Roster building never sleeps in NCAA basketball, and the recruiting cycle is still ongoing, even as the Washington State Cougars prepare for their NIT opener on Tuesday night. Despite most players having formally committed, the Cougs still have a few targets that they are looking to add to the 2022 recruiting class.
There is only one scholarship spot open for next season as the roster currently stands, which is seemingly filled by Solomon Ominu, but there is potential for more to be opened up as the offseason rolls along.
The first expectation for a scholarship to open up would be a reclassification from Ominu. Ominu is currently in the class of 2022, but there is belief he could end up moving back to the class of 2023 and joining that recruiting class. Ominu did not sign his letter of intent when most do and that points to a potential reclass.
The other possibility for opening roster spots is an ever-present one: the transfer portal. There are quite a few possible transfers on the WSU roster, both likely and unlikely. There are some obvious potential transfers, specifically Jefferson Koulibaly (who hasn’t been with the team in some time), Ryan Rapp (whose playing time has dried up in his third season), and Carlos Rosario (redshirting this year), but there could always be some surprise transfers as well. The portal is fickle and unpredictable and that makes being constantly vigilant and aware in recruiting a necessity.
The state of WSU’s 2022 class is an interesting one, as they have three primary targets that they have offered. All three of these players play a different position and offer a different potential fit with the roster that is in place. There is a chance the Cougs get all three and there is a chance they don’t get any, which is an interesting place to be in at this point in the recruiting process. Without further ado, let’s dive into these three targets and see what they might offer the Cougs.
Adrame Diongue is the top-rated recruit the Cougs are targeting, as he ranks 134th in 247’s composite basketball rankings. Diongue is a true 7-footer with long arms, a wiry, 205-pound frame, and some highlight athleticism. Kyle Smith loves his athletic, long, rim-running bigs that are versatile on both ends. Diongue is similar as a high-schooler to past recruits of Smith like Mouhamed Gueye and Efe Abogidi in that he is a defense first, athletic big-man who offers some athletic upside with their movement skills and potential shooting.
Diongue’s defense is certainly the main selling point on him as a prospect. He can do a lot of different things on that end and his size/mobility combination is reminiscent of Gueye. Diongue is excellent at wreaking havoc in the passing lanes, specifically jumping entry passes into the post. He can glide around the court on defense and that stands out at every level for his size.
Evaluating high school rim protection is a difficult task, because so much can be accomplished with just length and athleticism, but there is a lot to like and project with Diongue’s rim protection. His ability to get off the ground quickly allows him to get to quick shots meant to beat his length and his timing is solid too. He is not always meeting shots at the apex, but there is potential for him to do that if he can get his timing down.
He can definitely be a bit jumpy, as many young bigs are, but he does allow his opponents to get more good looks than you’d want. He will need to improve on his verticality, which is doable, but he is likely going to be less effective as a freshman than Gueye has been. Gueye was simply a little more polished defensively and those slight differences do make a huge difference with early translation.
Diongue’s offense is raw, but there is a lot of promise. His best skill is his ability to get up quickly to finish dunks. He is not quite the quick jumper that someone like Abogidi is, but he gets up incredibly fast for a 7-footer. That lack of load time reminds me a lot of Christian Koloko; the Arizona big-man gets up much quicker than most 7-footers and it allows him to be deadlier as a roll-man and play finisher.
I think the most intriguing aspect of Diongue’s offensive game is his passing. It can be rudimentary, and his touch on passes is not great, but he has developed a lot as a passer, and he sees the floor well. There are some fun full-court passes, high-post dimes, and he even has moments where he operates dribble hand-offs. This is a skill none of the Cougs’ bigs have in their bag, and it would be a major help to the WSU offense to have some increased passing utility.
Diongue has played with a lot of talent during his high school years, including Oregon State wing Glenn Taylor Jr., Dayton big man DaRon Holmes, and soon to be NBA draft pick Tyty Washington. This season, he is playing with one of the top juniors in the country, Mookie Cook. Diongue is comfortable playing against and with high level talent and that should make his translation to the college game easier than it would be for players coming from lower levels of high school competition.
Overall, Diongue represents a continued emphasis on recruiting high-level defenders with NBA upside for Smith and his staff. The benefit of recruiting players like this is that they can have an impact early in their collegiate careers and bring more attention to the school if they excel at the NBA level. Program building at the D1 level requires producing pro talent and Smith has recruited players with clear pro upside that are underranked and fit the program mold. Diongue would be a great fit in the Cougs’ program and a potential star in the Pac-12.
Tre Blassingame is a more local prospect than Diongue — and a lower-level prospect on the national scale — but he would be an interesting addition to WSU’s roster. He is a 6-foot-6 wing who plays for Auburn High School and Seattle Rotary for AAU. He is not ranked on many of the consensus sites, but he is considered a two-star caliber prospect by Verbal Commits and his offers reflect that ranking. His other offer is from Long Beach State, which won the Big West regular season title and narrowly missed the NCAA tournament.
