Washington State is hard at work recruiting and trying to build on what Kyle Smith and staff have already accomplished. The AAU season is in full swing and there is no better time to take a look at who could be future Cougs.
In Part 1 of this series, we went over the potential top targets for the Cougs in the 2023 class and established some archetypal holes that WSU could be looking to fill: Attacking guard, bucket getter, sharpshooter, funky forward, and athletic big. These five archetypes could all fill an important role for WSU in the 2023-24 season and recruiting is the first step towards covering up those holes.
Let’s examine some other targets that the Cougs have offered.
Depth Matters: Notable Deep Targets
Christian Hammond (6-3/180) — Colorado Prospects 3SSB EYBL
Archetype: Sharpshooter/Bucket Getter
Other offers: Wyoming, Butler, Colorado, Utah
Christian Hammond is a small-ish guard — he’s listed at 6-3, but might be closer to 6-1 — who can shoot at a high level and create shots for himself. He is the younger brother of Colorado sharpshooter Julian Hammond III and their skillset is very similar. Hammond excels at hitting shots from all over the court and his role for WSU would be as a spark plug and movement shooter.
The jumper is the main sell with Hammond without a doubt. He is point guard sized, but — similar to Tyrell Roberts — he plays mostly off-ball or trying to get to pull-ups. His range is deep, and he is comfortable punishing defenses when they go under screens. He can hit shots off movement too, and that versatility gives him upside to be a truly dangerous shooter all around. It is easy to see him being one of the best shooters in the conference if he continues to develop.
The worry with Hammond is just that he isn’t yet great at anything else aside from shooting and he is only 6’1. Being point guard sized without a point guard’s skillset is always a limiter on upside, but Hammond could still excel in his role as a shooter and scorer. There is upside for him to get to a high-level as a scorer if that jumper becomes truly nuclear.
Darius Carr (6-3/190) — Compton Magic EYBL
Archetype: Attacking Guard
Darius Carr, AAU teammate of fellow WSU target Andrej Stojakovic, is an uber-athletic slashing guard that has a lot of high-major interest. The main sell is that athletic ability, as he finishes above the rim extremely well for a 6-foot-3 guard and hangs in the air for layups and passes, too. Honing that athleticism into a final product that benefits winning at the next level is something many top schools are salivating to do.
Carr plays most as on off-guard in his time and that role works for him. He is an excellent cutter, and his athleticism helps him finish those cuts better than most his size. He can attack a tilted floor well, catching and driving with the best of them. The worry with Carr as an off-guard is that he is far from a reliable shooter currently, but his slashing benefits greatly from off-ball play.
The ultimate upside with Carr is that he could be one of the most athletic point guards in a given conference if he develops the skills to truly play the point. His handle is solid, changing direction well and playing with a herky jerky style that is difficult to defend. However, the passing and shooting have a way to go for him to truly fill that role. He is a good defender and that helps give him a floor even if he can never truly play as the point at the next level.
Taison Chatman (6-4/170) — D1 Minnesota
Archetype: Sharpshooter/Bucket Getter
Other offers: UCLA, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Texas Tech, Iowa, Louisville
Taison Chatman has continually improved over the past few seasons, and he has earned a lot of looks from high-major teams. Chatman can score the rock at a high level, starting with the jumper and working in. He loves to pull-up and hit jumpers off movement, making him one of the best shooters in his class, and he leverages the threat of that jumper well. The handle getting into jumpers is impressive too, creating a lot of space to get the shot off.
The worry with Chatman is that he is rarely a threat to get all the way to the rim. He is not a bad all-around athlete, but the burst and bend are both limited, and it makes it hard for him to get downhill, even when guarded by lesser defenders. He could continue to work on the handle and begin generating some rim-pressure, but he is unlikely to be a consistent threat getting to the rack.
