Lapwai's Wynott talks hoops journey

May 2—Four days a week, Kase Wynott heads to the gym at 6:15 a.m. and puts up 500 shots on a shooting machine at Lapwai High School.

A small-town kid with a big love for hoops, Wynott was practically born with a basketball in his hands and he's hardly set it down in his 18 years since.

From averaging 15 points per game as a freshman with the Wildcats, to winning three Idaho Class 1A Division I state titles, to becoming Idaho's all-time preps leading scorer while averaging 36 points per game as a senior, Wynott is finally ready for the next step of his basketball career.

And he won't be going far.

The 6-foot-6 wing committed to Washington State and new coach David Riley on April 21. Wynott talked this week with the Tribune about joining the Cougars, his stellar high school career and how he thinks his game will translate from small-school ball in Idaho to the NCAA Division I level.

"Man, I'm super excited," Wynott said. "I think growing up, I always wanted to be a Coug and now that the dream is a reality, I'm super excited. I think it will be a great fit for me with Riley's system. And it only being an hour away from home, that really excited me as well."

Reopening his recruitment

Wynott had originally signed his national letter of intent to play for Utah State, a successful midmajor program, but after Aggies coach Danny Sprinkle departed for the University of Washington after the season, Wynott reopened his recruitment.

His phone immediately started buzzing like crazy.

"For a couple days, my phone was just blowing up," Wynott said.

He doesn't know exactly how many teams reached out, but among them were programs like Boise State, Colorado, Vermont, Drexel and Southern Florida. Prior to his commitment to the Aggies, Wynott also had offers from nearly every school in the Big Sky Conference.

But Wynott narrowed his choices down to three schools: returning his commitment to Utah State, rejoining Sprinkle at UW or picking WSU.

He eventually settled on the Cougs.

"Coach Sprinkle and his staff still wanted me and it was a very hard decision for me," Wynott said. "I took my visit to Washington State, sat down with Riley and I just felt like it was a no-brainer with him."

A perfect fit with WSU

Riley had previously recruited Wynott when the coach was at Eastern Washington, so the two already had a relationship before Wynott reopened his recruitment.

Wynott pointed to Riley's freestyle offensive style and his history of developing wings as some of the reasons for picking WSU.

One example is how Riley helped develop former Big Sky MVP Steele Venters from a walk-on, to a star with the Eagles. Venters' big rise led to him being sought out by and transferring to Gonzaga.

Another appealing factor about WSU was Pullman's proximity to Lapwai, where Wynott rose to high school superstardom, and his tiny hometown of Winchester, Idaho, a little farther down U.S. 95.

WSU's campus is about an hour drive from the two towns.

"I know just being around Lapwai man, the support base is crazy," Wynott said. "Once I committed, there's so many people telling me and my dad that they're going to get their season tickets, so I expect a lot of fans to be there."

A long list of accolades

It's no secret, at the Idaho 1A level Wynott was simply bigger, faster and stronger than the competition.

At 6-6, he was usually the biggest player on the court despite mostly playing point guard.

Among his prep accomplishments as a senior in 2023-24 were:

* Becoming Idaho's all-time leading scorer with 2,962 career points.

* A 68-point performance to break the Idaho single-game record in a 105-43 win against Genesee.

* Idaho Gatorade boys basketball player of the year honors.

* A stat line of 36 points per game (No. 5 in the country according to MaxPreps), 13.9 rebounds, 9.1 assists per contest.

* Three state titles

The only thing that would've made Wynott's prep career better was the missing state title from his junior season in 2022-23.

Wynott and the Wildcats were stunned by Lakeside of Plummer in the state championship game, 81-79 in overtime, ending Lapwai's 62-game winning streak.

Wynott said that loss stuck with the team for a whole year all the way to a rematch with Lakeside in the 2024 state championship. This time, Lapwai won 67-54 to earn its 13th state title in program history.

"I thought about that loss every day," Wynott said. "I think it separated the work I was putting in, like, I only had Big Sky offers before that loss, and after that loss I kept working and I started getting some pretty big-time offers.

"And just as a team, I know the entire year we thought about one thing: We thought about the Lakeside Knights. That's the only thing I thought about, and it made that last win that much sweeter for sure."

From small school hoops to a big college stage

It won't be an easy jump from small-school ball to the upper NCAA Division I ranks, where all the players are extremely athletic.

But Wynott is ready for the challenge.

Wynott was recruited as a wing (a small forward/shooting guard) in Riley's system. He has the ability to get to the rim and make great passes to teammates, but it's his 3-point shooting that he thinks is the biggest strength he hopes will translate to the next level.

"It's not even the same stratosphere — playing at the 1A, I'm the biggest kid on the court, I'm the biggest, fastest, strongest kid in 1A, and when I get to college, it's not that (anymore)," Wynott said.

"It's going to be a big change. But I think I'll be ready for it."

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, or on Twitter @StephanSports.