The first part of Kyle Smith’s 2020 class took shape this week when TJ Bamba and Efe Abogidi made their commitments to the Washington State Cougars official by sending in their letters of intent during the early signing period, the school announced on Monday.
We got their NLIs, now learn just a little bit more about our two new Cougs.— WSU Men's Basketball (@WSUCougarMBB) November 18, 2019
>> https://t.co/dXeAY8lFC0#GoCougs pic.twitter.com/9aB64K46O7
Abogidi, who is originally from Nigeria, fills the most pressing need for the Cougs: At 6-foot-9 and with a reported wingspan of 7-foot-4, he’s an exciting, athletic prospect and currently only one of two big men on the roster for 2020-21. (2019 signee Volodymyr Markovetskyy is the other.) Abogidi produced a viral dunk video when he was 15 years old ...
... and was a part of the NBA’s developmental program in Africa before moving to Australia to study under the tutelage of Marty Clarke, who coached both Aron Baynes and Brock Motum at the famed Australian Institute of Sport. If you’re wondering how a prospect with such obvious upside ended up at WSU, well, he’s struggled a bit with injuries. But if he can keep it together, the potential is undeniable.
“Efe is committed to being the best he can be,” Smith said, via news release. “He possesses an insatiable work ethic to compliment his elite athleticism. Amazingly for us, Efe has family that lives in Pullman. Hopefully he has ‘found his way home!’ ”
Bamba, meanwhile, is a 6-5 combo guard who was lightly recruited; according to Verbal Commits, he held no other known high major offers, but Smith is obviously a believer in what he can do.
“TJ is coming to us from Denver, Colorado where he is finishing high school,” said Smith. “TJ is a six-tool player. He can dribble, pass, drive, shoot, defend and rebound. This gives him the ability to play all three perimeter spots on offense and he can guard 1-4 as an interchangeable defender. In addition, TJ is a high academic achiever who received interest from the Ivy League.”
According to WSU, he averaged 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists as a junior, earning him First Team All-Denver Prep League honors. Bamba is originally from the Bronx in New York. Here’s some video!
The Cougs still have at least a pair of scholarships to give for next season:
There are two obvious needs.
First, you have to think WSU will be in the market for at least one more big man, and maybe even two — and you have to believe they’ll be pursuing another transfer on that front, given the youth at the position. It’s possible Aljaž Kunc could bulk up into a legitimate frontcourt player, but that might not be something to count on.
Second, it seems like WSU could use another primary ball handler — point guard Jaylen Shead will be heading out after his one grad transfer year. Maybe they feel comfortable with Isaac Bonton being the lead guard, but he seems best suited to a scoring role. Maybe Noah Williams fills that role, but he also doesn’t seem best suited to be a primary ball handler. This might be another position ripe for a transfer, given that you probably don’t want a freshman in this role.
It’s worth noting that it’s pretty likely WSU will have more than two scholarships to give, too; CJ Elleby might be headed to the NBA, and there probably will be one or two players who end up unhappy with their roles this year. Guys who figured to feature more prominently than they have include Marvin Cannon and Daron Henson; that certainly could change going forward, but if it doesn’t, both have redshirt years available if they want to pursue increased playing time elsewhere.