Overall, Chatman is exactly the type of role-player often coveted by high-level teams that could be persuaded by the potential role he would be offered at WSU. WSU would almost certainly give him the freedom to stretch his legs as more than just a shooter and he has some upside there. The passing is consistently solid, and his space creation could eventually develop into a bit more downhill momentum creation. Either way, he is an easy bet to be an elite shooter with the potential for more.
Andrew Meadow (6-7/200) — Strive For Greatness
Other offers: Washington, UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno State, San Francisco
Andrew Meadow, AAU teammate of Bronny James, is a solid all-around forward who would provide good depth at an important position for WSU. He does not hang his hat on one thing currently, but there are a lot of solid skills and a good frame to work with. The jumper is the easiest thing to buy with Meadow, as it looks cleans and he hits it a solid, albeit inconsistent, rate. He can get some buckets in the post or attacking closeouts, but it is not certain those are the types of usage that will translate up for Meadow.
Meadow strikes me a lot as the classic mid-major forward. Stretches out a bit but is not a sniper by any means, and he gets ugly buckets. He’ll score on smaller, slower, or less disciplined defenders in the post, he’ll get out and run in transition, he’ll attack the occasional closeout, but he doesn’t truly excel at any one thing. His game of reminiscent of Boise State’s Tyson Degenhart, but that might even be a high bar for him to reach in his early production.
Meadow makes a lot of sense as early depth who could potentially develop into a valuable player if he sticks around. The hope for Meadow is that he can be a connector, hitting shots, moving the ball, and doing the dirty work on both ends. He would not be the star-maker of any class for WSU, but he is worthy of a roster spot if he continues to develop.
Jazz Gardner (6-10/200) — Dream Vision
Archetype: Athletic Big
Jazz Gardner is another bet Kyle Smith and staff are making on an athletic big with some developable offensive talent. Gardner is already a polished rim runner; the explosion off the ground is not elite, but his size, length, and timing are. He has a great sense for shot-blocking, as well as the motor to out-run opponents down the floor.
The upside with Gardner lies in his burgeoning jump-shot. Bigs with jumpers in high school are never a sure thing to continue developing that as their role adjusts at the next level —look no further than Mouhamed Gueye for an example of that — but Gardner could potentially be a floor spacing big, and that brings a lot of value with it. He can also score in the post using more than just a size advantage, meaning he could eventually develop into an overwhelming two-way force at the college level.
Overall, Gardner would be an excellent addition to any team, but WSU’s pursuit of him will likely depend on how packed they expect the big room to be. Still, if Gardner were to choose WSU, he’d be an intriguing blend of the post-scoring of Dishon Jackson and the defense of more athletic rim-runners like Franck Kepnang.
Baye Ndongo (6-8/220) — Utah Prospects
Archetype: Athletic Big/Funky Forward
Other offers: Washington, Colorado, Cal, Arizona State, Providence, Penn State
Baye Ndongo is a bit of a late bloomer, but one with major upside. The 6-8 big is a solid all-around athlete who plays with a high motor and has some impressive offensive flashes. The sell with Ndongo is the mix of safeness with his rim-running and upside with his offensive skillset. There is some worry about the overall feel, but Smith and staff have done an excellent job developing defensive awareness and harnessing offensive funk.
Ndongo can get up and down the floor with the best of them. He is an overall better athlete than high ranked guys like Jazz Gardner, and it shows in his highlights. He can throw down some monster jams on the break and in traffic and it should translate to blocks on defense. That athleticism at his size gives him a high floor if he finds himself in the right system to maximize those things.
However, the story with Ndongo goes beyond the rim-running. He flashes some interesting moments with the ball in his hands. His handle is loose and wild but he clearly has a path and moves he is trying to execute and that alone is promising. He also mixes in some nice footwork in the post that makes him a solidly more skilled post scorer than most of his archetype. Overall, Ndongo is certainly underranked and he would be a great bet to make for Smith and staff.
Bryce’s Stock Watch: Other Potential Targets for WSU
These guys have yet to receive offers from the Cougs ... but maybe should.
