The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

David Riley’s hiring a full circle moment for one current Coug

Isaiah Watts originally recruited by Riley at EWU
Isaiah Watts carefully watches the hands of Oregon’s ball handler, Jan. 6, in Pullman, Wash.

When WSU Athletics announced the hiring of former Eastern Washington University basketball head coach David Riley as the Cougs newest head honcho, it was even more special for one of the current players on the WSU roster.

Isaiah Watts is staying in Pullman. With his teammates entering the transfer portal, running out of college eligibility and/or entering the NBA Draft, he is the last remaining player to get minutes last season to guarantee he is returning to the Palouse.

He confirmed as such even before Riley’s hiring, but the decision to hire a local coach proved to be more than just a nice change of scenery for Riley.   

“Coach Riley was actually the first coach to ever offer me. So we’ve been locked in for a long time,” Watts said. “It’s a full circle moment. Now it’s really just time to get to work.” 

Watts is key to the future of WSU basketball in many ways. He, and his father, Donald Watts, have been vocal on social media about recruiting previously portal-entered Cougs to return to the team for next season.

Retaining players that helped the program reach new heights, notably the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, is what Riley said is his current foremost focus since inking his deal. 

“My first goal is to retain,” Riley said. “I want every single one of these guys back. These guys are incredible players that mean a lot to this university. If I can retain, there definitely will not be a rebuild.”

Whether or not any of those players return, Isaiah will play a pivotal role. Just a freshman for the 2023–24 season, he played in 31 games, including playing more than 20 minutes on five occasions. 

In the two games of the NCAA Tournament, he played in 32 minutes, scoring 10 points and sinking a clutch three against Drake to push the Cougs into the second round. 

Now that Isaiah has gotten a taste of the madness, he is eager to get things going and make another run with WSU. 

“I got a bunch more stuff to do and I’m just excited to get back to work and then we’ll get back with our new coaching staff,” he said. “It means a lot that I got to do it in my first year. I just want to make it three years in a row now.” 

With Isaiah guaranteed as a part of the roster for next season, Riley has options. Most of the players that originally entered the portal have not signed with a new team and EWU has several interesting candidates to make the jump over to Pullman. 

“You have guys here that have the same kind of idea, the same story and the same background,” Riley said. “We just gotta use that. We’re gonna develop. We’re gonna work. I want these guys because they’re really good.”

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.