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Western Kentucky is fine even if Mitchell Robinson leaves

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Rick Stansbury wasn’t hanging his hat on one player.

NCAA Basketball: Western Kentucky at UAB Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Come Monday, Mitchell Robinson could waltz back into practice in Bowling Green with some homemade cookies and a tidal wave of relief. Or, his reported on-campus absence could be a summer full of rumors and worries mercilessly coming true.

If the five star center has left WKU for good, it sucks for Hilltopper fans. There’s no way around that. A once in a generation mid-major talent doesn’t even come around that often, even for traditionally strong programs like WKU.

But lost in the (potential) Robinson firestorm is a tremendous recruiting class that would be the toast of Conference USA with or without its headliner. Here’s why WKU could remain the class of the league:

A class that still raises the bar

Take Robinson out of the equation and the talent Rick Stansbury brought in still bucks the trend. According to Verbal Commits, the league as a whole averages 2.239 stars per recruit. This is better than most mid-major conferences, and obviously doesn’t tell the entire story as to the success individual teams may or may not have. But it does hammer home that three-star recruits are rare.

Rick Stansbury had more recruiting wins than just Robinson. Incoming freshman guard Josh Anderson is a consensus four-star recruit that on his own is a tremendous haul. He’s been described as, “one of the most gifted scorers” in his class, and should be in the running for CUSA Freshman of the Year.

And there’s more, as Stansbury signed a pair of three-star guards: reigning Kentucky Mr. Basketball Taveion Hollingsworth and Chris Duarte, who had offers from Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis, among others. JuCo guard Jordan Brangers also joins the team, after initially signing a letter of intent with Texas Tech.

Plenty of experience is about to roll in

Buffalo transfer Lamonte Bearden will be eligible after sitting out last season. Last time he hit the court, he averaged 13.7 points per game and led the Bulls to a 20-win season and NCAA Tournament bid.

There are also two grad transfers coming in from the highest of heights. Bearden should share point guard duties with Darius Thompson, who joins WKU after two seasons at Virginia. He was never a star for Tony Bennett, but was a consistent part of the rotation, averaging nearly 20 minutes per game over both years.

Athletic center Dwight Coleby also joins the program after a season at Kansas. Like Thompson (who started his career at Tennessee), Coleby will be on his third and final program. He’d presumably take on a more important role if Robinson is in fact gone, even with returning starting center Justin Johnson (14.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG) back for his senior season. Coleby flashed big-time rim protecting potential early in his career at Ole Miss, and may have been hobbled at Kansas as he recovered from an ACL injury. If he returns to form, WKU could still have one of the better CUSA front courts.