Former 4-star recruit Andrej Jakimovski has entered the transfer portal, according to a report by Verbal Commits, becoming the first domino to fall after last month’s commitment of Mouhamed Gueye put the Washington State Cougars further over the scholarship limit for the 2021-2022 season.
Jakimovski came to Pullman from North Macedonia with much fanfare — he was only the program’s fifth four-star recruit in the last two decades and first since 2009 (Xavier Thames) — and he proved himself worthy of the ranking with a solid freshman season in which he started 19 games and averaged 5.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
No, the numbers weren’t eye-popping, and — like any freshman — he suffered through inconsistency, which was exacerbated by a groin injury that caused him to miss a couple of games. But it wasn’t hard to see why he was so highly thought of: The team was generally better when he was on the floor as he proved himself to be a deadly 3-point shooter (even with one very terrible stretch, he still shot 32%), a capable ball handler, and a sound defender.
His best weekend of the year came near the end: Put in a point forward role in Isaac Bonton’s absence, he averaged 11 points, 9 assists and 6.5 rebounds during WSU’s epic home sweep of Stanford and Cal.
It was easy to see how his game might take off with a bit better ball handling and finishing around the rim. But even with that, Jakimovski was going to have to scrap for minutes this season.
It seemed unlikely that he would start after Eastern Washington transfer Kim Aiken Jr. was brought in. And the man with whom Jakimovski basically split time down the stretch last season — DJ Rodman — remains on the roster. And then there’s Gueye: The second-highest-rated recruit in program history is being billed as a skilled big man who could play as a 7-footer on the wing. And we don’t even yet know what we have in Carlos Rosario, another highly rated recruit who barely played as a freshman.
So, it’s not surprising that one of Jakimovski/Rodman/Rosario is gone. And without a doubt, it’s a total bummer that it ended up being the guy who clearly has the potential to be a big-time difference maker in the future. Not that Rodman and Rosario don’t, but there’s a reason Jakimovski was a four-star recruit.
And yet ... it seems unlikely that this departure has a measurable negative impact on the program’s prospects, either this year or in the future.
If Jakimovski wasn’t a four-star recruit and Rodman wasn’t a two-star recruit, we probably wouldn’t think much at all about this move. Rodman thoroughly outplayed Jakimovski in the second half of the season, shooting it better and becoming a force on the offensive glass while defending his butt off. He doesn’t have the same kind of ceiling, but you probably get the same thing out of Rodman next season that you would have gotten out of Jakimovski.
If you prefer the analytical approach, here’s what our favorite off-season projection site barttorvik.com thinks of Jakimovski leaving:
It’s absolutely wild to think that the departure of a 4-star player, who probably is on the cusp of blossoming, is unlikely to have a major impact on next season’s prospects. I can think of no plainer testament to the job that Kyle Smith and his staff have done assembling talent.
As for the future? Because 4-star recruits have traditionally been so rare for WSU, our fans have a tendency to wring their hands when one doesn’t work out. But my philosophy on these things has become “yeah it sucks but it’s not like we won’t be able to replace his talent in the future” which is something that still blows my mind.
Jakimovski should have no shortage of suitors for his services. Best of luck to him. I hope he kills it wherever he ends up.
Now, to the scholarship situation. This departure doesn’t solve it — the Cougs are still one over the limit for this season. We won’t even begin to speculate who else might leave, because we never would have guessed Jakimovski.
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