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WSU transfer portal targets: The Madness Begins

Nearly 1,000 names have entered the transfer portal as the season approaches its conclusion. Here are the guards and wings WSU have been linked to thus far.

Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

The transfer portal is bumping yet again, as nearly 1,000 Division 1 men’s basketball players have entered the portal with hopes for greener pastures. The Washington State Cougars already have had a roster spot open up with the departure of Jefferson Koulibaly, and more openings are almost certainly on the way.

The portal is going to be interesting to monitor as it seems to grow larger and more imposing every year, but it poses a major opportunity for WSU. Michael Flowers and Tyrell Roberts were two major contributors that the Cougs got through the portal and there is even more potential to build contenders this way, as teams such as Texas Tech and Arkansas have shown. WSU is in a prime position to continue the upward trajectory of the program through the transfer portal.

WSU has reached out to a couple different kinds of players, and it seems like there is some sort of pattern forming.

  • Everyone knows they need a guard who is comfortable with a high usage, and they have reached out to a couple players who fit that bill.
  • They have also reached out to a couple off-guards who play in a Noah Williams-esque role.
  • Finally, Kyle Smith and company have reached out to a couple bigs, perhaps just to fill the hole left by Matt DeWolf.

The Cougs could potentially add one player from all of these archetypes, slightly restructuring the roster for Smith’s fourth season at the helm.

Justin Hill — Longwood (three years of eligibility)

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round - Longwood vs Tennessee Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Hill has supposedly heard from quite a few schools, including an offer from Kansas State, but WSU has shown to be in the mix for him.

Hill is a 6’0, 185-pound guard who played this season at Longwood. The second-year freshman averaged 14.2 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on 41.9/34.3/79.7 shooting splits, leading Longwood to their first ever NCAA tournament. Hill’s shooting would seem to indicate an inefficient offensive player, but he does well with the space he is given to operate, and he capitalizes on his 26% usage rate well by gettng to the free throw line with great frequency. He also boasts a 26.3% assist rate and only a 16.2% turnover rate. He is a potent guard who has had experience taking teams beyond their expectations.

The hope with any guard WSU brings in that the player can get into the paint and make plays from there. Hill is a solid bet to do that at the high-major level. He does not live in the lane like some guards, but he can manufacture paint touches with a screen, and he did a solid job getting downhill despite playing in poor spacing. His decision-making when he gets downhill is also solid.

Hill also has the craft to finish downhill. He is fast when he gets a head of steam, and he can finish over trees. He has good touch with both hands and a good feel for where contests are coming from.

The real hope with Hill getting downhill isn’t necessarily for him to finish, but just as much for him to get to the line. Hill took 4.5 free throws a game this season and that number could get even higher if he was playing with better spacing and roll-men with more gravity. His ability to change pace is also a major strength, slowing down and speeding up on a dime helps him get the defender on their back-foot.

Evaluating Hill’s passing is a bit trickier. He was the top playmaker on Longwood, but he was forced to make a lot of tight, dangerous passes because of the spacing he was playing in. This is a solid pass and the right read, but it it’s not perfect because the help can be there, and the roll-man is undersized. He is a player that could be primed to take a jump in playmaking with the help of better teammates.

Hill’s best strength as a passer is his kickout passing. He sees the perimeter well as he drives, and he can deliver passes in a variety of ways. Surrounding him with better shooters would make this play and easy bucket.

Something that points to Hill being a better passer than his stats indicate is that he moves off-the-ball well. Off-ball movement is often indicative of proprioception, which is how someone sees themselves in space. He also makes a nice pocket pass on this play that leads to a bucket.

As good as Hill is at getting downhill, it is not always easy for him. He has great open court speed, good change of pace, but he is not an elite burst guy who can get by a defender on first step alone.

This is a good look at Hill’s jumper mechanics. It is a clean motion without any sway or hitch. He has a wide base and the release is low, but he should hit spot-ups at a good clip.

He is also great with negative momentum jumpers. Negative momentum is most commonly seen with step-backs, but it is technically any movement away from the basket. Here, he does a little hesitation to free the defenders and steps back into the jumper.

Hill is a good shooter, but he is not great at forward momentum shooting. He can hit spot-ups and step-backs, but this should be an easy pull-up that he just doesn’t take. Pull-up energy transfer is difficult, and it can be specifically difficult for smaller players who play in tighter spaces. Now, at WSU, this is likely a lob pass, but that lack of pull-up equity is important to note

Hill is never going to be a great defender, as he is small, but he is active and strong. He has good hands, maneuvers around screens, and can get into ball-handlers a little bit. He can be good enough on defense to keep from hurting the team.

Hill would be a major get for Kyle Smith and his staff. Hill has NCAA tourney experience, and he solves a major problem for WSU. Part of why WSU’s offense stalled so often in Pac-12 play was because their guards couldn’t get pressure on the rim. Hill can get downhill in a pick-and-roll, space the floor if he doesn’t have the ball, and he makes good plays without any erratic decisions. He is likely towards the top of WSU’s priority list.

Ethan Anderson — USC (two years of eligibility)

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Miami vs Southern California Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

USC’s Ethan Anderson has heard from quite a few teams over the past couple of days since entering the Transfer Portal, but WSU might be his top option should they offer him.

