Cougs ready to tip-off 2021-22
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Cougar men's basketball team enters the 2021-22 season picked to finish 8th by the Pac-12 media, but, college basketball insiders, such as Jon Rothstein from CBS Sports, believe the Cougars will contend for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007-08. Each year under coach Kyle Smith, the Cougars have improved, picking up their first winning season in nearly a decade last year.
When last season ended, the coaching staff diligently worked to bring in new players to improve an already talented roster. In his third year, Coach Smith brought in the highest-ranked recruit since Cougar legend Klay Thompson. That's Mouhamed Gueye, the self-proclaimed "unicorn" from northern California's Proliflic Prep. Smith also lured the 15th highest scoring player in the country, Michael Flowers, from Southern Alabama. Flowers averaged 21 points per game while also posting 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals, while shooting 39% from 3. During ZZUMANIA, Gueye had campus buzzing as well as NBA scouts, when the 6'11 big man put on a show in the dunk contest, making the impossible look routine.
Even with all of the splashy additions by the coaching staff, all eyes will be on Noah Williams. The third-year guard was arguably the most improved player in the conference as a sophomore. With the departure of Isaac Bonton, Williams should be the first scoring option and leader on the court after showing flashes of dominance in his first two seasons. During his freshman season in 2020, Williams was crucial to sweeping the rival Huskies team made up of first round draft picks after he put the game out of reach from the free-throw line. Last season Williams became just the third Coug in program history to be named the National Player of the Week when he posted the most prolific scoring weekend in WSU history, scoring 72 points against Cal and Stanford. His 40-point outburst against Stanford caught the eye of the nation last season as the Cougs beat a Cardinal team in triple overtime against Zhaire Willams, a top-ten NBA draft pick.
Following his well-earned extension during the offseason, Coach Kyle Smith and his "nerd ball" coaching style are poised for greatness for many reasons. The goal of the Cougar basketball team is to play in March Madness, and success in March is historically due to high quality guard play and defensively gifted big men; something the Cougars have plenty of to fit those molds.
The Cougars signed the DII all-american guard from UC San Diego, Tyrell Roberts, during the summer and as well as returning skilled passer, Ryan Rapp. In addition the freshmen Jefferson Koulibaly and Myles Rice give the Cougs plenty of options at the point of attack. On the wings, the Cougs have a glutton of options in second-years TJ Bamba, Andrej Jakimovski, and Carlos Rosario, as well as veteran DJ Rodman. All four can play multiple positions for the Cougs, brining different skill sets to the floor to give Smith and the rest of the coaches an array of options to choose from.
On the big man side of the team, Dishon Jackson reworked his body by cutting out junk food and eating more greens, while Pac-12 All-Freshman Team big man, Efe Abogidi, looks to build off one of the better freshman campaigns to come out of the Palouse. Fifth-year Tony Miller is back as well as transfer senior Matt DeWolf as the duo will give the Cougs a pair of veterans to fall back on and lead the way as the young guns continue to learn the ropes.
In all the Cougars are prepared to make another leap forward under head coach Kyle Smith as the team looks to match execution with expectations. The season officially tips off Tuesday, Nov. 9, at home at Beasley Coliseum as the Cougs are set to host Alcorn State at noon on the Pac-12 Network.