Washington State received news of two important men's basketball commitments Tuesday that will have a major impact on its NCAA tournament hopes this upcoming season.
Mouhamed Gueye has withdrawn his name from the NCAA transfer portal, he told ESPN, giving the Cougars one of the most promising returning big men in the country.
"I decided to go back to Washington State to help finish what we started and to keep getting better as a player and a person," Gueye said via text. "Next season will be different because I will have more responsibility and going through the draft process I learned and experienced a lot and I feel like my confidence went up and will carry to the season. I just want to get better in every aspect of the game and be the best version of myself."
Washington State has also secured a commitment from Tennessee transfer Justin Powell, he told ESPN. Powell was at one point projected as an NBA draft pick after an impressive start to his freshman season at Auburn, where he averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 28 minutes per game while shooting 44% from 3. Powell's freshman season with the Tigers was cut short by a concussion, after which he elected to transfer to Tennessee.
Powell's role was reduced dramatically with the Vols, as he came off the bench and played only 14 minutes per game, averaging 3.7 points while shooting 38% from 3. Powell says the opportunity to be a focal point of the offense was a major consideration in his decision to commit to Washington State. "I was looking for opportunity," Powell said. "Going somewhere I can have the ball in my hands and showcase what I can do like I did my first year in college. Playing in an NBA offense in terms of pick-and-roll concepts and spacing was important. Washington State led the Pac-12 in 3-pointers attempted and they had several departures in the backcourt, which left a big void there that I can hopefully step into. I'm going into it with the mindset of working hard and everything will work out. I'll try to be a good leader and hopefully help the team make it to the NCAA tournament."
Powell says he picked Washington State over the Perth Wildcats as part of the NBL Next Star program, as well as Georgia Tech and Kansas State. He expects to be immediately eligible next season. While Powell's commitment will provide a major spark offensively, the return of Gueye should fortify the Cougar defense, which ranked fourth in the Pac-12 last season.
Gueye was the fourth-best available player in Jeff Borzello's transfer rankings, having been heavily pursued by the likes of Arizona, UCLA, Florida, Mississippi State, USC, Marquette, Ole Miss and others.
Gueye started 33 of 35 games for Washington State last season, averaging 7.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 22 minutes per game, helping him earn a spot on the Pac-12's All-Freshman Team. Washington State made a run to the NIT Final Four, held in Madison Square Garden.
Gueye declared for the NBA draft in late April and was invited to the NBA's G League Elite Camp in Chicago. He was considered one of the most physically talented prospects in college basketball last season, measuring just under 7 feet in shoes with a 7-foot, 4-inch wingspan and a 9-foot, 2½-inch standing reach, along with elite athletic testing scores for a big man.
"I have a high expectation for our team this upcoming year, we have some new guys and some that have been here before so we're going try our best to be one of the best teams in the country. I think I will have more tasks offensively and defensively. I learned a lot during my freshman year and that will help me this upcoming year."
Gueye was originally a member of the 2022 high school class but elected to graduate a year early and enroll at Washington State last summer. The 19-year old has significant potential defensively with his ability to fluidly cover ground on the perimeter and protect the paint with his long reach and impressive quickness getting off his feet, even if he was still catching up with the speed of the college game last season.
Gueye came to the United States from Senegal in November of 2019, arriving at Prolific Prep in Napa, California, one of the top prep school teams in high school basketball and featuring five-star prospects Jalen Green and Nimari Burnett. He had never played organized basketball prior to his two seasons competing on the Grind Session and at the GEICO Nationals, giving him a significant growth curve for improvement as the game continues to slow down and his skill level evolves.
Washington State is undergoing a significant transition this offseason, losing its top four scorers in Michael Flowers, Tyrell Roberts, Noah Williams and Efe Abogidi. The Cougars return sophomores TJ Bamba, Dishon Jackson and Andrej Jakimovski, who will form a strong core along with Gueye, Powell, DJ Rodman, Myles Rice and incoming freshman big man Adrame Diongue, the No. 43-ranked player in the ESPN recruiting rankings.
Washington State also secured a commitment from Mael Hamon-Crespin last week, a skilled 6-11 French power forward who is only 17 years old. The Cougars also still have one available scholarship left.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.