Ernie Kent just keeps doing things right this offseason: Today, WSU announced that forward Drick Bernstine has joined the basketball program as a graduate transfer from North Dakota.
Bernstine, a 6-foot-8/220-pound forward who averaged 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds, has one season of eligibility remaining and is able to play immediately.
While those numbers might not pop out at you immediately, consider that he did it in about 28 minutes a game — that translates to about 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, which I think gives you a better idea of the kind of production you might be able to expect, given that he just might play those kinds of minutes in a frontcourt that has plenty of minutes available.
While that’s not a game-changing offensive contribution, you’ll certainly take that kind of rebounding, considering the void that’s left behind with the graduation of Josh Hawkinson, one of the best rebounders in program history. Bernstine rebounded 23 percent of opponents’ misses last season, and 26 percent the year before that. For context, Hawkinson rebounded 27 percent of opponents’ misses last season.
"Drick is a tough, skilled, physical basketball player that will bring a lot to Washington State University," Kent said via news release. "He's an excellent student and great young man, and we're excited to have him a part of the Cougar basketball program."
But what about the step up in competition? If you’re thinking “he could only average 8 and 7 in the Big Sky?”, it might make you feel better to know that Bernstine scored 20 and pulled down 15 in the Fighting Hawks’ opening round NCAA tournament game against Arizona.
There are two things that have generally held back his offensive efficiency: turnovers and 2-point jumpers. His turnover rate is a lot higher than what you’d typically see out of a big man, and while he hit 53 percent of his 2s last season, he shot just 37 percent on 2-point jumpers, which made up just a little less than half his shots. If he can clean up the turnovers (a persistent problem throughout his career) and develop his jumper a little, he could be a really nice offensive player.
Bernstine is the first graduate transfer secured by Kent, and this fits really well with the team’s current scholarship situation. He takes one of the team’s two remaining scholarships, he’ll be the team’s only senior next season, and he only holds a spot for a year. He fills an immediate need — the frontcourt is really thin — and Kent is still able to go out and try and recruit a high-level freshman for 2018. That’s the best of all worlds.
Barring a big jump in production (which certainly is always possible), Bernstine isn’t a guy who’s going to transform the team. But he definitely makes the Cougs better, and I would bet that he’ll be starting next to Robert Franks in the frontcourt. This is good, because it’s highly questionable just how much junior college transfer Davante Cooper is going to give WSU after his subpar season against lesser competition.
This signing comes on the heels of Kent revamping his coaching staff and signing Tacoma’s Roberto Gittens, a fringy top-100 recruit. It’s hard to imagine a realistic offseason scenario that would have gone better than this one.
Here’s a look at the Cougs’ current scholarship situation. There’s still another scholarship available, which Kent could choose to stockpile for 2018 if he so desires: