WSU men's basketball has lost another player: Valentine Izundu has told ESPN that he intends to transfer. The news was later confirmed by WSU.
"We support the decision made by Valentine and wish him nothing but good things," coach Ernie Kent said in a written statement. "We’ve enjoyed coaching Valentine over the last two years and appreciate the contributions he’s made to the program."
Izundu, who transferred to WSU after two seasons at Houston as part of Kent's first recruiting class, was a redshirt junior. He will be a graduate transfer who is eligible to play immediately at his new destination.
Known for his prodigious ability to block shots, Izundu was basically a one-trick pony, bereft of any offensive ability other than dunking -- but oh, what a wonderful trick it was:
Valentine's over here breaking all the Sun Devils' hearts! ❌— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 7, 2016
Watch #Pac12Hoops live: https://t.co/qcjjBLAeMvhttps://t.co/5Cmw9stslZ
Izundu wound up averaging 3.8 points and 2.2 blocks in his only season at WSU, which was marred by a foot injury that caused him to miss seven games. He did return to play the final nine games, but his effectiveness was limited. Whether that was because of the elevated level of competition or because of lingering effects from the injury ... who knows. (I tend to think it was the latter.)
It's tempting to look at Izundu's limited skill set and shrug at his departure, but given the paucity of talent on this roster, losing a guy who already possessed a Pac-12-level skill is nothing to shrug at. And it's reasonable to think that he could have developed a bit more before next season, particularly on offense.
Additionally, this is a pretty big blow to whatever hopes the Cougars had for an improved defense next year. Kent basically designed this year's defense around his presence in the middle, and it worked out well early on. But when Izundu (and his blocks) went down, the defense went with him. I'm not sure how Kent goes about piecing together an adequate defense with a front line of Josh Hawkinson, Conor Clifford, Robert Franks and incoming freshman Jeff Pollard -- the only four big men currently on the roster. Hawkinson is a solid defender (if not asked to guard stronger players), but Clifford and Franks each failed to distinguish themselves in a positive way.
In short, it's hard to imagine a scenario where this doesn't make an already bad team a little bit worse next season.
The bigger picture concern: With Izundu's departure, all five players from Kent's first recruiting class have transferred within two years, plus Renard Suggs from his last class is also leaving after just one season. None of them contributed much in their time at WSU:
|Aaron Cheatum||F||4/25/14||3/31/15||16||5.8 min, 0.8 pts, 1.1 rebs|
|Jackie Davis Jr.||G||5/12/14||3/31/15||11||5.1 min, 0.5 pts|
|Ny Redding||G||5/13/14||3/11/16||60||15.9 min, 2.7 pts, 2.4 asts, 1.4 TOs|
|Trevor Dunbar||G||6/3/14||3/31/15||16||9.8 min, 0.8 pts, 1.5 asts, 1.1 TOs|
|Valentine Izundu||C||7/27/14||4/4/16||23||14.9 min, 3.8 pts, 2.7 rebs, 2.2 blks|
|Renard Suggs||G||11/12/14||3/11/16||25||12.6 min, 5.4 pts, 1.9 rebs, 1.0 asts, 1.0 TOs|
Which, of course, points to the larger issue with Kent, who insisted on day one that he would not miss a beat recruiting as well as he did at Oregon. He has signed 11 players in two classes, and six are already gone, with the other five looking ... questionable. So while it's certainly easy to look at any one of those six guys and say, "Oh well, he couldn't really hack it in the Pac-12 anyway," we're talking about six guys Kent recruited over the course of two years who couldn't hack it in the Pac-12.
And how about answering this question: How's your confidence level that Kent is going to fill these two open scholarships with guys who are an upgrade over Suggs or Izundu in 2016-17?
Just something to think about. Here's the current scholarship situation.