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Celebrating WSU basketball’s international history

Valencia Basket - 2019/2020 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Media Day Photo by JM Casares/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Jefferson Koulibaly of Montreal yesterday announced his commitment to play for Kyle Smith’s Washington State Cougars starting next season, and that got me thinking: What are some of the memorable foreign Cougar basketball players of the past?

There’s been a number of excellent Canadian college (and NBA) players in recent years. Will Koulibaly be the next great Canadian? That’s for the hot takers to decide. I’m here to reminisce.

Ryan Rapp (Australia), Volodymyr Markovetskyy (Ukraine) and Aljaz Kunc (Slovenia) are already on the roster, and Koulibaly and Efe Abogidi from Nigeria are set to join next season. WSU’s women’s basketball team has had a heavy international flavor in past years, and now the men are joining them.

PJ went down Spanish memory lane last week to write about Rodrigo de la Fuente. I was a tad too young to remember him, though I do remember it was big news when he left school. I’m here to look at the rosters of this century.

I’m here to talk about guys like Aron Baynes, the big man who played under Tony Bennett and went on to win an NBA title. I’ll always remember Baynes’ breakaway dunk against Arizona State in 2008. Thanks James Harden!

WSU also brought in Thomas Abercrombie during the Bennett years, tapping into the Australian (New Zealand, specifically) pipeline thanks to Bennett’s and Ben Johnson’s connection down under. Abercrombie, while athletic, didn’t sick around. After taking a redshirt year, he left after playing 12 games the next season. He went on to a great career overseas and in Australia. You can watch tons of Abercrombie highlights starting here.

German Fabian Boeke also played under Bennett. Well, played might be a stretch. Practice, sure, at least when he wasn’t injured. Boeke had some NCAA eligibility issues to sort through after he arrived on campus and eventually his injury issues caught up to him and he left the team.

Lastly, Nikola Koprivica from Serbia was also on those Bennett teams, as well as Ken Bone’s first season. Koprivica injured his knee his freshman year but came back and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, is the second-winningest player in WSU history with 85 wins. How about that? Also according to Wikipedia: He married Miss Serbia 2006.

Tony Bennett recruited Brock Motum, but Motum never played for Bennett. Motum played four seasons under Ken Bone and the Australian averaged 12.8 points a game for his career, including 18 and 18.7 ppg his junior and senior seasons, respectively. My favorite story from Motum’s career is when he threw a basketball at the face of Gonzaga’ Kelly Olynyk.

The Ken Bone years saw some other Australians, including Dexter Kernich-Drew and James Hunter. Faisal Aden grew up in California, but he was born in Somalia.

Lest you think Koulibaly is the first Canadian in a while, think again. Ahmed Ali is originally from Toronto, as is Jamar Ergas. Both played on forgettable Ernie Kent teams.

Going further back, Jeff Varem is from Nigeria, and Shami Gill is from Mission, British Columbia.

OK, is there anybody I missed?

Cougar women lose to UCLA after leading for much of the game

So close!


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