The West — and all of mid-major basketball — runs through Gonzaga. I know this, you know this, and that isn’t changing anytime soon, especially with Mark Few set to debut the latest notch in his recruiting belt next year in five star prep guard Jalen Suggs.
But one of the major stories of 2019-20 was the re-emergence of two somewhat dormant West Coast mid-major powers in San Diego State and BYU. After a brief downturn the Aztecs captured their first Mountain West regular season title since 2016, whereas the Cougars were set to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015. It’s not as if there were dark times for either program but both — under relatively new coaching regimes — had showed a major uptick.
It’s then somewhat fitting that the two ascendent West coast programs are vying for one the late transfer market’s hottest commodities. On Sunday, East Tennessee State transfer guard Daivien Williamson released his five finalists, which included the Aztecs and Cougars.
Seemingly, the clear favorite to land Williamson is Wake Forest since he entered the transfer portal only after his former coach — Steve Forbes — left ETSU to take over the Demon Deacons. And, barring an unforeseen development, Williamson would have to redshirt next season, taking away a potential immediate boost to the SDSU or (especially) BYU backcourts.
If either Brian Dutcher or Mark Pope were to pull the upset, they’d land an efficient guard that was the Bucs’ third-leading scorer (10.4 PPG, 2.6 APG) while assuming the bulk of the 30-win team’s point guard minutes. The sophomore was particularly vital down the stretch during ETSU’s 12-game winning streak to close the season, as he played 30 minutes or more in the team’s final 11 games. This included a 20-point (7-9 FG) performance in the Bucs’ SoCon Tournament semifinal win over Western Carolina.
It’s not as if either school needs a boost to continue riding its 2019-20 momentum. BYU beat Kentucky to land Purdue transfer Matt Haarms in a win that should only boost the reputation of a proven transfer-wrangler in Pope. The Cougars remain in the mix for Georgetown transfer guard Mac McClung, which be an equally starry (albeit redshirt) addition. SDSU also filled — at least part — of the Malachi Flynn-sized hole in its rotation by landing productive Cal State Northridge graduate transfer point guard Terrell Gomez.
Neither team’s future hinges on Williamson, but he’s a nationally-relevant transfer that two nationally-relevant programs back on the rise are tussling over. Both Dutcher and Pope must hope this becomes a regular offseason thing.