you think? Fair or foul?