HOOPS: Will Isabell sign with Cougs tomorrow?

THE EARLY SIGNING PERIOD for basketball begins tomorrow and Washington State looks to have three scholies available. But will they use all three now or save some for later? And will three-star point guard Tramaine Isabell out of Seattle's Garfield High ink his National Letter of Intent to Washington State at first opportunity...or will he wait?

Isabell told CF.C a little over a week ago he hadn't decided if he'll sign with the Cougs this week -- or during the regular signing period in April. Attempts to reach him the last few days for clarity have been unsuccessful.

But our reading of the tea leaves is that he will sign with the Cougs in the early period -- running from Nov. 13-20 -- and might be going through a not-so-uncommon experience when it comes to recruits, and that's thinking about if they can gain more offers.

Five days ago, however, Isabell (6-1, 170) tweeted a photo of the letter from Washington State that accompanied his WSU National Letter of Intent and indicated he was Wazzu-bound now, rather than in April. In the letter, WSU asked him to fax in his signed paperwork by 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning so that WSU could put out an afternoon release.

ASSUMING ISABELL SIGNS with the Cougs on Wednesday, (or at some point during the week), will he be the only one in the early signing period for Wazzu?

The answer there looks to be yes. Cougfan.com is projecting that WSU will wait to spend their two remaining scholarships in the regular signing period in April -- and we're also projecting that they'll do so on two bigs. First, some background:

WSU had 13 players on scholarship for the upcoming year but incoming point guard Danny Lawhorn was booted mid-October before ever playing a minute for WSU. And then, Washington State will have two graduating seniors in D.J. Shelton and Will DiIorio after this season.

So that gives WSU three scholarships for the 2014 class, with Isabell taking one.

While there can always be a last minute surprise, indications from this vantage point are that WSU will stick two of the three available scholies for the 2014-15 class in their back pocket until the regular signing period begins in April. Here's our take on why:

First, the other prospects with known WSU offers who verballed and are expected to sign elsewhere tomorrow include: Isaiah Bailey, Donaven Dorsey, Tristan Etienne and Zach Smith -- all are classified as forwards by scout.com save for Bailey who is listed as a 6-foot-5 SF/SG.

Second, there are good reasons to wait.

But the question persists: Can the Cougs still get good quality in the regular signing period? Because there has always been the strong argument that a lot of quality prospects come off the board in the early signing period. But there's also a flip side to that coin.

THERE SHOULD be a number of quality players available in the late signing period because there are many, bigs included, that simply aren't on the radar right now -- but they very likely will be by April.

By holding scholarship offers back until the regular signing period begins on April 16, 2014, Bone and Co. will gain a full season of watching prep and JUCOs develop -- players who haven't yet hit that corner-turning stride but can do so between now and April.

And by waiting until the regular signing period you expand the pool to include current college players too, ones who decide they're going to transfer -- such as Royce Woolridge did in going from Kansas to Washington State.

BEFORE THE SEASON, Ken Bone talked at length with CF.C and to others about how much he likes his guards group and that true freshman Ike Iroegbu has proven since his arrival to have a very high ceiling.

Further, with the expected addition of Isabell, WSU next season would have a nice spread at guard with three seniors, two sophomores and a freshman on scholie, (DaVonté Lacy, Woolridge and Dexter Kernich-Drew; Iroegbu and Que Johnson; and Isabell.)

But the Cougs lose Shelton after this season to graduation and behind him, they have five bigs on scholie but none of them -- Brett Boese, Josh Hawkinson, James Hunter, Jordan Railey and Junior Longrus -- have yet become proven commodities. Out of that group, Longrus is the most polished and he does have considerable defensive skills. But he has yet to become a viable scoring option.

Next year, Hunter and Railey will be seniors, Longrus and Boese will be juniors and Hawkinson a sophomore. So from this chair there's a logical need for an infusion of bigs in this recruiting class, with two of the three available scholarships to be exact.

UPDATE: Isabell tweeted out after this article was published that he would be signing Thursday at 4 pm at the Seattle Rotary Boys and Girls Club. It was unclear why Thursday rather than Wednesday, or if he would send in his signed LOI on Wednesday to WSU but "announce" his signing on Thursday. Stay tuned to CF.C for the latest, and speaking of Isabell...

  • It's been an active time for Isabell since he verbally committed to Washington State. Isabell transferred from Lakeside High to Garfield. The original plan was for him to attend a prep school and join WSU in 2015. When Lawhorn was dismissed, WSU then looked to bring him in 2014.

  • Isabell and Garfield's basketball season gets underway Dec. 9. As a junior at Lakeside, Isabell averaged 19 points, five assists, four steals and four rebounds per game and led his team to the 3A state championship game before losing to Rainier Beach. He was named first-team all-conference and earned first-team honors in the 3A state tournament. He's been lauded as having excellent floor vision, a knack for great passes and a good-looking shot from outside. For more on Isabell, CLICK HERE.

  • Before he verbally committed to the Cougs, Isabell had an offer from Seattle U and said he felt Gonzaga and Colorado were on the verge of offering this past summer.

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