Washington State Cougars men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith continues to outdo himself in recruiting, luring a commitment from top international prospect Andrej Jakimovski to add to the Cougs’ 2020 class. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on Sunday morning and has been confirmed by WSU.
Givony, who is an expert on European prospects, said Jakimovski is considered one of the top players coming over to play collegiately, and that other higher-profile programs had been pursuing him. Jakimovski also was weighing whether to begin his pro career.
“Since I was a kid, my dream was to play basketball in the U.S., the country that has the best basketball players and coaches,” Jakimovski told ESPN. “I believe that Washington State will help me achieve my childhood dream of becoming a great basketball player. They’re offering me the opportunity to build myself as a person, athlete and student.”
A 19-year-old from North Macedonia, Jakimovski is a 6-7 wing who played last season in the second division of Italian professional basketball, but he retained his NCAA eligibility by playing on an amateur contract. He saw very little action with Reale Mutua Torino’s senior team during the truncated 2019-20 season, but when matched up with his peers, Jakimovski has excelled: He averaged 18.4 points in the FIBA U18 Euro B (the second division of the European championships) tournament, and he averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3 steals in the Italian NextGen U19 tournament. He also recently was called up to North Macedonia’s senior team.
Here’s a highlight reel from the Euros. Go ahead and let yourself get excited, because this is quite the skill set on display — the embodiment of Smith’s “six-tool player”:
There’s every reason to believe that if Jakimovski had played in the U.S. this past year, he’d have been considered a four-star prospect around the fringes of the top 100 players in 2020. Jakimovski is highly polished and is positioned to contribute from day one, having been competing against grown men in Europe.
Put simply, this is quite the coup for Smith.
“Andrej is someone we have been recruiting for over a year,” Smith said, via news release. “He is a highly skillful playmaker that can play four positions on the offensive end of the floor. He has been a dominant player in his age group.”
The 2020 class was believed to be full following the commitment earlier in the week of Carlos Rosario, which immediately led to questions about whether this signaled another departure from the program — speculation immediately settled on whether star wing CJ Elleby, who has declared for the NBA Draft, had made a final decision to leave school.
However, a source close to the program said the team thinks it can add Jakimovski without any further departures. It’s believed that there will be a COVID-driven loophole available to the team: Because the NBA Draft keeps getting pushed back (now October 16), which has caused the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the draft to be pushed back (now August 3, just a few weeks before classes start at WSU), it seems likely that the NCAA will allow teams to take on a 14th scholarship player for the 2020-21 season.
Jakimovski joins what already is an absolutely loaded class by WSU standards, and if Elleby returns — something that seems more likely than not in the current environment — the Cougars will be well positioned to improve on Smith’s strong first season, as well as in a place to elevate the program for years to come with an incredibly strong young core: