The Complexities Of SJSU Basketball’s 2022 Recruiting Class

The Complexities Of SJSU Basketball’s 2022 Recruiting Class

How SJSU’s 2022 recruiting class has impacted the 2023-24 season

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A mix of misfortune and what-ifs

Following San Jose State basketball’s 0-2 start in conference play, it’s easy to ponder a reality where it retained 2022-23 Mountain West Player of the Year Omari Moore through NIL deals. Although valid, perhaps those wonderments aren’t pointed in the right direction.

Instead of Moore, maybe fans should wonder how SJSU would be faring right now if it got more production out of its 2022 recruiting class. 

As SJSU (7-8, 0-2 MW) prepares to host No. 19 San Diego State (13-2, 2-0 MW) Tuesday night, only one player from that recruiting class – sophomore guard Garrett Anderson – will be seeing action. 

Which begs the question: How has that recruited class impacted SJSU’s 2023-24 season?

As it relates to the Spartans’ struggling front court, a sizable amount. Starting with power forward Max Allen who was one of five freshman from the 2022 class to depart from SJSU this offseason. 

Now at Marist University, Allen is averaging 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and boasts a player efficiency rating of 26.5. His numbers are currently better than SJSU power forwards in sophomore William Humer (4.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and a 12.8 player efficiency rating) and freshman Diogo “DJ” Seixas (3.9 points, 1.2 rebounds and a 11.8  player efficiency rating). 

Though Allen averaged just 1.3 points and 2 rebounds in eight games last year, could his size and scoring have prevented any of SJSU’s four late-game collapses – including the squandered 17-point lead to Wyoming and a nine-point second half lead to Boise State? 

But to say Allen’s situation and the five transfers renders the 2022 class a complete disappointment, is to ignore the gem SJSU found in junior power forward Robert Vaihola and the misfortune of his season-long absence due to a foot injury.

Following his freshman year in 2021-2022, Vaihola entered the transfer portal when Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson suggested he go the junior college route. 

The result? 

Vaihola transferred to SJSU, became the Mountain West leader in offensive rebounds (3 per game) and helped SJSU finish with the sixth-best rebounding margin nationwide. Surely, his presence would have prevented the Spartans from getting outrebounded 43-23 and outscored on second chance opportunities 20-5 against the Broncos last Friday night. For that matter, maybe his presence would’ve prevented SJSU from ranking ninth in points allowed per game (71.8) in the Mountain West this year after it ranked fourth (66.2) last year. 

In essence, Vaihola’s absence is the bad break SJSU just simply couldn’t afford. But unlike Vaihola, SJSU knew grad transfer Sage Tolbert wouldn’t return following the 2022-23 season. 

That’s the yin-and-ying of the transfer portal. SJSU received someone in Tolbert who was well-seasoned and ready to dominate but those virtues were a one-year solution to a year-after-year dilemma. Going the transfer portal route every year isn’t a bad option, but with SJSU’s invisible NIL presence it’s difficult to land someone of Tolbert’s pedigree.

Which leaves SJSU to rely on Humer, Seixas and Washington State sophomore transfer Adrame Diongue who committed to SJSU to be reunited with first-year assistant coach Ed Gipson. Among those three, Diongue is the only one with Division I experience, but that came in the form of 6.3 minutes per game last year. 

Therein lies the conundrum plaguing SJSU. Diongue, Humer and Seixas are expected to replace production from Vaihola, Tolbert and center Ibrahima Diallo who transferred to Central Florida after two years at SJSU. Which means this year’s front court is experiencing their learning curve two years after junior guards Alvaro Cardenas and MJ Amey and senior wings Trey Anderson and Tibet Gorener experienced theirs. 

After experiencing the historic 2022-23 season, those four were hoping to maintain the momentum and finish in a relatively similar position. The media, meanwhile, thought SJSU wouldn’t crater back toward irrelevance. Hence the Spartans were picked to finish seventh in the 11-team Mountain West preseason poll.

But with timelines that aren’t aligning, that’s growing increasingly more difficult. That said, it’s not impossible. After all, there are16 conference games left – however – half of those games come against opponents in the top-35 of the NET. And that gauntlet for SJSU starts Tuesday night against SDSU (No. 21 in NET). Now, that’s not to say it’s impossible. There’s still time for Diongue, Humer and Seixas to improve. Plus, Anderson, a second rotation guard, can still leave an imprint so the 2022 class doesn’t leave the 2023-24 season without any impact.

Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire