If Washington State’s basketball program is going to take a step forward in Year 1 under Kyle Smith, the Cougars will likely need another standout season from one of their youngest players.
Media members around the league are expecting big things from CJ Elleby, too, because the sophomore forward was one of 10 players chosen to the Pac-12’s inaugural preseason all-conference first team.
The same media members suspect it’ll take Smith at least a year before the Cougars start seeing more success in the win column and picked WSU to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason poll.
The Cougars received 47 points and finished ahead of just Cal (35) in the poll.
Oregon and Colorado received nine first-place votes, but the Ducks wound up No. 1 because they collected 291 points, opposed to Colorado’s 288. Washington (273) received six first-place votes, followed by Arizona (263), USC (198), Arizona State (187), Oregon State (161), UCLA (148), Utah (131), Stanford (84), WSU (47) and Cal (35).
Elleby tested NBA draft waters before electing to rejoin the Cougars for his sophomore season. The Seattle native was second on the team in scoring last season, at 14.7 points per game, and rebounding (7.1 per game). Elleby, who led WSU with 28 games started, broke Steve Puidokas’ freshman scoring record with 471 total points.
“You kind of play him as a point forward at times,” Smith said in a school release. “We’ll put him in the middle of the floor in a lot of situations where he’ll just kind of enhance – he’s gotten stronger, he’s got incredible work ethic. He’s been a joy.”
He was joined on the preseason first team by Washington’s Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, Colorado’s Jamal Bey and McKinly Wright, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, Arizona’s Nico Mannion, Arizona State’s Remy Martin, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle and USC’s Nick Rakocevic.
Utah’s Timmy Allen, Oregon’s N’Faly Dante, Stanford’s Daejon Davis, Arizona’s Josh Green and Oregon State’s Ethan Thompson made the second team.
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