An eventful month for Washington State's basketball roster — and the small forward position, especially — has culminated with former four-star prospect Andrej Jakimovski returning to the Cougars after previously committing to Loyola Maryland.
Jakimovski, who entered the NCAA transfer portal on June 17, pledged to play for the Patriot League school less than a month later but apparently reconsidered his options and elected to rejoin the Cougars in 2021-22.
"Andrej was and is an important part of our program. He has an awesome attitude, a relentless work ethic, and possesses incredible pride in our program," WSU coach Kyle Smith said in a statement. "He gives us an excellent playmaker who has played all five positions and is most comfortable making plays with the ball in his hands as a guard. He showed Coug nation what he is capable of when he had 18 assists during our Cal/Stanford homestand last year. We are humbled and grateful that Andrej has 'found his way back home.' "
It's likely Jakimovski's move back to the Palouse was spurred by the departure of former Eastern Washington forward Kim Aiken Jr., who signed to play for the Cougars but never enrolled in classes and transferred from WSU after being denied admission to the political science graduate program. Aiken has since signed to play at Pac-12 rival Arizona, the same school he committed to before joining the Cougars.
Jakimovski mostly played the small forward position at WSU as a freshman in 2020-21 — the same role Aiken would have had with the Cougars had he stayed in Pullman — and will conceivably have a better chance of earning a starting role without the former EWU player and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in a picture.
In an Instagram caption accompanying a highlight reel from the 2020-21 season, Jakimovski wrote "Unfinished business.. I'm back!!"
As a rookie, Jakimovski faced highs and lows while battling an ongoing groin injury that apparently required offseason surgery, CougCenter reported Saturday. The North Macedonia native appeared in 25 of the team's 27 games and made 19 starts, averaging 5.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25.2 minutes per game — the highest of any freshman on the team in 2020-21.
Jakimovski was touted as one of the top perimeter-shooting prospects the school had signed, but encountered a slump midway through the Pac-12 season that may have been compounded by his groin injury. He was 13 of 31 (41%) from beyond the arc in nonconference play, but went just 20 of 66 (30%) in Pac-12 games and missed 11 straight 3-point attempts during a four-game stretch against Utah, Colorado (home and road) and Washington.
Nonetheless, Jakimovski adds offensive firepower to a 2021-22 WSU team that's considered to be a dark-horse NCAA Tournament team, and gives the Cougars more depth in the frontcourt. Jakimovski's return means WSU brings back four starters from last season, including guard Noah Williams, forward Efe Abogidi and center Dishon Jackson.