The upcoming men’s basketball season already was set to be the most anticipated in a decade for Washington State, and the Cougars’ prospects of returning to the NCAA tournament got another bump on Friday when 2022 four-star center/forward Mouhamed Gueye announced he is reclassifying to 2021 and coming to Pullman this fall.
“I’m committing to Washington State,” Gueye told Eric Bossi of 247Sports. “Since I’ve gotten here I have had a good relationship with the coaching staff. Coach Kyle Smith and Coach John Andrzejek, I feel like they can help me to be the best version of myself.”
Kyle Smith and his staff have pulled off some remarkable recruiting heroics in their short time on the job, but nothing beats this one: 247Sports had him rated as the No. 34 overall prospect in the 2022 class and Gueye holds offers from the UCLA Bruins, Kansas Jayhawks, and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
“We had a good relationship, me and Coach Smith and Coach John,” Gueye told ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein. “I was watching them last year through the Pac-12; they had a really good season and I was watching the players, I was watching Efe (Abogidi), I was watching (TJ) Bamba, I was watching all the players, and I kind of see myself on the perimeter, how they run it. I like their style of play. I like everything about them.
“I feel like Coach John and Coach Kyle, I feel like they know me — what I can do and what I can be.”
The Cougars have landed just two other top-100 prospects in their history: Klay Thompson (42) and Michael Harthun (96), both in the 2008 class.
Gueye lists himself at 7-foot and 208 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and his addition threatens to create an embarrassment of riches in the Cougars’ frontcourt where he joins Abogidi and Dishon Jackson, each of whom flashed the ability to be stars during their first seasons at WSU.
Gueye currently attends Prolific Prep in Napa, California, but he’s originally from Senegal, continuing a trend of landing international recruits under Smith and his staff. The skills that make Gueye a top-50 prospect — excellent length and athleticism, a silky-smooth jumper — are readily obvious in the myriad highlight videos floating around, including this one:
“I think a huge part of what has set Mouhamad apart is his work ethic and desire, and ability, to learn,” Prolific Prep assistant coach Anthony Gonzalez told Phenom Hoops a year ago. “He is a sponge and a gym rat. He’s very intelligent, does great in school, speaks four languages. He’s got great length, athleticism, coordination, and a smooth stroke. ...
“He has a very smooth 15- to 20-foot jumper, along with very soft hands and touch around the rim. If he can continue to be consistent with knocking down threes, he will be a 7-footer high-major player who will be able to play 2 through 5. I wouldn’t put the possibility of a 1-guard past him if he continues to develop at the rate that he is. Very excited for his future.”
Like a lot of international players, Gueye is still fairly new to the game of basketball; he grew up playing soccer: “I first started playing organized basketball at Prolific,” he said. “Like, I never played on a team before.” So, while his lofty recruiting ranking might suggest a player who could dominate immediately, he’s still got a ton of room to grow in his skills, and the presence of Abogidi and Jackson means he won’t have to carry any kind of significant load right away and can come off the bench in support — the days of holding our breath with foul trouble for the bigs seem to be over.
The full interview with Finkelstein is chock full of information about Gueye, but the most interesting nugget is that Abogidi’s performance and development last year at WSU played a significant role in Gueye’s commitment, as well as WSU’s early contact with him — they reached out as soon as he arrived at Prolific from Senegal:
This quote from a few weeks ago probably also gives a little bit of insight:
PI: What kind of system do you feel best fits your strengths as a player?
MG: I think a system where they don’t restrain you, they let you play your game. They let the big push and the game flow. If I go somewhere where I can’t showcase my talent, it will hurt me and it won’t be good for my future. I think that the best thing is where you go somewhere that lets you showcase your talent and play freely. When I say play freely, I mean you’ve got to do something right not just you, but they let you do you.
That pretty much describes Smith’s coaching style to a T, and now Cougar fans can dream even more boldly about the possibility of returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. The offseason additions of Michael Flowers and Kim Aiken Jr. caused WSU to soar up barttorvik.com’s preseason projections, all the way to 45, which is squarely in bubble territory. (Kenpom.com doesn’t publish projections until much closer to the season.) And that doesn’t yet include the addition of Tyrell Roberts — the Division 2 all-American — or Gueye. When the conference’s preseason poll comes out, there’s a very real chance that WSU will be in the top half.
The only downside to Gueye’s commitment is that the Cougars are now even further over the limit in terms of scholarships committed for next season. Not including Tony Miller — who won’t count against the scholarship limit even if he returns, which he’s not expected to — WSU currently has 15 players for 13 spots. Even though Flowers is taking a fifth season, he will count against the scholarship limit because he is a transfer. Something has to give: