PULLMAN – Washington State University’s men’s basketball team didn’t have to blow the travel budget to fill a hole on its roster.
Andre Winston, Jr., a 6-foot-1, 160-pound point guard from Lakes High near Tacoma, will join the Cougars in the fall after signing a financial aid agreement with the school, agreeing to accept a scholarship.
Winston, the Associated Press’ 3A co-player of the year, signed a letter of intent with James Madison University in the fall period, but received his release from the Virginia school about two weeks ago. Players can only sign one letter of intent.
Since his release, Winston said, he had talked with a handful of schools, including Arizona State, Washington and UCLA from the Pac-10. But Washington State’s style of play was the deciding factor.
“Watching them on TV this year, I felt like it was great fit for me,” Winston said. “They played my style of basketball. They like to run. I think they are going to be a good team in the Pac-10.”
“They got a steal when they got Andre,” Lakes coach Jo Jo Rodriguez said. “Over here on this side of the mountains there are a lot of good basketball players. I think Andre was just one of those guys who just got overlooked a little bit.
“He just kept working and it paid off for him this year.”
Washington State needed another point guard to back up Reggie Moore, a member of the Pac-10 All-Freshmen team, after Xavier Thames, also a freshman, decided to transfer last month.
“I’m looking to just work hard, earn my spot, earn my minutes, see whatever happens,” said Winston, who added he has no problem competing for playing time.
“(Winston) is a quick point guard with the ability to score baskets,” said WSU coach Ken Bone in a media release, “but at the same time can see the floor and is unselfish.”
Winston averaged 20.8 points and 3.6 assists for the 23-5 Lancers this past season, but improved as the year wore on. In the State 3A tournament, Winston set a tournament record with 119 points and was named most valuable player following the Lancers’ third-place finish. He had 36 points in a quarterfinal win over Glacier Peak and 33 in the 76-68 defeat of Shadle Park in the third-place game.
“During the beginning of the season, coach tried not to burn me out,” Winston said. “When it came down to it, I just tried to take my game to a whole different level.”
Last weekend, Winston led the Washington team to a 116-109 victory in the Les Schwab Northwest Shoot-out with Oregon, scoring 24 points.
In Portland, Winston roomed with future WSU teammate Patrick Simon of Ephrata.
“We weren’t in the game a lot together, which was weird,” Winston said. “He’s a cool dude. I can’t wait to play together.”
Three scholarship players – Thames, Michael Harthun and Anthony Brown – announced their intention to leave WSU since the season ended.
“He’s going to be a perfect fit (for WSU),” Rodriguez said of Winston. “He’s mentally tough, so quick and he has a very good basketball IQ. He shoots the ball really well, he defends very well. And his length, he’s taller than he looks.
“His weakness, right now, he just needs to get strong, Division I strong.”