The upward trajectory of Ernie Kent’s program might have just taken a massive hit as Robert Franks — the Washington State Cougars’ leading scorer last season and the team’s lone all-Pac-12 selection (honorable mention, but still) — announced via Twitter today that he has decided to forego his senior season of eligibility.
It does seem like there is a sliver of a possibility that Franks could come back to school, since he has yet to sign with an agent; however, this certainly strikes a different tone than the announcements of a couple of years ago when guys such as Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu decided to test the waters, sounding like Franks already has made up his mind.
Perhaps he just needed a little more help crafting his statement, because this is what came out through the school’s official announcement a short time later:
“I’ve grown a lot in my three years at WSU,” Franks said. “I’m excited at the thought of playing at the next level and want to test out the process and see what opportunities lay ahead for me. I’m not going to hire an agent just yet, I want to get some feedback and see what I can potentially do.”
After being little more than a deep reserve in his first two years, Franks made a massive jump in production this season, increasing his averages to 17.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 33 minutes a game. He was both high usage and efficient on a team that often struggled to score points this season, particularly in conference play.
Franks currently doesn’t appear on ESPN’s 2018 mock draft; NBADraft.net had projected Franks as a mid-second round pick in 2019. As a 6-foot-7/225-pound forward, he’s a bit of a tweener by NBA standards — not tall enough to play amongst the trees, but not a good enough ball handler or passer to play on the wing. He does possess an NBA shooting stroke, however, as evidence by shooting 41 percent on 163 threes. Maybe that intrigues somebody.
The deadline for Franks to make a final decision on whether to stay in the draft is not until June 11, so if Franks holds off on hiring an agent, it’s going to be a while before we hear a decision one way or the other. Hawkinson, et al announced their decisions to return to school at the end of May.
If Franks does stay in the draft, the Cougars would be losing a major piece of their lineup — perhaps the most major piece of their lineup — in advance of a critical season in Kent’s tenure. Clearly on the hot seat, Kent has been pointing to 2018-19 as a season in which the program will take a jump, given that virtually the entire roster (minus starting center Drick Bernstine) was expected to return.
Now, that’s in question. Here’s how the scholarships look if Franks decides to stay in the draft:
WSU has continued to be active on the recruiting trail, perhaps in anticipation of this move. That said, it wouldn’t be shocking if there was another departure or two (K.J. Langston?) that would also free up a spot.