Eastern Washington transfer Kim Aiken Jr. — who signed a financial aid agreement with Washington State in April and has been practicing with the team this summer — announced on Monday that he was changing course and heading to the Arizona Wildcats.
After he re-opened his recruitment last week, a source told us “it’s not a basketball/team issue,” and we have since confirmed that Aiken was denied admission to the political science graduate studies program, which also has been reported by Theo Lawson.
It’s a curious decision for the poli sci program to block the admission of a student who carries a 3.5 GPA and has designs on a career in politics. Aiken has two years of eligibility remaining — during which he should be able to complete the program — and he has demonstrated that he’s a high-level student while playing basketball.
To put it bluntly: Aiken would have been an asset to the university both on the court and off. This isn’t a football player with a questionable transcript who’s going to be gone after a semester. Aiken is the kind of student the university should be embracing, rather than chasing away.
Because of that, it’s a frustrating line in the sand to seen drawn. The success of the basketball team is something that certainly benefits the entire university, and Aiken’s departure is a pretty big blow to the program’s prospects for this season — in barttorvik.com’s 2022 projections, the Cougs dropped from 40ish to 61 without him.
Aiken’s veteran leadership and defensive versatility meant he was almost certain to start for the Cougs in their push to accelerate the program’s timetable for success. He is a guy who plays the the 3, but as a former conference defender of the year he could guard anyone 2-5 while also featuring as a low usage/high efficiency offensive player.
Now, instead of helping WSU return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008, Aiken will spend the next two years making a conference rival better. It’s pretty infuriating, to be honest.
The worst part of it all, from a basketball standpoint, is that the decision of the political science department didn’t just cost WSU one really good player — it cost the Cougars two really good players: Aiken’s arrival precipitated the departure of Andrej Jakimovski, who has since committed to Loyola Maryland. The North Macedonian was one of the program’s highest rated recruits ever when he signed last summer, and the former 4-star put together a solid freshman season that did nothing to undermine his lofty recruiting rankings.
When you also consider the departure of Jaz Kunc (now at Iowa State), the Cougs suddenly only have only a few options on the existing roster to fill the void.
The most likely candidate to step in is DJ Rodman, a returning sophomore who has shown himself to be similar to Aiken in style, if not as accomplished. The team was at its best last year down the stretch when Rodman was on the floor. A dark horse who fans will be clamoring to see is Mouhamed Gueye. The 6-foot-10, 4-star recruit has been billed as someone who can play 3-5, but it’s probably a pretty big stretch for him to start right out of the gate, given his limited experience playing the game. Carlos Rosario could also have something to say about that, but we still aren’t sure what we’re getting with him after a freshman year in which he rarely played.
After facing a roster crunch all offseason, the Cougars now, frustratingly, have a scholarship available again. It’s tough to land an impact player at this point in the game, but as Aiken showed ... you never know who might become available. You can bet Kyle Smith and his staff have already been working on their next move.
Here’s how the roster stands now: