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WSU hoops lands grad transfer Jaylen Shead

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This is a really, really good add to the roster.

Cal Poly v USC
Jaylen Shead, as a member of the Cal Poly Mustangs in 2015.
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

With basketball practice starting on Friday, the Washington State Cougars have made a late addition to their roster as Texas State Bobcats graduate transfer Jaylen Shead is now a part of Kyle Smith’s first squad, appearing on the team’s official roster.

Shead, who was the starting point guard on a 24-win team this past season during his only season playing at Texas State, took a long time to find a landing spot after putting his name in the transfer portal at the end of March. He fills the Cougars’ final available scholarship; a source close to the program indicated that SPU-by-way-of-Montana transfer Tony Miller is actually a walk-on.

This looks like a really tremendous pickup for the program. Shead, who is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, is the kind of pass-first point guard the roster was lacking coming into the season; all of the guards Smith has added in his first offseason fall into the “combo” guard category.

After spending his first two seasons with the Cal Poly Mustangs, Shead transferred to the Bobcats, having his best season with averages of 7.9 points, 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds with just 2.1 turnovers in 28.4 minutes. The rate-based stats tell a decent story of what kind of player he is, as he assisted on a little over 30% of his teammates’ buckets last season (that was third in the Sun Belt Conference; Ahmed Ali was WSU’s leader last season at 25.5%). He also took just 14% of the team’s shots while he was on the floor — easily lowest among the Bobcats’ starters, and on par with someone like Viont’e Daniels last year for WSU. Despite not taking a lot of shots, he does have an above average free throw rate, suggesting a guy who likes to penetrate and either dish or draw a foul, which fuels his overall average offensive efficiency.

One thing you have to believe Smith loved about Shead: He’s an excellent rebounder for his size, picking up 16% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, a mark that is tremendous for a guard and would have put him ahead of everyone on WSU’s roster last season except for Robert Franks and CJ Elleby among WSU’s regular rotation players.

Shooting is the biggest weakness in Shead’s game, as he hit just 30% of his threes last season, which actually tied a career high. He’s also well under 50% on twos for his career, and his turnover rate is also a bit higher than you’d like.

But if WSU is landing a player, they’re not going to be perfect; the question always is more whether they fill a need and whether Smith feels like he can coach them up. And Shead definitely fits the bill, giving WSU another confident ball-handler in the backcourt — we know Smith prefers to roll out lineups with two strong ball-handlers on the floor, and a penetrating guard who’s looking to dish to others is not something that’s otherwise on this roster. Definitely a useful player.

Here’s a look at some highlights from last year. It’s mostly offense, but what’s easy to see is that he does have some speed to him when attacking the rim on offense and jumping passing lanes on defense. You also get some glimpses of the passing ability in the second half of the video:

Here’s how the scholarship situation now stacks up after the addition of Shead: