PULLMAN – Right off the bat, Kyle Smith is bringing experience to his first Washington State basketball roster.
Smith’s first commitment as the Cougars’ new coach came when Deion James, a Colorado State graduate transfer forward, announced Monday on Twitter that he would be spending his final college season in Pullman.
James, who should be eligible to play immediately, will become the sixth member of Smith’s 2019-20 roster once he signs his letter of intent, guard Jervae Robinson, forward Jaz Kunc, forward Jeff Pollard and guard/forward Chance Moore. Forward CJ Elleby will also be on the roster if he withdraws from the NBA draft by May 29.
The Cougars got James on the second try, and with a different coach, after Ernie Kent initially attempted to recruit the 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward out of Arizona’s Pima Junior College, where he was the NJCAA Division II National Player of the Year after a 2016-17 season that saw him score 20.6 points and grab more than nine rebounds per game.
James also proved he could be effective in the NCAA Division I ranks during his 2017-18 season in Fort Collins. As a junior, he played in 31 games and made 21 starts, ranking third on the Rams in scoring (10.5 points per game), rebounding (5.3 per game) and total blocks (19).
Though he made just 13 of 50 3-point shots, James was more than solid from inside the line, canning 45 percent of his total field-goal attempts. That number would have ranked second among Washington State starters last season, and his scoring average would’ve ranked third, behind only Robert Franks and Elleby.
Offseason knee surgery prevented James from playing at CSU last season, so he used a redshirt season and announced on March 25 that he would enter the NCAA transfer portal.
James grew up in Pac-12 territory, residing in Tucson, Arizona, and attending Empire High School, where he averaged 21.2 points and 12.2 rebounds as a senior. He went straight to North Carolina A&T out of high school, playing sparingly as a true freshman before transferring to Pima JC.
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