Jojo Tugler (6-7/215) — Houston Hoops EYBL
Archetype: Funky Forward
Jojo Tugler has been my favorite watch of the early EYBL season and he is criminally underranked. He is a 6-7 forward with, frankly, insane movement skills for that size. He slides on the perimeter with guards, wreaks havoc in rotations at the block, and can jump passing lanes. His ability to create plays on defense is something WSU has not really had out of a non-big since CJ Elleby left for the NBA, and that versatility would be a ceiling raiser for the team.
Tugler’s offensive role is less concrete, but there are flashes there. He is quick in the post, and he gets into moves quickly. The jumper is not a comfortable tool for him yet, but it is not broken, and he is a prime candidate for improvement in a college system. He also flashes feel as a passer, which would be a benefit for a WSU team that does not have many high-feel playmakers.
Overall, Tugler would be a great addition to the program and someone I think WSU should give a look. He has impressed others at the first EYBL session as well and his versatile skill-set could make him coveted by other programs. Adding Tugler would give Smith even more defensive talent to work with and a high upside player if he hones that athleticism and skill on offense.
Jace Posey (6-4/175) — Houston Hoops EYBL
Archetype: Bucket Getter
Offers: TCU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Jace Posey would be another in the line of elite scorers with two guard size and athleticism. Posey is a great vertical athlete with burst and lateral athleticism to go along with it. The son of former NBA player James Posey, Jace projects as a high-level bucket getter who can it going downhill, score off the dribble, and potentially create for others.
The jumper is a major point of developmental emphasis for Posey, but there is upside there. He has solid touch, the release is high, and he has grown more confident over time taking and making pull-up jumpers. If defenses can’t go under on him because of the threat of the pull-up, he will be able to get right downhill at will.
The developmental path, fit with the program, and overall upside is obvious with Posey. He is similar to TJ Bamba, though Bamba’s power is replaced with a bit of wiriness from Posey, and he projects to get buckets at a high-level. He can be an excellent slasher, play off-ball, and potentially be a lead initiator if he reaches his high-end outcomes. He is going a bit underrecruited and Smith and staff would have a solid chance to win a recruiting battle for his services.
Sebastian Mack (6-2/180) — Vegas Elite EYBL
Archetype: Attacking Guard/Bucket Getter
Offers: Loyola Marymount, UNLV, New Mexico, DePaul
Sebastian Mack was a standout for me during my recent EYBL dive and he is a fun slashing guard. His main sell is the mix of handle and athleticism he uses to get downhill and finish. He has awesome touch on floaters and finishes around the rim and he has started to develop some basic playmaking reads to take advantage of these drives.
Mack is also a solid shooter for his position and role. He is not elite, but he takes them comfortably off the dribble and will work his way into those shots. Defenders cannot go under screens on him without the threat of a pull-up jumper from deep. He does not have a ton of pick-and-roll craft yet developed, but the mix of downhill athleticism and shooting bodes well for upside there.
Overall, Mack is solid recruit with a valuable skillset. His current offers are all from mid-major schools, but I think he is a true High-Major talent, at least once he develops. He is similar to a guard like Brooklyn Hicks that was mentioned in Part 1 of this piece, and he could be a good fallback if WSU cannot get Hicks.
WSU is at an interesting point with their 2023 class, as is much of college basketball as a whole. The transfer portal has forever changed the landscape of how recruiting is done, and it has made getting early commitments less and less of a priority. This is uncharted territory for college basketball, and it makes casting a wide net and keeping your options open even more important than before.
There are a couple standouts in this group that would be specific favorites of mine for WSU to target. Baye Ndongo is high on my list because I am all-in on getting dudes with a lot of funk and going from there; Darius Carr would also be near the top of my priority list, as getting guards with that athleticism is rare and the upside is palpable. It will be interesting to see who else WSU targets as the EYBL and Grassroots Circuits chug ever forward, bringing more and more prospects to the forefront.