The closer we got to the beginning of the school year, the more it looked like Washington State men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith was either going to leave one of his scholarships for 2022-2023 unfilled or use it on one of the walk-ons. Instead, he and his staff have secured a last-minute commitment from Kymany Houinsou, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 guard/wing from France with major upside.
“(Houinsou) is a perfect fit for our program with his ability to play on both sides of the ball. He is a big guard who possesses great offensive playmaking skills that blend well with his natural defensive length, strength and instincts,” Smith said via news release. “Kymany is a prototype modern-day player. He gives us the ability to switch 1 through 5 defensively and allows us to be very flexible with the different styles of play in the Pac-12.”
Houinsou is the second Frenchman to join the roster this season (following the addition of Mael Hamon-Crespin), and he could develop into a true star in Pullman after exploding onto the scene at the FIBA U18 Tournament this year.
He is young — having turned 18 in January — but Houinsou is already on a trajectory for a strong professional career. That youth combines with a great development curve and a fascinating skillset to make for an awesome upside swing to round out this roster. At FIBA this year, Houinsou averaged 10 points, 5.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block, and he looked like one of the best players on a great France team. He started to really expand his game at that level and he should continue to develop under Smith and staff.
The word to describe Houinsou is versatile. Much like former Coug draft pick and current NBA hopeful CJ Elleby, Houinsou brings a two-way skillset with solid size and multi-faceted positionality. Houinsou is 6-foot-6 with a strong build, but he is agile and quick enough to survive at the point. His overall versatility on both ends makes him a fascinating skeleton key to add to this roster; being able to fill multiple roles and affect the game in a variety of ways will make him easier to play early, and he could even find himself starting if things really click.
The place to start with Houinsou is the all-around athletic prowess. He is a bit stiff at times, and that can affect the standstill explosion, but overall? The athleticism pops. He can get up around the rim off one or two feet and he is deadly with a head of steam. The burst has gotten better and he is smooth when getting into and out of moves. He is most potent in transition, where his speed stands out, and his recognition allows him to exploit holes in the defense by simply beating defenders to the spot. He can catch the occasional lob in transition and he rarely makes mistakes when running the floor. His strength is also impressive, allowing him to absorb contact and finish through it.
The real sell with Houinsou is that he has developed some legit on-ball chops and likely projects, long-term, as a point guard for the Cougs. He is currently more used to playing off the ball and attacking a tilted floor, but he has expanded his game and the reads consistently stand out. He is an excellent passer, both in transition and the pick-and-roll, and he makes reads with startling quickness. He is far from robotic as a reader, and he makes organic reads all over the court.
The handle is still developing, but he is smooth as a ball-handler. He seems to have the natural parts of handling down, from changing pace to shifting his hips and even mixing pick-up points to create holes to get downhill. His ability to mix in funky stride lengths and manipulate defenders makes him adept at creating space and opening up driving lanes. His issues as a handler are mostly that he doesn’t have the deepest bag and he can struggle a bit with hard-nosed defenders, but those are the types of things that can be developed as he works to become a true point guard with wing size.
Getting big and staying big seems to be the new Kyle Smith philosophy with guard recruiting, and Houinsou fits right in with that.
kymany houinsou is a space creation god pic.twitter.com/CiP1kICvcG— damon allred (@iamdamonallred) August 2, 2022
France's 18 y/o lead guard Kymany Houinsou operates with terrific creativity and craft at 6-foot-6. Changes pace, draws fouls, and utilizes his excellent positional length to create opportunities for his teammates. Energetic presence on both ends. 2nd in APG (5.6) #FIBAU18Europe. pic.twitter.com/bnEo7PDU7c— League Him (@League_Him) August 7, 2022
Houinsou’s scoring is a bit of a question mark currently, but once again, the development curve is promising. The shot looks much improved and he takes quite a few shots off the dribble. His touch borders on great and he has a great feel for getting floaters and runners off. The step-back looks somewhat comfortable even if the release is a bit slow. The catch-and-shoot shot looks a bit uncomfortable, but I think the form is plenty projectable and the track record of growth gives plenty of room for confidence. The finishing is legitimately great at times, even though he is usually finishing below the rim. He has great touch and body control as a driver and he can contort and hang to get by defenders and finish at the rim. He should be good enough as a slasher to have scoring gravity, and the upside to hit spot-ups and create jumpers off the dribble is there.
The defense is also quite excellent with Houinsou, and that should help him find early minutes with the Cougs. He makes a lot of plays in rotations and he has excellent hands on that end. He wreaks a lot of havoc by getting steals and blocks all over the court; he is particularly excellent at stripping drivers both on the ball and on digs. His overall activity is great and his off-ball defense is a solid positive.
He can be a bit over ambitious as an on-ball defender, but I expect WSU to put him in a good situation to hone those skills and use his tools to be a solid plus. He also doesn’t need to be an on-ball stopper on this team with TJ Bamba here and it can only help to be getting someone who — much like CJ Elleby did his sophomore year — just creates a ton of plays. I expect Houinsou’s defense to get him real looks from this staff to play early minutes.
Great pickup for WSU. Kymany Houinsou is most comfortable right now as a guard, although I like him better off the ball because of his limitations in the half-court. Should play the 3 down the line too.— Wilko (@wilkomcv) August 21, 2022
Versatile defender but developing as a shooter. Better in transition now. https://t.co/SRkUx1DfAE pic.twitter.com/ABPiqjKLb9
France finished 5th in the FIBA U18 European tournament and Houinsou was a big part of that. He was the starting point guard for them and he did a lot of setting the table and controlling the pace. While there is still some work to be done before he can comfortably run a high volume of pick-and-rolls, I don’t think it is at all out of the realm of possibilities that he could develop into one of the top guards in the Pac-12 when all is said and done.
If you’re so inclined, here’s the first game from France’s opener in the tournament against Germany.
This has shaped into an excellent summer for WSU basketball. While putting the offseason in perspective will take further reflection, it is easy to call the job Smith and his staff have done retooling the roster nothing short of incredible. Houinsou is the rare, uber-valuable last minute scholarship addition who is certain to fit in with the roster. He could slide into the rotation in a variety of areas, from starting to barely playing depending on how things shake out. He has the tools to make an early impact, but even if it takes a couple seasons, Houinsou is an excellent addition who continues the staff’s international recruiting prowess and will pay major dividends.