WSU’s men’s basketball team has spent nearly a decade as the laughingstock of the Pac-12 but things are starting to turn in the right direction for the Cougars.
The hiring of Kyle Smith has already done wonders for WSU as they received a bid to the CBI last month. And, I understand that isn’t really something to celebrate but the Cougs haven’t earned this honor since the 2011-12 season.
Things have definitely turned a corner for the Cougars and at the helm of all it is standout wing C.J. Elleby. Elleby is averaging 18.7 points per game as a sophomore which hasn’t been done since Klay Thompson averaged 19.6 points per game in his second year.
The common denominator in every big win for the Cougars has been C.J. Elleby. In the victory over No.8 Oregon, he had 25, versus Arizona State he had 27, and in the two victories over Washington, he averaged 27.5.
Also, the Cougars victory versus the eighth-ranked Oregon Ducks was their biggest win as a program since the 2006-07 season when they knocked off the seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats on 28 points from Daven Harmeling.
We all knew the talent he possessed but the way he has matured as the commander of this team has made him as lethal as anyone in the Pac-12.
He may be the best Cougar basketball player since Klay and at the end of the day, his jersey may hang next to his in the rafters if he decides to play his career out in Pullman.
Being the athlete that turns Washington State back into a basketball school would leave a legacy near the level of Klay’s. A trip or two to the NCAA tournament and a finish amongst the top of the Pac-12 would engrave C.J. Elleby’s name in the WSU history books forever.
The issue is the NBA interest and nobody would blame him if he declared for the draft. We’ve all seen his name throughout the handful of mock drafts and with the current draft class lacking depth, the possibility of Elleby going in the first round is high.
It comes down to Elleby weighing being a Pullman legend with a seven-figure contract and what really matters to him.
The NBA is obviously a great option for him, but no matter the decision he makes he’s moving in the right direction. If he decides to return he has the opportunity to win. And, with the group returning around him, anything is possible.
Breakout point guard Isaac Bonton has another year of eligibility and so does SPU transfer Tony Miller. Also, freshman wings DJ Rodman and Noah Williams have made major strides as the season has gone on.
On top of the returners, Washington State also received commitment from standout Canadian point guard, Jefferson Koulibaby. He’s regarded as a five-star in Canada and is averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds and, seven assists per game in his final high school season.
The potential is there for this team, but it’s all based around Elleby. He has the ability to be one of the WSU greats but nobody should be surprised if he declares for the draft as his name continues to circulate around the first round.
(Photos by: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)