Root: Top Candidates to Replace CJ Elleby as WSU’s Leading Scorer in 2020-21

The departure of the second-round NBA Draft pick left big shoes to fill on the Palouse

Posted on November 25, 2020

Ryan Root
  By Ryan Root, SportsPac12

Elleby

The Cougars parted ways with their top-scorer from last season, former sophomore forward CJ Elleby, who declared for the NBA Draft in the offseason. Elleby averaged 18.4 points, which ranked fourth in the Conference.

As Cougar head coach Kyle Smith continues to push his three main pillars of basketball to the team, ball-handling, defense, and rebounding, it’s logical to ask, “Who will make up for the team’s scoring?”

Here are five players on WSU, in order, that will have the best chance of putting up the most points for the Cougs this season.

1. Isaac Bonton, Guard

Bonton

To no one’s surprise, Bonton will likely be the premier scorer for WSU this season. As he averaged just over 15 points per game last season, during his first year with the team, he will be the next one up to lead this team in points scored.

His ability to shoot off the dribble and aggressively drive the lane for inside points sets him apart from the rest of the team  offensively. He averaged 15.1 field goal attempts per game last season, just half an attempt shy of Elleby’s average. So, it’s safe to say he’s comfortable shooting the ball, and the team figures to give him the green light more than anyone else this year.

More will be expected of Bonton to make plays as the starting point guard and I think he has the work ethic and talent to surpass most people’s expectations.

2. Tony Miller, Forward 

Miller

This one was tough to decide, but I think Miller bounces back as a dark horse offensive producer for WSU. Last season, he missed a month of play due to injury, but once he returned in early February, he became the team’s top option coming off the bench.

Last season, Miller backed up former forward Jeff Pollard, a senior who was thrust into the starting center position for WSU last season. Pollard struggled to make a consistent impact on offense, shooting just under 52 percent from the field as a big man. However, Miller averaged a whopping 62.3 percent from the field.

Since WSU added two 6-foot-10 freshman centers this offseason, Miller will likely play power forward. Miller’s athleticism and smart shot selection at that position will make it difficult for defenses to contain him consistently.

3. Andrej Jakimovski, Forward

Jakimovski

WSU’s first four-star recruit since 2012 should make an instant impact on offense. Jakimovski’s skillset can be summed up in one word: shooting. Across seven games during the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championship, Jakimovski averaged more than 18 points per game while shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from three, and 93.3 percent from the line.

Jakimovski’s ability to shoot the three-ball puts him leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the roster, considering that WSU shot just 30.9 percent from three last season, which ranked last in the Pac-12. Aside from junior forward Aljaz Kunc, Jakimovski is virtually the only stretch-four on this WSU roster.

The only knock I have on Jakimovski is the playing time he’ll receive. I’m sure coach Smith will want his three pillars to shine in his starting five, and Jakimovski needs to prove his skillset outside of scoring. He may start a handful of games for WSU this year, but I’m predicting he’ll be more of a sixth-man weapon.

4. Noah Williams, Guard

Williams

Williams proved to be a valuable weapon for WSU on defense, and his presence awarded him with 13 starts as a true freshman guard last year. He will likely be the routine starting two-guard for WSU alongside Bonton, so his touches will increase considerably from last season.

Williams averaged just over six points a game in 2019-20 while shooting a dismal 36 percent. However, he showed some potential on offense with eight double-digit scoring performances while also making a tremendous impact on defense. His aggressive mentality during each game remained consistent throughout the year; he feeds off the energy of the game every chance he gets.

In fact, Williams plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he plays his best against big-time opponents. His true-freshman season is history, and I expect nothing but improvement in every offensive category as he turns into a scary matchup for opponents.

5. Efe Abogidi, Center

Abogidi

Abogidi finally brings length and athleticism that this team so desperately needed last year. His outstanding strength and bounce at the position will be effective immediately for WSU, and I suspect he will become a routine starter at that position.

At 6-foot-10, Abodgidi is already tied for the second-tallest player on the team behind 7-foot-1 sophomore center Volodymyr Markovetskyy. The difference between Abogidi and Markovetsky is strictly athleticism and footwork. Abogidi surpasses every big man on the team in these categories, in my opinion.

I would not be surprised if Abogidi leads the team in rebounds this season. With the amount of offensive rebounds he’s bound to pull down, and his thunderous presence underneath the basket, he will be the focal point of WSU’s second-chance offense.







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