The Washington State Cougars men’s basketball team made its first addition to the 2022-23 team — though certainly not the last — when Spokane’s Dylan Darling signed his letter of intent on Wednesday.
“It’s a dream come true. ... Growing up a Coug with both parents going there and just kind of growing up knowing what being what a Coug is and being able to do it myself – it’s pretty special,” Darling told the Spokesman-Review at a signing party.
Darling — whose father, James, was a standout linebacker at WSU in the mid-1990s — put up some borderline-unbelievable numbers as a senior at Central Valley, averaging 33.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 4.4 steals while shooting 55% from the field and 80% from the line. And yet, he received precious little recruiting attention, likely owing to his limited role as a sophomore and junior.
WSU offered Darling shortly after the season, and a couple of weeks later, he committed. Now, he’s signed.
“We are thrilled to have Dylan be a part of our program,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said via news release. “He is exactly the type of student-athlete we want to continue to build around. Dylan was born to be at WSU and is a Coug through and through. As the 4A Player of the Year we are fortunate to be able to bring him in and hope to continue to bring in players just like him in the future. His desire and passion for the game is a rarity, and we are happy to have Dylan coming to the Palouse and fulfill his dream of being a Coug.”
Darling’s only other Division I offer was Idaho State, but as roster churn started around the country, he was getting calls from high major programs.
Here’s a summary of how our Bryce Hendricks sized up Darling:
Darling is a highly skilled guard, and his abilities are varied. The place to start with Darling is the jumper, as he is wet as the ocean from outside. ... The main hope for WSU is that Darling can become a true weapon as a jump shooter, pulling up like Mike Flowers. His jumper even has more upside than Flowers, as crazy as that sounds, as Darling’s mechanics are a bit more conducive to movement shooting without the ball. ...
Darling also flashes some ability to play as a true point, though it is yet to be seen exactly how good he is at that. ... Darling will need to be a high-level passer to truly live up to his potential at the D1 level and fulfill what the Cougs need from him.
The question with someone like Darling was always going to be the athleticism. Players like Darling, who are clearly good and productive players, are often underrecruited because of that lack of athleticism. Darling is well-built, filling out his 6’2 frame in a way that is almost expected from the son of a former NFL linebacker. Darling uses this strength well and it helps cover for some his lack of straight-line speed.
It can be hard to evaluate his burst because he was always going to be “burstier” than the guys he was playing against, but I think there is upside there. He is not super explosive, but he is shifty and gets in and out of his moves with ease. There is definitely a chance he can become and above-average scorer in the Pac-12 if he begins complementing his jumper with some paint touches and rim attempts.
The Cougs are nowhere near done shaping their roster for next season, as they still have three scholarships remaining — and that doesn’t include the potential departure of Efe Abogidi, who has declared for the NBA Draft, but could return.
It’s tough to know exactly how Smith will try to fill out the roster, but here’s my best guess at the shopping list, in no particular order:
- A bigger point guard from the transfer portal to pair with Tyrell Roberts, who is most comfortable as a scorer, in the starting lineup (6-foot-2 and above, please);
- A tall guard (6-4 and above) who can defend and spread the floor with shooting, potentially to start but also maybe to come off the bench in the role that Noah Williams filled toward the end of the season;
- A big man to either develop or take Abogidi’s place if he doesn’t return.
As far as the last bullet point goes, Adrame Diongue is set to visit WSU next week. He’s a guy who sits just outside the top 100 in 247sports’ composite rankings, and is in the mold of Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye as a floor runner and rim protector. He’s got a top five of WSU, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas Tech, and UNLV, but his only other planned visit is UNLV this weekend, so it would seem that his decision is down to the Cougs and Runnin’ Rebels.
And the guards? WSU has been linked to so many names, it’s hard to get any kind of a bead on those possibilities.
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