Transfers cause roster shakeup for men’s basketball

From staff reports

While Josh Hawkinson, Conor Clifford and Ike Iroegbu are likely to return to the WSU men’s basketball team in the fall after declaring for the NBA draft, two players headed into their senior seasons won’t be playing ball in Pullman, and at least four Cougars in total are leaving the program.

Guard Que Johnson and center Valentine Izundu, both redshirt juniors, were granted their requests to leave the program in the last couple weeks. Neither has announced which school they will attend in the fall, but both will be eligible to play as soon as they get there since they are fifth-year players.

Johnson had declared for the NBA Draft in March, but last week ended up deciding to transfer out of WSU. He is on track to receive a degree in social sciences in May, according to a press release.

Despite a rocky start to the campaign, 2016 was Johnson’s best season. He ended up averaging a career-high 11.3 points per contest while shooting a team-high 40.4 percent from 3-point range. Johnson played his best ball down the stretch for the Cougs, averaging 20.7 points in the final seven regular season games, including a 25-point performance against Colorado.

“We appreciate all that Que has done for the Washington State basketball program over the last three years, including my first two at WSU,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said in a news release. “We are glad that he is on track to leave here with his degree from Washington State and we wish him well, both on and off the court.”

Because he had to redshirt in the 2014-15 season after transferring to WSU from Houston, last season was the first – and only –Izundu played for the Cougs. In that time he nearly broke Pullman’s Internet when a video of him touching the top of the backboard at a practice was released during the summer, and he led the team with 2.2 blocks per game in less than 15 minutes.

That would have been third-best in the Pac-12, but a foot injury caused Izundu to miss eight games near the beginning of the conference schedule, which greatly stifled the 6-foot, 10-inch center’s production.

With Izundu’s departure, all five players in Kent’s first WSU recruiting class have transferred off the team.

Guards Ny Redding, sophomore, and Renard Suggs, freshman, were also granted their releases from the program in March. Redding averaged 1.4 assists in a little more than 12 minutes last season, and Suggs averaged 5.4 points and a couple of rebounds in 12.6 minutes.

The clearing out of young guards at WSU will create a vacancy for incoming freshmen Milan Acquaah (Cathedral High School, Los Angeles) and The Tacoma News Tribune’s all-area player of the year Malachi Flynn, who averaged more than 29 points per game in his senior season at Bellarmine Prep.

Reporting by Dustin Brennan