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WSU Basketball Player Previews: Oscar Cluff

What to expect from the incoming JUCO big-man

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State Men’s Basketball has an intriguing - and somewhat mangled - roster as practices are getting underway. While there is still an open spot, school has started in Pullman and WSU is likely operating under the assumption that they’ll have to play it as it goes. You can read articles on how they might fill that final spot, but for now, we’ll operate under the assumption that we’ll know when we know.

So, what can we expect from the roster as it stands? There will be plenty of time for macro-examinations on both ends, but let’s get micro first. Going player by player, we’ll breakdown what we can expect from every player on the squad.

Today’s Subject:

Oscar Cluff: 6’11 Center, Two Years of Eligibility Remaining, Transfer from Cochise Community College

Cochise Stats: 12 Points Per Game, 20.4 Points Per 40 Minutes, 10.8 Rebounds Per Game, 1.5 Assists Per Game, 75% Field Goal Percentage, 65.2% Free Throw Percentage

Archetype: Bruising Big

Coug fans have long yearned for the second-coming of Jeff Pollard (especially my fiancée, who loving asks “where’s Jeff?” during every Coug game) and Cluff might be just that. He is a big, long, and strong big-man who can get dirty on the boards, score some in the post, and be ruthlessly efficient on rolls. Is he going to be an elite rim-protector or a high-flying roller? Probably not, but there is a chance for him to provide real value early.


Just from the look of him, you’d expect Cluff to be a bucket-getter in the post. Is that stereotyping? Absolutely. But he fits, and his combo of footwork and size makes him effective down low.

He doesn’t have the same type of aesthetically pleasing post-bag that someone like Pollard had, but he is ruthlessly efficient when he gets the ball down low.

What I like most about his post-game is that he doesn’t get too fancy. He attacks swiftly and will take what the defense gives him without a fuss. That type of consistency feels easier to bet on moving up levels, than if he were someone who was hitting 4-5 moves to score every time.

While mostly a back-to-the-basket guy, Cluff can face up and get busy from time to time. He has a solid little mid-range J and having that type of versatility could make him a go-to scorer on bench units.

It’s vital for any modern big-man to be more than just a post-scorer offensively, and Cluff flashes a solid skillset there. His JUCO team didn’t run a lot of pick-and-roll, but he flashed solid feel as a roll-man when they did. He is not an uber-athlete, lob threat type, but he has good footwork getting downhill and nice craft as a finisher.

While not a high-flyer, he is athletic enough to catch some lobs and that’s nice to see. His feet aren’t completely glued to the floor and he has some ability to go get one when needed.

He is also comfortable in the dunker spot. The dunker spot is an area of the floor along the baseline where non-shooting bigs tend to stand when not involved in the main action. He can catch a good lob from that area and he has a nice sense for where to maneuver along the baseline.

Cluff is also a high-enough feel player that he can make some passing reads. He’s no Nikola Jokic out there, but he is a good ball-mover who is also good at understanding his own gravity and how to exploit it as a passer.

He probably could’ve averaged more assists at a higher level given his passing chops and it could make him a nice back-up to fellow good passer, Isaac Jones.


So, if he fits the stereotype on one end, does he also fit it on the other? The answer is mostly yes, but there is some intrigue there. He has an odd posture that leads him to playing incredibly hunched over, and this is a big reason for the mixed back. He isn’t incredibly athletic vertically or laterally, so he has to compensate by being perfect rotationally.

Cluff doesn’t project as a particularly high-level rim-protector. He can get some blocks here and there, but he is incredibly reliant on quick hands and timing. He has good hand-eye coordination and solid length, but he is rarely stopping drives once they get into the paint.

Because of this, Cochise had Cluff hard-hedge. The results were mixed here but it might be the best use of him defensively in general. When he’s engaged, he looks fine, hedging out to prevent a drive and getting back below the big to prevent a seal and get in box-out position.

However, he could be lazy in hedge at times and this allows drives or seals to keep him out of position. He is not athletic enough to compensate for being out of position, so this leaves him out to dry at times.

Cluff has to get really sharp in help, because he is not strong enough to be late. Meeting drivers outside the paint and forcing floaters or middies is going to be vital for the Cougs’ defensive success when he is on the floor.


Cluff was a pretty solid grab for WSU, and he could contribute to the big rotation early. He will definitely be playing behind Jones, but Reuben Chinyelu could also push above on the depth chart -maybe even into the starting lineup- and that could make limits fairly tight for Cluff when everyone is healthy.

However, there is also a chance that the Cougs will rely on him pretty heavily for backup minutes, and he should be able to be a plus contributor offensively, at least in the half-court. If WSU wants to play like they did last year again, then Cluff’s post-scoring, decision-making, and roll gravity will make him a solid offensive player. If the Cougs play more up-tempo, he could struggle early on and be used more in a spot role for when things do bog down.

Defensively, Cluff should be surrounded by good enough talent to cover up for some of his weaknesses, but he is going to have to be incredibly heady at all times to be a plus on that end. His defensive rebounding should be a positive, though, which helps contribute to Kyle Smith’s desire to win the possession game.

Even if Cluff is more a depth piece than a major rotation player, depth is something that the Cougs desperately need. Last year, WSU was forced to roll-out a walk-on for bench minutes and Cluff’s inclusion will be an improvement over that. He also makes sense as the type of player who can attack a couple specific weaknesses. If the opponent is switching everything, slowing the pace, or trying to turn the game into a dog-fight, Cluff could come in and be a solid scoring option down-low to buoy the offense. That makes Cluff a really solid floor raiser who can contribute early in his Cougs career.

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