As Kyle Sherwood and I talked about the necessity of the basketball coaching change made by Bill Moos on Tuesday, one of the points that came up was how this would impact recruiting -- not so much for this 2014 class, but in the following year.
As you can see from the following chart, WSU is going to have a mess of scholarships to offer in 2015:
If Moos didn't make a change this year, but decided to next year, that would severely handicap the next coach in getting a reasonable recruiting class signed -- consider that he'd likely be walking into a situation where he either had a bunch of players signed in the early period that he might not want, or not have anyone signed at all and be fighting for leftovers.
'Neither of those scenarios are good for a new coach. So it made sense to make the change now and give the new coach as much time as possible to establish relationships in advance of that monster class.
But for now, we turn our eyes to more pressing matters: The two players signed for this 2014 class and the as-yet unused scholarship.
The jewel of the class is 6-foot-1 point guard Tramaine Isabell out of Seattle's Garfield High School. He led his team to a state championship, was named to the Seattle Times' all-state team, and is a consensus three-star recruit according to the major recruiting services.
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He's not as heralded as some other recruits in the state, but he's exactly what WSU has lacked over the past two seasons since the dismissal of Reggie Moore: A penetrating point guard who can run the show, equally adept at passing and scoring.
Bone was effusive in his praise of Isabell at the end of the season. Via Jacob Thorpe at the Spokeman-Review:
"I also think Tramaine Isabell is really good and we need scoring and he can score. It's not like, ‘well, he needs another year or two.' No. He could step in and help out right away.
"He can handle the ball. He's a good ball-handler and he can create opportunities for others and he can definitely score. I think he had a really good year and physically he's strong, too. It's not like he'll need a year or two to get a little bigger and stronger - some kids do. He's strong, he's put together."
The irony, of course, is that just as Bone finally lands the point guard he'd been so desperately seeking -- one who certainly would have gotten more interest from some bigger programs if he'd not signed an early letter -- he's shown the door before he can ever get the guy on the court. For all his missteps, Bone certainly wasn't the luckiest guy with his personnel.
Keeping Isabell is going to be job No. 1 for whoever the new coach is. His skill set will play with any style, especially when you consider how he compliments Ike Iroegbu. If the new coach stresses halfcourt execution, Isabell can run that show while Iroegbu focuses on scoring. If he wants the team to run, he can put the ball in Iroegbu's hands and let him burn a path up the floor while Isabell does damage on the secondary break.
Isabell does think highly of Bone and his primary recruiter, Curtis Allen. Via the Seattle Times:
"The fact that Wazzu was the first big DI team to offer me, talking to the coaches, they kind of believed in me, didn't seem to really believe in whatever the general thought or perception of me. That's why I committed so fast. I committed and then I played real well in Vegas against the top tier guys and ended up winning the tournament. My guess if I didn't commit, I would have offers from whoever. I really didn't even really think about decommitting after that. I'm big on loyalty and Wazzu was loyal to me, so I thought I should be loyal back to Ken Bone and the coaching staff."
The truth is that if Isabell decides he's upset about Bone's firing, his options are fairly limited. He's signed a letter of intent, which is a binding contract to which the school can hold him if it so chooses. If Isabell wants out and the school doesn't want to release him, Isabell's only viable course of action is to head to a prep school for a year, where he'll then again be free to sign with anyone he chooses. That's not an ideal situation for either party.
Moos didn't sound inclined yesterday to release Isabell, and here's to betting it never even gets that far. Heck, Ken Bone was able to "re-recruit" Xavier Thames and Brock Motum to convince them to come to Pullman, so I would presume the next coach also will be able to sell Isabell on his vision.
The other recruit in the class is 6-foot-8 junior college forward Jermaine Morgan. I know much less about his game, so I don't know if the next coach will decide that he fits with his plan. Or, the next coach could simply decide to honor the letter of intent, given the brief time he will have to recruit and the plethora of open scholarships for next season. It's not much of a risk to take on a juco big man who has two to play two.
And what about that third scholarship? That's actually a pretty nice chip for whoever gets the job. If the coach is currently a head coach, then there's the possibility that one of his commitments could follow him to WSU. Or maybe the coach looks for a graduated transfer to add for immediate help. In terms of positions of need, an impact big man is easily at the top of the list -- while the hope is that D.J. Shelton's backups develop in the offseason, the drop off was so significant that it's hard to imagine WSU will be able to get much out of that unit as it's currently constructed.
That doesn't even speak to the possibility of transfers. Anyone who hasn't used a redshirt is a candidate to leave, and beyond that, here's something interesting to consider: if Royce Woolridge and Dexter Kernich-Drew -- both of whom are fourth-year juniors -- are on track to graduate this spring, they each could transfer without losing a year of eligibility. Something to keep an eye on.
One thing is for certain: When a team is as bad as WSU was this year, there will be the opportunity for newcomers to make an immediate impact next year.