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Filling WSU’s Final Roster Spot Part 1: Going International

Let’s take a look at some underrated FIBA U19 performers and try to figure out who Kyle Smith will give the last scholarship to

Photo by David Grau/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Washington State Men’s basketball currently sits with an open roster spot. There have been little rumblings or rumors as to how Kyle Smith and staff plan to fill that hole, so let’s put on our theorizing caps and look at their options as the season draws ever closer. There are a three major options that present themselves for the staff this offseason. Today, we’ll start with the most interesting but also, probably, the least realistic.

Option 1: Going International

Smith is crafty and full of surprises in the recruiting game. Last season, WSU pulled out a late-period international grab with Kymany Houinsou and they could look to return to that well this year. FIBA is place to watch young players hoop and international ball is becoming a more viable place to recruit every year.

A small disclaimer for FIBA ball in general, it is a high chaos environment. Oftentimes, these teams have only practiced together for a limited amount of time, a lot of fouls go completely uncalled and fouls are often uncalled. This often leads to exaggerated turnover and steal numbers, as well as occasionally hard-to-read assist numbers depending on teammates. So, take all the stat lines with a light grain of salt.

Ruben Prey- 2005

6’10 Forward/Center, Portugal U18

19.1 Points, 14 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2.9 Turnovers, 2.6 Steals, 1.4 Blocks, 61.5/13.3/65.3

Prey is a 6’10 forward/big that has already been linked to Rick Pitino and St. John’s, but WSU has had bigger recruiting wins in the past. He played for Joventut in the ANGT as a pro last year, but has popped most playing for Portugal in FIBA U18 play. Portugal played in the European Division B, so the competition wasn’t great, but he did summarily dominate. His impressive points per game and efficiency numbers came despite being the opposing defense’s main priority on every single possession.

Prey’s top skill right now is his rebounding. He is tenacious, which combines with a strong feel for tracking the ball and a desire to box out whoever he can. He would absolutely fit in with WSU’s offensive rebounding ethos and he could absolutely be one of the top rebounders in the conference in time. He is also a fluid athlete for a big-man, especially getting up and down the floor. While not particularly explosive, he can grab and go off a rebound thanks to his fluidity and a solid handle in space.

Prey is also a solid passer and the skill flashes are what make him really intriguing. He has a projectable outside shot, good touch in the post, and some high-level decision-making chops. If Prey hits his ceiling, he could be a true do-it-all forward in the vein of an Aljaz Kunc, but with more size and a scoring mindset.

Prey is probably the least realistic guy, but he would be my absolute favorite grab. His feel and size make him someone who is almost certain to contribute to winning eventually, but his smoothness and skill flashes give him upside as a go-to offensive player at the collegiate level. Prey has got some NBA buzz in draft circles and he would be a fascinating addition to the Cougs’ roster.

Reynan Santos- 2004

6’4 Wing, Brazil U19

16.6 Points, 5.6 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3.9 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 0.3 Blocks, 50.8/36.4/66.7

Santos stood out to me when watching U19 games because he was forced to do everything for Brazil, but he never stopped running and playing hard. His motor is endless and he handled his absurdly large role with a lot of grace. At 6’4, he plays with impressive tenacity on the boards and he is always getting to loose balls. His role at high levels is going to be a lot more muted than it was for Brazil, but it is easy to trust players like that to step down to smaller roles.

Santos is always looking to push in transition and that is where most of his creation comes from. Brazil did not have many competent offensive players around him and Santos helped them compensate for that by always pushing the pace. He is not a complex ball-handler or an elite athlete, but he has a good feel for attacking the lanes in transition and getting all the way to the rim. He is also a solid slasher in the half-court, using a good first-step and elite bend to knife through tight defenses and manufacture finishing angles.

Santos is not someone who would play early should he come to Pullman, but players with his motor at the wing are always going to contribute to winning. He has a lot to figure out as an off-ball player and defender, but his motor and athleticism are good enough to make him a great addition.

Lazar Djokovic- 2004

6’8 Forward, Serbia U19

14.9 Points, 7.3 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists, 2.1 Turnovers, 1 Steal, 0.4 Blocks, 61.2/37.5/59.1

Djokovic is another do-it-all type of player for their FIBA team that could excel in a more controlled role at the collegiate level. Djokovic played with fellow Pac-12 forward Filip Borovicanin, who plays at Arizona, and consistently outplayed him.

Djokovic is one of those guys that just clearly knows how to play at 6’8 while being a solid athlete. He plays fairly upright and that does hurt his explosion and lateral mobility, but he is pretty fast and surprisingly quick twitch in tight spaces. He has an excellent feel for off-ball movement, which can made him an efficient scorer for Serbia.