Anderson has had an up-and-down career with the Trojans. He played inconsistent minutes throughout his three-year career, and he never put it all together on either end. However, he was a high three-star recruit, and he still has some upside with his mix of strength (6’1 and 210 pounds), handle, and intensity. He had a solid 1.5% steal rate, which likely could have been even higher if he wasn’t always surrounded by other elite defenders. He is, historically, a high turnover guy, but he started to limit those in this past season as a second-year sophomore, and the passing took a step up as well. He would be an interesting grab for WSU, as he would slot in as a defensive-minded shooting guard with some offensive upside.

The defense is the sell for Anderson, and it does pop on film. He has quick and active hands, making him a menace on the perimeter. He executes digs on ball-handlers well and he can poke the ball away with consistency.

This is a play that is indicative of Anderson’s upside as a defender. He executes the ice well, sticks with the ball-handler, but peels off to the big and makes a play on the ball. He has good awareness on defense, and he can just make plays with consistency.

He is an active help defender too. Dropping down to the block and getting vertical at the rim is not often seen from 6’1 guards, but Anderson does it with regularity.

The issues and worry with Anderson come on the other side of the ball. The jumper is iffy to say the least. He shot 32% from deep this season on limited volume and the shot just looks uncomfortable. It is almost two motions, as he gets all the way up before his arms move, and the elbow angle is harsh. The arms have a trebuchet movement, and it hurts his overall touch. He could maybe develop into an alright spot-up shooter, but it is overall difficult to project him as an above-average shooter.

Anderson is not an elite craft guy, but he has some ability to get a bucket if he needs to. He is big and strong with some solid change of pace athleticism. His ability to stop and shift momentum is huge and it allows him to create space for jumpers like this.

Anderson has a reputation for turnovers, and he does have some headscratchers. His propensity for turnovers comes from his ambition, as he is constantly trying to make the advantaged pass to get an easy bucket, but it often leads to turnovers that make you shake your head.

However, it is easy to see why he wants to make those passes, because when they connect, USC gets easy buckets. He loves these hit-ahead passes in transition to running bigs and it is great to see bigs rewarded like this for running the floor hard.

His transition passing pops at times, and it would add an element to WSU that they have not had since Isaac Bonton graduated.

He makes solid passing reads when he plays in the half-court as well. He makes good passes to the perimeter, and he trusts his teammates to make shots. He is not a high-level pick-and-roll passer, but he can make those reads.

These corner kicks are fun and for a team like WSU, which has had issues with ball-movement and making these types of passes, it is encouraging to see.

Anderson is not a point guard in the traditional sense, but he can do some ball-handling and make plays better than many of his archetype. If he could fill in as a slashing off-guard who can get to the rim, play defense, and make passes, he would fit in nicely in Pullman.

This might sound like blasphemy to some, but Anderson reminds me a lot of Noah Williams. Anderson is defensive minded two-guard with some craft and passing, but a lot of inefficiency and inconsistency on offense. Anderson has some upside, and he would be a solid addition to the program if he was put in the right role.

D’Maurian Williams — Gardner Webb (three years of eligibility)

NCAA Basketball: Gardner-Webb at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

D’Maurian Williams had a solid season at Gardner Webb this season and has been rewarded with some high major interest. WSU would have stiff competition to land his services.

Williams is a 6’5, 195-pound wing who just finished his second freshman season. He averaged 14.5 points a game, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 41/39.3/80.4 shooting splits. He also has some good ancillary stats: 1.7% steal rate, 16.5% assist rate, and 11.9% turnover rate. Williams is an off-guard who makes solid decision and can shoot the ball at a high-level. The fit with WSU feels seamless and he could immediately step in and fill a role.

Williams is a good shooter, and that is the main sell with him. There is some weird stuff with his form, like the right elbow knocking and the right-hand twisting, but it goes in at a rate that is hard to deny. He shoots 39% from deep on over 6 attempts a game, giving him the volume and efficiency to overcome any form concerns.

Williams’ release is quick, and he is able to get it off with any amount of daylight. Being able to punish defenders for going under on handoffs and ball-screens opens up a lot for an offense.

His pull-up footwork is textbook and there is upside for him to be a truly deadly pull-up shooter. He stutters nicely into this shot and he is completely unbothered by the contest. He just hits shots at a high level and that could potentially change the geometry of WSU’s offense.

He uses his gravity as a shooter to open up the rest of his game. He forces defenders to go over on dribble handoffs and ball-screens and it helps him get downhill. He also shows off some ambidexterity on this play, which allows him to finish left or right.

Despite being able to turn the corner with a head a steam, Williams is not an overall great athlete. He struggles to get by guys off a standstill and he also struggles to create looks for himself in isolation. He is an off-ball player first and foremost and the rest of his game comes out of that off-ball shooting.

His passing when he does get downhill is solid. He is not a high-level, manipulative passer, but he does see the game well. He makes simple dumpoffs to big men and he can hit some kickouts as well.

There are some flashes of craft that make Williams intriguing as an all-around scorer. He has some shift as a ball-handler and he is strong enough to push guys around. His touch and ambidexterity are what draw the most interest, as few right-handed players are this comfortable taking an off-hand floater from 14 feet like this and that touch makes him deadly inside.

Williams is also likely to be a solid defender in WSU’s system. He is strong and he maneuvers well for a player of his size and general athletic ability. He can get around screens and force ball-handlers to take tough shots or get off the ball entirely.

Williams is going to have a lot of options this offseason, but WSU would be an intriguing one. He would immediately be the second or third best shooter on the team, up there with Ty Roberts and Andrej Jakimovski, and he brings some defense and ancillary scoring as well. He would likely start for WSU at the two or the three and he could be a boost on both ends for Smith and Co.

Stay tuned for thoughts on potential big man targets tomorrow.

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