THE ONE-AFTER-ANOTHER news this weekend of players leaving the WSU basketball team has prompted intrigue in the Cougar Nation. For two reasons, it really isn’t all that notable. First, players transfer all the time in college hoops, usually in search of more playing time. And second, if you look at the Bennett recruiting classes from 2004 to '09 you’ll see that these latest moves continue a trend.
One to two transfers per recruiting class was the norm in the Bennett Era and these three latest departures -- all Bennet recruits -- follow that pattern. Indeed, the losses of sophomore Michael Harthun and freshmen Xavier Thames and Anthony Brown are par for the course.
Consider the list of departures from recent WSU recruiting classes:
2004 – Josh Akognon
2005 – Rodney Edgerson and Chris Matthews
2006 – Mac Hopson and Thomas Abercrombie
2007 – Stephen Sauls and Fabian Boeke
(Boeke technically is still considered a member of the team, remains in school and on scholarship but he is a medical non-counter due to medical hardship.)
2008 - Nick Witherill.
And now, adding to the 2008 class' list, we have Harthun, and from 2009 we have Thames and Brown.
In some cases, the change was driven by either conflicting playing styles or plain old ability and the resultant limitations on PT. In others, injury was a precipitating factor.
Akognon, by the way, went on to have a star-studded turn at Cal-Fullerton, while Matthews just concluded a standout run at St. Bonaventure, and Hopson just wrapped up a nice Idaho career by earning honorable mention all-WAC honors.
With Harthun and Brown, it would seem a simple case of playing time. They both play off-guard and neither was in line for more than a handful of minutes next season.
Thames, who averaged 17.6 minutes of court time per game this season as a true freshman, was going to see plenty of time next season but the reality is that he’s the backup point guard to Reggie Moore. They’re the same year, too, so the specter of three years coming off the bench no doubt loomed large. Thames said “not really” when asked by CF.C if playing behind Moore was a key piece of his decision making. He’s a talented kid with very nice upside, so his response seems a little suspect when it would seem obvious he could find a starting role elsewhere.
TWO QUESTIONS REMAIN unanswered as we look toward next season: Are any more departures coming, and who will fill the two open scholarship slots?
In terms of departures, water-cooler thinking would suggest there’s only one other possibility: 6-foot-10 third-year sophomore Charlie Enquist. But one of the big reasons in favor of his leaving – potential lack of scholarship spot – would now seem mute. Prior to the Thames, Harthun and Brown news, the Cougs were going to be one scholie slot short when 2010 recruits Patrick Simon and Faisal Aden arrived on campus. And Enquist’s ride, which was given to him conditionally by Bennett three years ago, appeared in question. That wouldn't seem to be the case anymore. Playing time also could weigh on Enquist’s mind, but until injury ruined the home stretch of the season for him, he was seeing more and more action and playing well. He wound up averaging 9.7 minutes of PT in 17 games.
Turning to available scholies, the Cougs have suddenly gone from needing to find one to now having two wide open. The second signing period for the 2010 class begins April 14, so the rumor mill figures to start working overtime. Bone said earlier this season that his staff has kept the 2010 recruiting ambers burning just in case some roster room opened up, and he has mused about finding some post help.
Of big bodies still on the market, four notables are Mo Walker (6-10, 230) from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire where Reggie Moore played a year ago; Dwight McCombs (6-8, 235) from Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois; Reggie Murphy (6-9, 230) from Westchester High in Los Angeles; and
Aziz Ndiaye, a 7-foot, 255-pound Senegal native from Southern Idaho College. Murphy appears to be a lean toward TCU at this point, with McCombs eyeing ASU, Murray State and Minnesota. Walker is reportedly leaning toward a variety of offers from Big East schools and others. Ndiaye is believed to be leaning toward Washington, Oregon State, Kansas and Oklahoma.
CF.C will hope to have more insight on the recruiting front in the coming days.