Blassingame’s main calling card as a prospect is his jumper. At 6-6, he is averaging 18.1 points per game on a solid diet of outside shots. The ball comes from his right hip and his base is wide, but the touch is good and there is a lot of potential there. If he can space the floor well and add some versatility with the jumper, whether it be pull-ups or movement shots, there could be a lot of offensive value there.
Blassingame is an overall solid scorer, though it will be interesting to see how much translates to the next level. He is an excellent finisher, and he has a nice left hand when getting to the rim. Ambidexterity is something that is always important to watch for when scouting high schoolers, and Blassingame has that going for him.
Blassingame is also intriguing as a passer and ball-handler. The ambidexterity extends to passes, where he is comfortable throwing passes with his left and right hand. He does not always see the floor at a high level, occasionally getting tunnel vision as a scorer, but the flashes are there, and he has it in him to make kickouts to shooters.
The guard skills beyond passing are going to be the major swing skill for Blassingame as a player. He can attack closeouts and the finishing helps him take advantage of those drives, but the handle is not super advanced as it stands, and he is not manipulating defenders with his handle. If he can create space for his jumper and run the occasional pick-and-roll, it would go a long way towards making him a valuable college player.
Perhaps unsurprisingly with a Kyle Smith recruit, the main selling point for Blassingame is his defense. He has good size, and he moves his feet well. I’m most impressed by his timing in rotations, constantly creating havoc with steals and blocks. He is a good-not-great athlete, and he will need to add weight to his frame to compete defensively at the high major level, but there is a lot of upside with his defense on and off the ball.
Overall, Blassingame would be a solid addition to the Cougs’ roster and he some upside to contribute at a high level over the course of his career. He is definitely under ranked by the national recruiting services and I don’t have too many worries about him being able to hang with high major talent.
I am a firm believer that you can never have too many wings on a basketball roster and that goes for any level. The Cougs could use more wings because it adds versatility; 6-6 players like Blassingame can excel playing any position from shooting guard to power forward and that versatility on both ends adds to what the coach can do on a game-to-game basis. There is a lot of DJ Rodman in Blassingame’s profile and he would be a solid and deserving recruit at this level.
Dylan Darling is the latest of WSU’s offers and perhaps the most surprising. The guard is unranked on most of the major recruiting sites, but he has lit Washington high school basketball on fire this season. Darling overtook Gonzaga and Spokane legend Adam Morrison for both most points in a game and most points averaged by a player in a single season in Spokane. He averaged 32 points per game, he had multiple 50-point games, and he hit 8 threes in a single game. Darling’s only other major offers come from Idaho State and San Jose State, but he could be an under ranked value add for WSU if he achieves his potential.
The main sell with Darling is the all-around scoring. He can knock down shots from deep at an incredibly high rate, providing a smooth lefty stroke that hardly misses. He can get to these shots in a variety of ways as well, as he moves without the ball, abuses defenders that go under screens with pull-ups, and he can create space with dribble moves and step-backs. He shot 75% from the free throw line throughout this season, which is good for the high school level and the shooting is almost certain to translate. The one worry with the jumper is that it is a little slow and he is not getting it off every time he is given daylight. He needs to create a lot of space to access that shot and there is some worry that the athleticism of high major players could affect the shot.
Part of the worry with Darling is that evaluating the ancillary offensive skills can be difficult given the competition level and the teammates he plays with. He is a silky ball-handler that excels both with space creation and downhill driving. His bag is deep, and he does get to the rim a lot. There is a lot of craft to his game, and he can finish around the rim well too. He is not an elite athlete, though, and that rim pressure he generated in high school is going to be harder at the college level. He is also not an above the rim finisher and that is going to make high-level scoring around the rim a worry.
The passing is hit and miss as well. Passing is always hard to evaluate when a player is clearly the best scorer on his lower-level teams and the best play is almost always for him to score. Darling does have good court awareness and it shows as a scorer, as he recognizes holes in a defense well and he is adept at attacking them. He does have a nice little pocket pass in his bag, and he is comfortable passing with either hand but determining the top-end outcome of the passing is difficult with the tape available.
Overall, evaluating Darling is a difficult task. He is clearly a D1 caliber player, and the production is impossible to deny. He reminds me a lot of guards that often go to mid or low-major schools and end up transferring to Power 5 schools after crushing the lower-levels. However, there is also a chance he is just not quite a high major caliber recruit, especially if the shot does not speed up.
I think he is a valuable bet to make, and his scoring and craft is a huge need for WSU going forward. Getting a potential point guard of the future who is young and could grow with the talent available would be nice for Smith and staff. Darling’s father, James, is a former WSU and NFL football player, so the connection to WSU is there and it is always nice to watch a local product excel in Pullman.