PULLMAN – A few weeks ago, Kyle Smith spoke about the importance of retention for his Washington State program. Rare as that may be in college basketball these days, with underclassmen jetting for the NBA and upperclassmen transferring before their senior season, the Cougars expect a fairly high retention rate in 2020-21.
“I think it’s going to be important for us to retain a lot of guys,” Smith told The Spokesman-Review. “To have a program, you’ve just got to retain guys. You’ve got to have guys that care about it, want to work, understand the program and it really becomes their program. That’s the trick, I think.”
Still, Smith and his staff have to prepare for the scenario that one or two players will leave, or that standout sophomore CJ Elleby will take his chances in the NBA.
“Everyone’s quitting, everyone’s bouncing around, everyone’s doing this,” Smith said. “It might be the right decision for someone to make a change, I get that.”
The Cougars have been in contact with a handful of potential transfers. Below, we break down four who’ve reportedly shown interest in WSU and tell why they’d be a good match.
Charles Minlend, G, San Francisco
The first time Smith recruited Minlend, he was competing with Western Kentucky, George Washington and Murray State. This time, WSU’s coach is going toe-to-toe with a handful of heavy-hitters, including Arizona, Arizona State, UConn, Wichita State and Butler. Smith has the inherent advantage of knowing Minlend’s game and character, and vice versa, so it would be a seamless transition if the dynamic guard chose the Cougars. Minlend averaged 14.4 points per game and 4.7 rebounds for the Dons last season, and maybe more notably, averaged 17.6 points in three games against Gonzaga. At 6-foot-4, he has great size at the guard position and made up for a subpar 3-point percentage (30%) by getting to the free-throw line 157 times last season.
Terrell Gomez, G, Cal State Northridge
As many as 10 schools reached out to this small, shifty guard, but Gomez recently narrowed his list down to Washington State, San Diego State, Arkansas and Iowa State. Gomez, a two-time All-Big West first-team selection who earned freshman of the year honors in 2017-18, was one of the top scorers in the conference at 19.8 ppg and was a high-volume 3-point shooter who made 111 3s on the season while connecting on 44%. For his size, at 5-8, Gomez also posted impressive numbers on defense, blocking 46 shots with 26 steals. It’s unclear how the Inglewood, California, native would fit in a lineup featuring two other ball-dominant players in Elleby and Isaac Bonton, but adding Gomez would certainly ensure the Cougars have two capable scorers on the floor at all times.
Mattias Markusson, C, Loyola Marymount
Is there room for two 7-foot Europeans on the same roster? Markusson, at 7-3, would bring many of the same tools to WSU as 7-foot Volodymyr Markovetskyy, who saw an uptick in performance and playing time down the stretch of the Pac-12 season. The Ukrainian big man may still be a full season or two from reaching his full potential. Markusson, who’s played 1,829 minutes in three college seasons, looks like a more polished, slightly bigger version of Markovetskyy, who logged fewer than 200 minutes for the Cougars as a freshman. After scoring 10.2 ppg and hauling down 6.3 rpg in 2018-19, and redshirting last season, Markusson has interest from a variety of Power Fives, inside and outside the Pac-12. Smith’s experience in the WCC and run-ins with the LMU center could be something that distinguishes WSU, however.
Evan Cole, F, Georgia Tech
He never clamped down a full-time starting role for Georgia Tech but spent three years as one of the top bench options for the Yellow Jackets. Cole’s numbers – 4.4 ppg and 3.6 rpg – don’t necessarily tell the full story and whichever team snags the 6-10 forward will get a multitooled athlete who can slash to the rim and run the floor in transition. Cole played center at Georgia Tech, but his versatility would also allow him to slide into a power forward position. Other schools that have contacted the grad transfer are BYU, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Boston College, Santa Clara, ETSU, Boise State, URI and Wichita State.
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