The offseason has been more about additions than departures for Washington State’s basketball program, but the Cougars suffered their first significant hit on Wednesday.
Approximately one year after joining Kyle Smith’s team as one of the highest-rated recruits in school history, forward Andrej Jakimovski has entered the transfer portal, according to Verbal Commits.
Jakimovski, who was set to enter his sophomore season at WSU, wasn’t necessarily a high-impact player for the Cougars as a freshman, scoring 5.5 points per game to go with 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists. The Macedonian forward who started in 18 games was thought to have solid long-term potential as a scorer and 3-point shooter in Pullman.
Last June, Jakimovski signed with the Cougars after playing for a lower-level professional league in Italy. Shortly after joining WSU’s program, 247Sports.com tabbed him as a four-star prospect, making Jakimovski the fifth highest-rated recruit in program history behind only Klay Thompson, Michael Harthun, Xavier Thames and Derrick Low.
Jakimovski was considered a major coup for a program that had fallen behind most of its Pac-12 peers on the recruiting trail under former coach Ernie Kent and represented Smith’s ability to bring high-level talent to Pullman. The Cougars have since added Mouhamed Gueye, a four-star prospect who’s considered the second highest-rated prospect in program history, according to the 247Sports.com composite scale.
As a freshman, Jakimovski played 25.2 minutes per game and scored in double figures eight times, including a season-high 19 points against Stanford in Santa Cruz, California. Jakimovski scored in double figures six times over an eight-game stretch in the middle of the season before hitting an offensive slump and doing so just twice in his final 14 games while dealing with sporadic injuries.
Although the Cougars won’t have the chance to see the long-term development of someone who had the chance to be an elite 3-point shooter, Jakimovski’s departure shouldn’t have major ramifications next season. WSU added Eastern Washington transfer Kim Aiken Jr., the Big Sky’s reigning defensive player of the year, and also signed Gueye, a versatile 6-foot-11, 205-pound prospect who’s widely expected to play the small forward position at the college level. Along with those two, WSU returns forward DJ Rodman, a strong defender and 3-point shooter who played 19 games and started in 10 despite missing time with injuries.
Jakimovski’s departure brings the Cougars closer to the NCAA-mandated scholarship limit of 15 . WSU lost Jaz Kunc, who entered the transfer portal before signing at Iowa State, but added three players in Aiken, Gueye and South Alabama transfer guard Michael Flowers. Point guard Isaac Bonton hasn’t announced whether he’ll return next season or try his hand at professional basketball, but his return wouldn’t impact WSU’s scholarship limit due to the COVID-19 exception.
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