When Ernie Kent was hired to replace Ken Bone at Washington State, he had but one scholarship available to offer a player who could potentially come in and improve the team immediately. But as is so often the case in the wake of a coaching change, it didn't stay that way.
We learned on Tuesday that guard Royce Woolridge and forward James Hunter are transferring from the school, and juco recruit Jermaine Morgan -- a forward who had signed in the early period -- is being released from his letter of intent. Suddenly, Kent has a huge opportunity to quickly remake the roster in the late signing period, which starts today, if he can fill the spots with some quality players.
Here's how the scholarship situation currently stands:
Let's talk first about what WSU is losing. While it's great that Hunter got an education while presumably practicing hard, his minimal contributions in games made it clear he never should have been given a scholarship, so his departure rectifies that mistake and gives the team an opportunity to make it's roster better.
As for Morgan, I honestly can't speak intelligently to what WSU is losing, but it's doubtful he was a difference maker for this team. That's not to say he wouldn't have contributed, but it's probably safe to say that Kent is likely going to meet or exceed Morgan's production with whomever takes his spot.
Which brings us to Royce. I know many fans won't be sad to see Woolridge leave after his disastrous campaign this past season, but count me among those who wish he was still on the roster. We know he started the year injured, and although Ken Bone insisted he was healthy as the year went on, I wasn't buying it. Shooting statistics don't drop off as precipitously as they did for him without a lot of help -- he went from an above average offensive player to one of the worst players in major conference basketball and never got better.
Unless there's a chronic thing going on, I think Woolridge was a good bet to get back to something approximating his sophomore self. While he was unlikely to be a star and perhaps would have seen his role significantly reduced, a shooting guard who could score at a reasonably efficient clip off the bench would most certainly be a useful player in the rotation. That's going to be a lot tougher to replace.
If WSU didn't add a single useful player in the coming days and weeks, the rotation probably would look something like this:
|Starters||Tramaine Isabell||DaVonte Lacy||Dexter Kernich-Drew||Que Johnson||Junior Longrus|
|Primary backups||Ike Iroegbu||Brett Boese||Josh Hawkinson|
For a team that felt like it had so many guards, it's sort of stunning to look at it this way. It's also easy to see where the weaknesses are. This team could use another point guard, as Iroegbu isn't really one, despite Bone's efforts to put him there; Kernich-Drew is not a guy you want to count on as a starter, based on his past history as a below-average Pac-12 player; and WSU doesn't have a single F/C who profiles (at the moment) as anything more than a below-average (at best) Pac-12 big man.
If I was wishing, this is what the rotation would look like after Kent fills these four scholarships:
|Starters||Tramaine Isabell||DaVonte Lacy||Que Johnson||RECRUIT||RECRUIT|
|Primary backups||RECRUIT||RECRUIT||Brett Boese||Junior Longrus|
|Ike Iroegbu||Dexter Kernich-Drew||Josh Hawkinson|
|Little used||Jordan Railey|
If you think I'm being too pessimistic about the returning players, I don't know what to tell you -- these same players were the backbone of a team that just went 3-15 in the Pac-12. For WSU to substantially improve on last season's fortunes, inserting five new rotation players who are better than the guys currently on the roster -- including a pair of starters -- is a good place to start.
Is that realistic? Probably not on this short of notice. There still are a ton of guys unsigned, but Kent and his staff have only been recruiting for a couple of weeks, and recruiting is about relationships. You can find difference makers at this point in the game -- you'll remember that Ken Bone got Reggie Moore around this time in his first class -- but finding four of them is a tall order. Perhaps he can piece it together with a couple of high school kids, a junior college transfer and a grad school transfer.
There's not a lot out there in terms of who WSU is pursuing, but according to Britton Ransford at WazzuWatch.com ($), it is believed Kent is turning to one of Bone's old recruiting stomping grounds -- his assistants have been at Westwind Prep in Arizona talking to coaches about a pair of players: Point guard Nye Redding and shooting guard Lyrik Shreiner.
Ransford said WSU was there to talk about Redding, who is 17 and considering taking a prep year. But Shreiner -- an athletic, 6-foot-3 two guard who holds a bunch of offers -- was intrigued by Kent after listening to him broadcast the past few years.
Additionally, Keenan Bowen of Coug247.com tweeted earlier today that Kent is looking at Kevin Ndahiro, a 6-8 forward from Canada by way of Kentucky. He had been lightly recruited, but Ndahiro recently picked up an offer from USC and he had an official visit with Washington last weekend. Oregon apparently is sniffing around, also.
The late signing period opens today, but it might take some time for WSU to lure guys in. Stay tuned.