Posted on December 10, 2020
With the first two weeks of the 2020-21 season in the books, WSU men’s basketball is 3-0. Although each of these wins were nail-biting finishes, there’s a lot of upside to WSU this season—in particular, the freshman class.
Four of the six freshmen on WSU’s roster have made their official debuts this season. There have been some highs and some lows for the first-year players. It’s certainly too early to tell if some of these players will either turn things around or continue to produce for the team.
But there’s still a good bit of data to assess a report card for each of the freshmen’s first two weeks in the Pac-12. Here are my grades for the freshman class after WSU’s first three games this season.
Efe Abogidi, Center: B+
Abogidi has definitely been the biggest highlight of the freshman class, and a burst of athleticism at the center position that WSU has desperately needed these past few seasons. His ability to rebound, score inside, and block shots are great for WSU as a whole. Also, let’s not forget his quiet ability to shoot from three and the deep two as well.
But of course, he hasn’t been perfect. His second game against Eastern Washington was a bit of a reality check for Abogidi. Fouling out of the game with only 10 minutes played proved detrimental for WSU down low, and almost cost them the game. Against Oregon State he turned down his trigger-happy antics a bit and recorded three blocks and seven rebounds.
Regardless, his 3.67 fouls per game need a bit of work. Abogidi likes to jump the gun on some defensive opportunities and it costs him with a personal foul on numerous occasions. Once he adjusts his defensive poise, he’ll be a nightmare for teams to game plan against.
TJ Bamba, Guard: B-
After a rather dead silent first game against Texas Southern, Bamba has come off the bench for WSU and shown some real potential as a guard. His muscular frame at just 6-foot-5 makes it difficult for opposing guards to not only defend, but box out on the boards; Bamba averages three rebounds a game. On a team with two great rebounding guards in the starting five, senior Isaac Bonton and sophomore Noah Williams, Bamba will mix in nicely in that department.
However, he’s been pretty average in every other department. A nine-point performance against Texas Southern showed how he could be effective driving the lane and shooting the outside shot. But he’s made just one three-pointer and he drives the lane most of the time in scoring opportunities. He’ll need to develop more of a shot as the year goes on.
He’s not quite at the level of a starting guard in the Pac-12, and that’s okay for now. I think he’ll be somewhat of an underrated three-point shooter in the future, I liked the looks on his two three-pointers he’s attempted this season. Fortunately, Bonton and Williams have both provided in that area for WSU, so Bamba should have plenty of time to develop.
Andrej Jakimovski, Forward: C
Jakimovski finally earned a starting opportunity at small forward for WSU against Oregon State, but that obviously didn’t work out too well. He replaced sophomore forward DJ Rodman in the lineup and Rodman had a career performance off the bench while Jakimovski went scoreless after playing just 11 minutes. The only points he’s scored this season were against Eastern Washington, and even then, he shot just 2-9 from the field.
Needless to say, he’s had a bit of a rough start, but his time will certainly come for WSU. I predicted him to be more of a sixth-man weapon for the Cougars this season, and so far after three games, that looks like it might be the case for him. Aside from his shooting ability, I’ve been very surprised with his ball handling at 6-foot-8. He certainly knows how to size up his defender and look for offensive opportunities, so far those opportunities mainly lead to passes and rarely shots off the dribble.
All in all, his first three games do not show everything that’s in store for him in the Pac-12; he wouldn’t be a four-star recruit if there wasn’t considerable upside to him. I’ve noticed after every game this season that he’s gone out to the empty court and put up extra shots for about 20-30 minutes. That kind of mentality from Jakimovski should show that he’s not satisfied with his performance thus far, and wants to do better.
Dishon Jackson, Center: C-
This grade is of course based off just one performance against Oregon State, but he still showed us a bit of what he’s about. Head coach Kyle Smith said Jackson is probably the team’s best low-post scorer. After playing just nine minutes against the Beavers, he pulled down three boards, and scored zero points off just two free throw attempts.
Obviously, that doesn’t sound great. But I predict his role will become more vital in coming games. Senior forward Tony Miller is still battling a lingering injury, redshirt freshman Brandton Chatfield hasn’t played much, and sophomore center Volodymyr Markovetskyy’s playing time is based more on the matchup from the other team.
So other than Chatfield, and maybe two others, Jackson is one of the few options to play center or power forward off the bench.
Jackson will get more playing time based on the situation that’s in front of him, and that will be the opportunity he needs to prove himself as a quality backup big man. Depending on the size of the opposing teams, this 6-foot-10 center will have plenty of chances to show off his stature and low-post scoring abilities.
—More from Ryan Root—
- Root: How will WSU replace Dishon Jackson’s Production?
- Root: Changes Still Needed for Cougs after Snapping Streak
- Root: Dishon Jackson Moving Up Food Chain for Cougs
- Root: Falling to Arizona was best loss possible for 8-0 WSU
- Root: How WSU can Maintain its Momentum into 2021
- Root: Top Candidates to Replace CJ Elleby as WSU’s Leading Scorer in 2020-21
Root: How will WSU replace Dishon Jackson’s Production?The freshman center has become one of the Cougars’ main offensive options - February 10, 2021
Root: Changes Still Needed for Cougs after Snapping StreakNow that sophomore forward DJ Rodman is back from injury, he must play a bigger role - February 4, 2021
Root: Dishon Jackson Moving Up Food Chain for CougsWSU is beginning to take advantage of the low-post opportunities the freshman gives them - January 27, 2021