The Washington State Cougars are in a rebuilding mode, but if the program is going to take a step forward this season, junior big man Josh Hawkinson will need to have a big year.
Head coach Ernie Kent is set to begin just his second season in Pullman, but the struggles of Washington State go back quite some time. The Cougars have failed to make the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven seasons and have just two trips to the big dance since 1994.
Kent’s first season with Washington State was also a bit underwhelming. Though Washington State did win two more games than the year prior, the program still ended up with just a 13-18 overall record and a 7-11 record in Pac-12 play.
Needless to say, Washington State fans will be hoping for more success in year two of Kent’s tenure and a lot of that will fall at the feet of Josh Hawkinson.
Though the entire roster will have to show progress to get the Cougars into serious postseason contention next year, the offseason losses for Washington State imply a lot will be needed from Hawkinson. Not only does the team lose its leading scorer in DaVonte Lacy, but it also loses a key contributor upfront in Jordan Railey.
As stated earlier, there isn’t much debating that other players will need to step up as well if Washington State is going to have a successful season, but given the loss of these players, it’s not hard to see that Hawkinson will likely need to be the centerpiece for Washington State next season.
Last season, Hawkinson not only led the roster in many of the traditional stats, but he also held up very well in the advanced stats. In total, Hawkinson led the team in minutes, rebounds, blocks, two-point attempts, win shares, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, player efficiency rating, and turnover rate.
(Stats via Sports Reference.)
Even with several other major contributors, it’s not a hard to argue that Hawkinson was Washington State’s best player last season. The stats certainly imply it. After all, Hawkinson was a rebounding machine. In fact, his defensive rebounding rate led the entire Pac=12 and was more than double anyone else’s on Washington State’s roster.
Hawkinson’s block rate also came in among the top 15 in the Pac-12 among contributors. Even if Washington State and the Pac-12 were a bit down last season, these are still major statistics in a Power Six conference. To rank that highly in both stats tells a lot about Hawkinson’s performance last season.
There is also reason to believe that Hawkinson still has upside as well. Many players across the country are coming off big statistical seasons, but many have already received their potential and have little room for growth. After all, how many players can lead a conference in something as significant as rebounding rate without using a good hunk of their talent?
It’s difficult to speculate on just how much better Hawkinson can become this season, but his offensive usage implies that there may still more opportunities for growth next season. In fact, Hawkinson actually came in third among Washington State’s contributors last season in usage. Pretty incredible considering his output last season.
(Stats via KenPom($).)
If Hawkinson can continue to put up his incredibly impressive rebounding numbers, his solid blocking numbers, and expand his role on offense a tad more, the sky is the limit. The Cougars are not realistically expected to compete for a conference title or for a deep NCAA Tournament run this season, but Hawkinson could still lead them to a successful season and continue the rebuilding process for the program.
There’s no telling just how great Hawkinson can become, but if he can continue to trend up, fans might have to realign expectations for Washington State next season.