A lot of Djokovic game hinges on the outside shot, and despite his 59.1% free throw shooting, there is a lot to like there. The release is high, he repeats it well, and his footwork on shots is great. He especially excels at hitting pick-and-pop shots, which could make him a great fit at the power forward spot in WSU’s offense.

The worry with Djokovic is that he doesn’t have a truly elite skill to build around and the athletic deficiencies might combine with that to make a role hard to come by. But I’m willing to bet on big guys who just have a natural feel for the game and an understanding of how to do a little bit of everything. He is a great dribble handoff operator, he can shoot it a bit, finish cuts and rim-runs, put the ball on the deck, make solid passing reads, the whole 9. That is the type of guy who is going to find paths to value.

Ilija Milijasevic- 2004

6’2 Guard, Serbia U19

15.4 Points, 3.4 Rebounds, 4.6 Assists, 3.7 Turnovers, 2.3 Steals, 0 Blocks, 41.2/38.1/78.6

Milijasevic would be a get that is very in line with WSU’s general ethos of team building; get dudes who can shoot the cover off the ball. Milijasevic is one of the best 19-year-old shooters in the world and his ability to bomb away off the catch or on pull-ups and step-backs. His mechanics are smooth and compact, allowing him to get into his shot off of basically any movement pattern.

He is only 6’2 and that can limit his effectiveness because it limits his positionality, but WSU has proven willing to play two small guards before and Milijasevic would absolutely step in as one of the better shooters on the team. He can be more than just a shooter, though, as his 4.6 assists per game across FIBA play display his plus pick-and-roll craft and decision-making. He excels at getting a couple dribbles downhill to his right off of a dribble handoff or a flat-screen and making good reads from there. He’s not an elite athlete, but he is a good enough handler to survive as a playmaker at the next level.

Milijasevic has some work to do, but he could be a starting PG with his shot-making and decision-making acumen. WSU could always use more shooters and it wouldn’t shock me if there was a place in the rotation for him as early as his freshman year should he end up in the Crimson and Grey.

Zacharie Perrin- 2004

6’9 Forward/Center, France U19

15.4 Points, 10.9 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, 1.7 Turnovers, 1.7 Steals, 1 Block, 66.2/0/64.3

Last year, WSU struck some French gold with Kymany Houinsou, perhaps they can do it again with another U19 standout. Perrin is a strong, 6’9 big-man who can handle the rock, make some plays for others, and finish in the paint with the best of them.

Perrin is a strong, effective post-scorer with a variety of moves and good touch down low. He is great when others create for him as a cutter and with duck-ins, but he also excels at creating shots for himself in the mid-post or from the top of the key. It is fun to watch him operate in isolation and his ability to wrong-foot bigs with crossovers and spin-moves.

He is also a solid playmaker from all over the court. He is a great dribble handoff operator and post-passer, especially to cutters. He is the right mix of patient and decisive, with a great feel for where the defense is and how to subtly manipulate them with lookoffs and ball-fakes. He plays a lot like WSU’s incoming super-senior Isaac Jones and he could fill a similar role in time.

Perrin is a bit of a man without a country on defense and his lack of outside shooting and athleticism as a roll-man could make him a bit of an odd fit, but the offensive skillset is incredibly tantalizing and post-scorers like him don’t come around often. He could be a build-around offensive piece if given the time and latitude to develop.

Lucas Giovannetti- 2005

6’7 Wing, Argentina U19

15 Points, 5.4 Rebounds, 2.3 Assists, 1.7 Turnovers, 1.6 Steals, 0.9 Blocks, 51.2/36.8/84

Skilled wings are always a valuable commodity and Gionvannetti has skill to spare. He is a legitimately strong handler in pick-and-roll, with excellent screen set-up and solid counters post-dribble. He is usually looking to score for himself in pick-and-roll, but he is good at making simple reads and pick-and-roll passing is something that can be improved in time.

The off-ball game for Giovannetti needs some work, but he is a solid shooter and Argentina’s offense was not necessarily built for him to be utilized as an off-ball mover. He does stand around a lot, but he has comfortable deep range on his jumper and he is a quick decision-maker when making connective reads.

Giovannetti is more of a long-term bet than anything, but being a legit 6’7 wing who can run an efficient pick-and-roll is super valuable and those players don’t grow on trees. It is easy to imagine him excelling in better spacing and turning himself into a point forward type player. But even if he doesn’t develop along that path, there is enough intrigue with his game as a whole that he will almost certainly find paths to value.


WSU might’ve started a trend. Other college teams have started recruiting international players who don’t necessarily seem the type to play college ball, such as Kentucky getting Zvonimir Ivisic, and going back to that well makes a lot of sense for the Cougs. There are a lot of fun options and it could be one of the many intriguing players that I didn’t discuss here.

Stay tuned for part 2, where we discuss the other two options for WSU’s final spot. Who would you like to see the Cougs pursue? Let me know!

Go Cougs!

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