USATodaySports/Chenoy

As LOI day nears, Ernie Kent's scholarship cup runneth over with news of Que Johnson's plan to transfer

QUE JOHNSON, the perpetual star-in-waiting who never made it over the proverbial hump, will graduate from Washington State next month and then transfer for his final season of eligibility. That news Monday evening from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein begs a question: Is this good news or bad for Cougar basketball?

The silver lining is that Johnson was an underachiever on offense and a liability on defense so his departure frees up a scholarship spot that can be invested immediately into the future of the program.

The bad news is that Johnson was the Cougars’ third-leading scorer this past season, averaging 11.3 points per game, and flashed glimpses of the talent that made him one of the most hyped Cougar basketball recruits in the last 10 years. 

He, Ike Iroegbu (12.7 ppg,) and Josh Hawkinson (15.4 ppg) figured to form the nucleus of a senior-laden 2016-17 Cougar team looking to use its experience to rebound from the disastrous 1-17 conference record the Cougs just turned in.

Johnson made 25 starts in 2015-16 and averaged more than 25.6 minutes per game -- third-most on the team. He becomes the second graduating senior with remaining eligibility to announce his departure this month, following on the heels of 7-foot center Valentine Izundu

In addition, little-used guards Ny Redding and Renard Suggs were granted releases from the program shortly after the season ended.

That means head coach Ernie Kent has six scholarships to play with. Two were filled in the early signing period in November with forward Jeff Pollard and point guard Milan Acquaah.

The regular signing period begins this Wednesday. Tacoma guard Malachi Flynn, the state Associated Press Player of the Year who verballed to WSU last month, is expected to sign with the Cougars at that time.

With Johnson and Izundu now gone, that leaves three more open spots.

Recruiting trail rumblings prior to the Johnson and Izundu news was that Kent was working hard to find a swingman in this recruiting class.

Presuming he does, that means the Cougars will have four fresh faces in the program for sure next season and the possibility of two more.

A class of five or six is very large by basketball standards, raising the notion that Kent might stockpile one or both of his remaining scholarhips for the 2017 recruiting cycle. But that math gets a little fuzzy as well as Kent already know he'll have four spots open for sure in the 2017 cycle due to the graduation losses of Iroegbu, Hawkinson, Charles Callison and Conor Clifford. So adding one or two more slots to that cycle would again mean a class of five or six.

Cougar fans won’t have to wait long to get a clearer sense of where Kent is heading. LOIs can be signed as early as this Wednesday and on into May. Stay tuned.


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