Bamba declares for NBA Draft, enters portal, Jackson enters portal

WSU’s leading scorer declares for NBA Draft



WSU guard TJ Bamba makes his entrance during ZzuMania, Nov. 2.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

The era of the transfer portal has created a new time of year for college sports: the transfer window. As the season ends, players make decisions about where they will play next year. In the early weeks of the off-season, the Cougs have had two players enter the portal: Dishon Jackson and TJ Bamba.

Jackson was first to announce his departure. He did not play at all during the 2022–23 season due to an undisclosed medical concern. On March 23, Jackson posted a simple announcement on his Twitter, stating that he will be entering the transfer portal. 

“Next I wanna say thank you wazzu,” Jackson said. “it’s has been a great 3 years with The staff at Washington state.”

Jackson’s absence was felt greatly by the Cougs over the season, as Mouhamed Gueye had to play center instead of being part of a strong frontcourt duo with him. 

WSU center Dishon Jackson (middle) jumps for a layup during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UW in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 23.

Jackson was a four-star recruit out of high school, one of the highest-graded recruits in program history. Unfortunately, after a strong freshman season, he struggled with an injury his sophomore year. 

Still, his contributions in the 2022 National Invitation Tournament were a big part of the first postseason run in years for the Cougs.

Jackson never reached his full potential at WSU because of injuries that sidelined him for his junior season. However, there is little doubt he will be a big piece for a team somewhere else.

Bamba’s announcement came over social media on March 27 and was much longer than Jackson’s.

“These last 3 years at Washington State University have been a dream come true,” Bamba said. “I am forever grateful for the Wazzu coaching staff, especially Coach Smith for shaping me into the player I have become this year & for taking a chance on a young kid from the Bronx.”

Bamba is coming off a junior season in which he took a massive jump, more than doubling his scoring from 7.7 points per game up to a team-leading 15.8. Bamba played in and started 31 games for the Cougs, missing only a few games with hand soreness.

WSU guard TJ Bamba flies upward after dunking the ball during an NCAA basketball game against UW, Feb. 11, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Shooting 37.2% from outside, Bamba was a key piece for a Coug team that was often short-handed and needed him more than ever. He was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, leading the offense for the Cougs while maintaining his high-level point-of-attack defense that he made his mark with in previous seasons.

After a jump like that, Bamba decided to bet on himself and enter the NBA Draft.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA and this past season has allowed me to take a step in the right direction,” Bamba said. “I am announcing that I will be declaring for the 2023 NBA draft while maintaining my college eligibility and making the very difficult decision to enter the transfer portal.”

WSU guard TJ Bamba goes up for a shot during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Oregon, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

No matter what happens and what decisions are made by both Jackson and Bamba, they will always be Cougs. Bamba and Jackson were key contributors to a monumental step for the Cougs when they made the postseason last year and Bamba was a leader of this year’s team that had a seven-game winning streak to climb into the postseason this year.

There is still a lot of time before the portal closes. Hopefully, this year is a little bit less of a hemorrhage than last year was and the Cougs can maintain some of the roster between this season and next. 

This season was marred with injury and other struggles, and if WSU can keep even just part of the roster together, next season could be big. March Madness is calling and the Cougs are due.