Washington State coach Kyle Smith, who was tested positive for COVID-19 last week, will not be on the bench Wednesday when the Cougars begin their 2020-21 season against Texas Southern at Pullman, Wash.
Assistant coach Jim Shaw, former head coach at Western Oregon, will serve as acting head coachwhile Smith is in quarantine. Smith, who is in his second season at Washington State, expressed confidence in Shaw leading the Cougars.
"My leadership style is really about empowerment," Smith said. "Laying it out, what they need to do, how we do things -- we do things a certain way -- and the players pick up on that and they lead each other, and the staff is the same way. Luckily, we got all the staff intact."
The Cougars, 16-16 overall and 6-12 in the Pac-12 last season, must replace three starters, most notably 6-foot-7 wing player CJ Elleby, an All-Pac-12 selection who left school after his sophomore season for the 2020 NBA Draft. The Portland Trail Blazers drafted him in the second round as the 46th pick overall.
Smith and his staff addressed the Cougars' inside game with their recruiting. Last season, 7-footer Volodymyr Markovetskyy, who started only two games, was the only player on the roster who stood above 6-9. Additions to the roster this season include 6-10 freshmen Efe Abogidi, of Nigeria, and 6-10 Dishon Jackson, of Vallejo, Calif.
Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones, formerly the coach at LSU, heads into his third season with the Tigers. They are coming off a 16-16 season, 12-6 in the Southwest Athletic Conference, and rate as the preseason favorites to win the league and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Two Tigers players were named to the preseason All-SWAC first team -- 6-7 junior forward Yahuza Rasas and grad student 6-5 forward Justin Hopkins.
Rasas had 12 games of 10-plus rebounds last season. Hopkins averaged 10.5 points and grabbed 4.8 rebounds last season at Samford.
The Tigers also have four transfers who sat out last year and are now eligible: guard Michael Weathers (Oklahoma State), forward Galen Alexander (Georgetown), guard Jordan Gilliam (UC Riverside) and forward Karl Nicholas (Stephen F. Austin, previously Montana).
"They (redshirts) were extremely tough for our team to handle last year with the starters that we had," Jones said. "They were really good and they stood out, so all those guys have been pushing for either starting minutes or a lot of playing time."
--Field Level Media