Pac-12 awards Mouhamed Gueye, TJ Bamba

The Cougs two top players got their respect, Gueye First-Team, Bamba Honorable Mention



WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye makes his entrance during ZZUMania, Nov. 2. 2022.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

Two Cougs earned All-Pac-12 honors after leading the Cougs to a terrific 11-Conference win season.

In October 2022, Mouhamed Gueye was named to the All-Pac-12 Preseason First Team after being on the All-Freshman team the previous year. His great freshman season was done out of position at center, and moving into this season it seemed as though he would be able to thrive in his natural position at the forward spot.

Unfortunately, injuries and other issues meant that he was forced to spend the season still at the center spot as the only healthy developed big on the roster.

That did not make a difference for Gueye. Now, after another season at an unnatural spot, he has been named to the All-Pac-12 First Team. He has averaged 14.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, and he led the Pac-12 in double-doubles this season.

Without a true point guard, the Cougs have looked to him as the focal point of the offense, getting the ball on most possessions and leading the Cougs to a winning season despite many early struggles from injuries.

He was also named as an honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Defense teams. Fans knew Gueye to be a phenomenal defender, especially when allowed to not be the center, but the jump is impressive nonetheless.

Guarding opposing bigs and wings on a nightly basis, Gueye flies around the court. His length and stature allow him to stop people from anywhere on the floor, and his speed means he has switchability as good as any lockdown wing.

He has been the centerpiece of a team that was the third scoring defense in the conference, third rebounding defense in the conference, fifth 3-point defense in the conference and a top-50 scoring defense in the country.

Of course, Gueye did not do it alone.

WSU guard TJ Bamba drives to the hoop during an NCAA basketball game against Oregon, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

TJ Bamba made his mark last year as a valuable point-of-attack defender. However, he showed flashes of serious scoring potential to close out the season, scoring in double figures for six of the last nine games and shooting 36% from three on the season.

Bamba spoke on this during the preseason media day, saying, “I’ll definitely look forward to taking a jump on the offensive end and be more productive, efficient, showcase my talent.”

He took that very jump. This season, he led the Cougars in scoring with 15.7 points per game and improving his shooting splits across the board. Bamba has been the first option of this team, and the one they have turned to constantly when needing a bucket. He was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. While this is a great honor, some feel he was snubbed from a larger award. Head Coach Kyle Smith is one of those people.

“He could have made a case to be second team, I’d imagine,” Smith said. “It’s something for him to look forward to improving upon.”

Bamba also received no votes for All-Defense, despite being the Cougs’ top perimeter defender.

“I’d say Bamba is probably deserving there, too,” Smith said. “TJ probably got the short end of it, because he has such a big role, is so important for us defensively.”

There is little doubt that Bamba would have been a deserving recipient of those awards, but hopefully, the snub puts a chip on his shoulder now moving into the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

It will take more great performances from Gueye, Bamba and the rest of the Cougs to take home the title, but anything can happen with talents like these.