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Washington State big man Efe Abogidi declares for NBA draft while retaining college eligibility

Washington State forward Efe Abogidi goes up for a dunk during warmups before a Pac-12 game against Oregon State on Feb. 28 in Corvallis, Oregon. Abogidi declared for the NBA draft Tuesday, but is leaving the door open for a return to WSU.  (Associated Press)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – Efe Abogidi made a significant jump from his rookie year to his sophomore season at the college level. Now the high-flying Washington State big man is aiming to launch into the pro ranks.

Abogidi declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday afternoon over Twitter. He’ll be testing the waters. Abogidi will retain his college eligibility and could return to WSU if he withdraws his name from the draft pool by June 1.

The Delta State, Nigeria, native started 29 of the Cougars’ 37 games in 2021-22 after missing the entire preseason as he recovered from a knee injury sustained in the summer while training with his home country’s national team. He wasn’t often at full strength this year. His minutes were restricted early on and he was a limited participant at practice for extended periods.

But the 6-foot-10 Abogidi still had a knack for producing electric highlights throughout the season, and supplied WSU with energetic rebounding and rim protection.

He averaged 8.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks – second in the Pac-12 – per game, shooting an efficient 51% from the field and 79% from the foul line. Although he went just 9 of 39 from 3-point range, Abogidi’s willingness to attempt the shot should appeal to professional franchises.

Other desirable traits include his 40-plus-inch vertical, his ranginess around the basket and innate sense for shot-blocking, and a workable offensive game in the paint that showed flashes of high potential last year. He’ll exhibit his abilities for NBA personnel and receive feedback before deciding whether to return to college.

Abogidi posted better scoring and rebounding averages last season – 8.9 ppg and 7.2 rebounds – but his overall offensive efficiency improved and, based on the eye test and advanced metrics, he was a more formidable presence on defense this season.

His rookie numbers are also skewed somewhat, considering the Cougars added another promising young post in Mouhamed Gueye last offseason.

There were moments this season in which Abogidi looked like one of the most talented players in the Pac-12, soaring through the air for chase-down blocks and bouncing above defenders for poster dunks. His one-handed jam in WSU’s second-round NIT win over SMU came in at No. 1 on SportsCenter Top 10 on March 20.

Some of Abogidi’s sophomore stat lines are striking – 21 points (7 of 9 from the floor) and 14 rebounds versus Washington; 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks against UC Santa Barbara; 17 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks at Cal.

Abogidi earned an honorable mention on the All-Pac-12 defensive team this season. He was an all-freshman performer in 2020-21 after signing with the Cougars out of the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. His basketball career took off when he joined The NBA Academy Africa as a teenager.

Before Abogidi, the most recent WSU player to declare for the draft early was forward CJ Elleby, who put his name into the pool after his freshman season in 2018-19. He returned to WSU for his sophomore year before being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 2020 NBA draft.