Mouhamed Gueye returns to WSU

Cougars retooled roster, seek to pick up where they left off

WSU+forward+Mouhamed+Gueye+%2835%29+makes+his+entrance+before+a+college+basketball+game+against+the+University+of+California%2C+Santa+Barbara+at+Beasley+Coliseum%2C+Monday%2C+Nov.+15%2C+2021%2C+in+Pullman.

HAILEE SPEIR

WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) makes his entrance before a college basketball game against the University of California, Santa Barbara at Beasley Coliseum, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, in Pullman.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

On Tuesday, Coug fans could finally say what we had all hoped: Mouhamed Gueye is coming back to Pullman.

Gueye declared for the NBA draft while maintaining his college eligibility and entered the transfer portal. He attended the G-League combine and worked out with the Portland Trailblazers in late May, but decided to withdraw from the 2022 draft and return to college.

Gueye spoke highly of his freshman year at WSU during a post-workout interview with Portland, saying “Go Cougs” when a reporter informed him she was an alumna of WSU. He also closed his interview with “Go Cougs!” 

“[Head coach] Kyle Smith teaches you the basics honestly, play defense, the hustle stuff. I learned a lot. That helped me grow as a man,” Gueye said in an interview following his Trailblazers workout.

During his first year at WSU, Gueye posted 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and shot 49% from the field.

The state of college basketball means that despite having only one starter graduate and run out of eligibility, the Cougs will lose four of their starters, who also happen to be their top four scorers.

Even the best basketball schools experienced the stress of star departure, including the national powerhouse north of WSU, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

On June 1, Zag fans were thrilled to learn that three critical members of their 2022 Sweet 16 team were coming back to Spokane for another year and had withdrawn from the 2022 NBA Draft.

Rasir Bolton, Julian Strawther and Drew Timme each announced they would be returning to Gonzaga while Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard remained bound for the NBA draft. Holmgren is a highly ranked NBA prospect and could be drafted No. 1 overall by Orlando after just one year of college basketball. Nembhard played his first two seasons with Florida before transferring to Gonzaga for two tournament runs and has a decent chance to be drafted after impressing at the NBA combine.

June 1 was the deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and maintain their college eligibility.

While WSU is not on Gonzaga’s level yet, the Cougar men did have three starters declare for the NBA draft: Michael Flowers, Efe Abogidi and Gueye. Flowers spent five years playing college basketball, having an extraordinary career year in his lone season at WSU. He worked out with the Indiana Pacers on Monday and said he has several other NBA workouts lined up.

A return to WSU for Abogidi seems unlikely, Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman wrote in a tweet.

In two seasons on the Palouse, he posted career averages of 8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 51% from the field.

Last month, Abogidi shared a short list of colleges he was considering. On that list was Pac-12 champion Arizona, SEC’s Florida, the Big Ten’s Maryland and a return to WSU.

Abogidi was close to signing with Maryland before a pro-opportunity with the G-League team Ignite arose, according to 24/7 Sports affiliate InsideMDSports.

Abogidi was not invited to the NBA or G-League combines.

Ignite is one of 29 NBA G-League teams, but the only one not directly affiliated with an NBA franchise. Ignite is owned by the G-League itself, with the mission to develop top young players and equip them with the basketball and professional skills suitable for the NBA. Ignite plays and practices in Walnut Creek, Calif.

While Cougar fans will miss Abogidi in Beasley, they will be filled with pride with the fact that WSU will be forever attached to Abogidi’s name on television screens and during player intros throughout his career.

Gueye is the only returning starter from last year. His four fellow starters and the team’s top four scorers have gone their separate ways.

Flowers was out of eligibility and seeks to make it in the NBA. Abogidi is making the leap to the NBA G-League. Tyrell Roberts entered the transfer portal and on June 2, announced his commitment to University of San Francisco.

Perhaps most painful of all, Noah Williams is now a Husky.

Coach Kyle Smith’s first recruit from 2019, Williams turned heads for all the wrong reasons when he transferred to University of Washington. Williams spent three seasons at WSU where he lit up the Huskies whenever he shared the court with them. 

On Feb. 28, 2020, Williams celebrated his 19th birthday by scoring 15 points in Seattle and leading WSU to a season sweep of UW.

When asked about UW’s “UW rejects” chant, he said, “I don’t know what they’re talking about, because I feel like they’re WSU rejects.”

He regressed in 2022 shooting 33%, a college career low. Despite only making a third of his shots, Williams still scored the third-most points on the team (332).

The Cougs also lost Jefferson Koulibaly to Southern Methodist University and Ryan Rapp to University of Hawai’i. Tony Miller entered the transfer portal in April after a year when he left the team during the season for personal reasons.

While the Cougs are having a near-complete turnover in their starting five, they have recruited some intriguing players to drive the Cougs into the future, including Adrame Diongue, the No. 108 ranked recruit in the class of 2022, the second highest-ranked recruit in program history, behind only Klay Thompson. He joins the Cougs from Compass Prep in Chandler, Ariz., a school where all eight seniors gained D1 scholarships.

Diongue grew up in Senegal, the same country as Gueye, who gave Diongue a personal tour of WSU when he visited.

Diongue joins legacy Coug Dylan Darling from Spokane’s Central Valley High School as 2022 recruits. Darling’s dad, James Darling, was a standout linebacker at WSU and had a 10-year NFL career. Darling’s mom is also a Coug aluma.

The transfer portal netted WSU another local product: Mt. Si’s Jabe Mullins appeared in all 34 games for Saint Mary’s last season where he averaged 9.6 minutes per game with 2.9 ppg with a career-best 50% from the field.

On Friday, the Cougs added 17-year-old Frenchman Maël Hamon-Crespin.

On Tuesday, the Cougs welcomed another junior with three more years of eligibility, Justin Powell. Powell impressed with Auburn his freshman year, played a limited role on Tennessee’s NCAA tournament team last year and is looking for a chance to impress this next season after he received significant NBA attention following his freshmen year.

Smith and WSU have one more scholarship available for the 2022-23 season to round out a WSU roster that has seen plenty of turnovers.

Gueye headlines a solid group of returners including T.J. Bamba, whose Twitter account has brought plenty of joy to Cougar fans as he advocated for the return of Gueye to the Palouse and shared his personality openly.

Dishon Jackson, Andrej Jakimovski and D.J. Rodman were regular contributors to the 2021-22 Cougar men and hope to make further strides in 2022. The Cougs may also get to see the collegiate debut of redshirt freshman, Myles Rice.

Despite the high volume of turnover, the Cougs look to have built a competitive roster for 2022-23. They got taller and perhaps more offensively talented while maintaining their solid defense, replacing the inconsistent shooting of Williams and Roberts with lengthy sharp shooters Powell and Mullins, who are both 6-6. Freshman Darling dazzled at the High School level with multiple 50-point games. If he finds even half as much production on the college level and fine tunes his shooting and passing, he will be an incredible player. Gueye figures to only get better and Diongue’s athleticism will fit nicely in the center of WSU’s lineup.

Time will tell if the roster can outperform last year’s team, whose NIT Final Four run was the program’s first postseason berth in 11 years. The next natural step is to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008, an expectation that all Cougar faithful should hold.