Root: Changes Still Needed for Cougs after Snapping Streak

Now that sophomore forward DJ Rodman is back from injury, he must play a bigger role

Posted on February 4, 2021

Ryan Root
  By Ryan Root, SportsPac12

Lo and behold, the WSU men’s basketball team finally broke their six-game losing streak against the Washington Huskies this past Sunday in a complete offensive onslaught from the starting lineup.

The Cougars’ starters put up 70 of the team’s 77 points against the Huskies, and seemed to do no wrong. However, only four out of the five starters put up those 70 points.

Bonton

Senior guard Isaac Bonton and sophomore guard Noah Williams led the team in scoring, of course, with a combined 46 points. Freshman centers Efe Abogidi and Dishon Jackson filled in the rest of the points. But where was freshman forward Andrej Jakimovski in all of this?

Well, Jakimovski shot the ball three times, all of which were three-pointers, as he recorded zero points, rebounds and assists. This is the third time in the past four games that he’s gone scoreless, while the one time he did score in that span was for two points off 1-6 shooting.

Jakimovski

Needless to say, there is obviously an offensive slump going on with Jakimovski. The four-star recruit out of Macedonia was scouted for his stretch forward capabilities but his performance as of late wouldn’t match that description.

Now to be fair, this isn’t all on Jakimovski. The freshman is taking good, open shots, but he’s shooting a dismal one for 16 in the past four games. Something isn’t working, but I have the answer.

Now that sophomore forward DJ Rodman is back from injury, he needs to fill in for the struggling Jakimovski.

Rodman

Keep in mind, Rodman was a starter before his injury, and was doing quite well at the time. In WSU’s first four games, he averaged over six points a game, and had a career high 13 points in game three. But an ankle injury against Portland State took him out of his groove.

Jakimovski started alongside Rodman as the other forward since game three against Oregon State. But once Rodman went down, Jakimovski has taken up the small forward position on the starting lineup, and head coach Kyle Smith set his sights on strengthening the team in the big-man position.

And for a while, it worked.

The Cougars went on their infamous eight-game winning streak to start out the season, and the team’s general outlook on the year was all about overcoming adversity. But ever since conference play has resumed, the Cougars have had a considerable bump in their momentum.

I want to be clear: I don’t think Jakimovski was the primary cause of the six-game skid, but he was at least part of it. And now with WSU finally back in the win column for the first time since Jan. 7, the Cougars need to do whatever they can to keep this rhythm going.

Smith

Smith said that Jakimovski makes the team better when he’s on the floor, but considering his plus-minus stats as of late, that’s not entirely true. Before Sunday’s win, Jakimovski was either the worst or second-worst player on the team in plus-minus in the previous three games.

Of course, Smith is a big analytics guy and I’m sure he sees a more complex statistic that shows Jakimovski’s contributions towards the team.

But meeting me in the middle here, if Jakimovski isn’t playing well in the starting lineup, and the team is better when he’s on the court, why not use his talents to get the bench out of their shooting slumps?

It’s no secret that the Cougars’ bench hasn’t been playing well recently, as they’ve put up single-digit performances in three of the last five games. Having a player like Jakimovski take a step down and provide his shooting ability on the bench could propel the Cougars to the next level.

Andrej Jakimovski | Robert Hubner/WSU Athletics

Successful college basketball teams showcase their scoring across an entire rotation, not across two or three players. Benching Jakimovski shouldn’t be seen as a knock on his talents; he wouldn’t be at WSU if he didn’t have supreme basketball skills.

But while taking a step back would give him an obviously lesser role to provide from, it would ideally give him less stress to get back in the swing of things.

Who knows? Maybe Rodman doesn’t work out with the starters as well as he did before his injury, and Jakimovski can come back. But for the meantime, it’s best for him and the team that he cools down a bit and gets back into the game at his own pace.




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