Although the WKU basketball team is still months away from tipping off the 2019-20 season, head coach Rick Stansbury has some clarity on what his roster will look like this fall.
May 29 marked the final day in which early draft entrants could withdraw from the NBA Draft. Essentially every coach had questions about their rosters until the deadline, and Stansbury was no different.
Only freshman center Charles Bassey had declared for the draft, but he was arguably the most talented player on the team a season ago. The general consensus was that the big man would forgo the rest of his college eligibility and stay in the draft.
However, the Nigeria native pulled a shocker — Bassey withdrew his name and announced he would return to WKU for another year in the early morning hours on May 30.
After a key domino fell in his favor, Stansbury has all of the tools to compete for a Conference USA title again. Although Matt Horton, Dalano Banton, Jake Ohmer and Moustapha Diagne all transferred and Lamonte Bearden graduated, the Hilltoppers will welcome numerous newcomers and newly eligible players into the fold. WKU will also return an ample amount of experience: 81% of its scoring, 80% of its rebounding, 82% of its blocks, 75% of its steals, 52% of its assists, 79% of its 3-pointers made and 75% of its minutes played from last season.
Here is the updated 2019-20 men's basketball roster, featuring the most current information regarding who will be taking the floor for the Hilltoppers in Diddle Arena this year:
Jared Savage — Redshirt Senior — Wing
Savage has one more year of eligibility left with the Hilltoppers. Eighty of Savage’s 127 made shots were 3-pointers a year ago, which led all WKU players. He averaged 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Savage will look to improve his consistency from the field this year, as he struggled at times and ended the season with identical percentages from the floor and from deep (36%).
Kenny Cooper — Senior — Guard
Cooper decided to join the Hilltoppers in April after three seasons at Lipscomb. The Nashville native played in 100 games over three seasons with the Bison, starting 67 of them and averaging 8.9 points per game with 381 assists.
Although he is not a graduate transfer, Cooper will attempt to secure a waiver that would allow him to play in the upcoming season, according to a tweet posted by Evan Daniels.
Camron Justice — Graduate — Guard
Justice was an All-Horizon League Second Team selection in 2018-19 after averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game at IUPUI.
Justice is one of three Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners on the roster, earning his prestigious prep nod in 2015. As a graduate transfer, Justice will be immediately eligible this season. He will likely be a key contributor in his lone season on the Hill.
Taveion Hollingsworth — Junior — Guard
Hollingsworth brings a plethora of experience to the Hilltoppers — the Lexington native has started all 72 games over the past two seasons and averaged a team-high 36.8 minutes per game last year.
Hollingsworth upped his scoring and assists numbers in 2018-19, but those improvements came with a lower shooting percentage. He will aim to increase his offensive efficiency this season.
Josh Anderson — Junior — Guard
Anderson showed flashes of dominance in his sophomore season. Among his numerous highlight dunks, the high-flying guard averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. With a plethora of guards joining the roster this season, Anderson could also play a wing role and become a strong candidate for minutes at small forward.
Anderson shot 47% from the floor, but the next step for Anderson will be improving his outside jump shot — he shot only 29% from 3-point range a year ago and is shooting just 27% from beyond the arc for his career.
Patrick Murphy — Redshirt Junior — Guard
Murphy transferred to WKU in fall 2018 and sat out the entirety of last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Murphy, who averaged averaged 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds as a sophomore at Martin Methodist College during the 2017-18 season, will be eligible this fall as a walk-on.
Jeremiah Gambrell — Sophomore — Guard
Gambrell appeared in just four games last season after dealing with multiple stress fractures in his leg. The freshman played 23 total minutes and made one 3-pointer in limited action prior to his final game on Jan. 5.
Gambrell will look to get healthy and make a larger impact this season. The guard could also pursue a medical redshirt for last season and recoup eligibility due to his extended absence.
Jackson Harlan — Freshman — Guard
Harlan played his prep career at Clinton County High School in Albany, where he averaged 26.4 points per game on 47% shooting as a junior. The small-town scoring machine, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 185 pounds, averaged 23.9 PPG as a high school senior in 2018-19.
Jordan Rawls — Freshman — Guard
Rawls, a four-star point guard, is expected to reclassify and join WKU this fall. Rawls originally announced his intentions on April 20, but backtracked a day later and clarified he was a WKU “commit for the class of 2020” and would “revisit” his options “later in the summer.” After his AAU team mentioned his reclassification on May 28, Rawls said he's "19 now" in an Instagram story posted June 2.
Carson Williams — Redshirt Junior — Forward
Williams will be eligible this season after sitting out in 2018-19 due to NCAA transfer requirements. The 6-foot-5-inch forward started 61 games across two seasons at Northern Kentucky, averaging 12 points and 5.6 rebounds as a sophomore during the 2017-18 season.
Williams will bring leadership and NCAA Tournament experience to the Hilltoppers, and he will likely play a large role in the rotation early.
Marek Nelson — Junior — Forward
Nelson played in only 18 games a season ago due to a back issue. The injury seemed like it might be season-ending in January, but Nelson returned to the court in March.
The forward is only two years removed from averaging 2.6 points on 54% shooting from the floor. With a full offseason to heal up and get back into basketball shape, the Texas native will look to provide a spark off the bench.
Charles Bassey — Sophomore — Center
Bassey will make his surprise return to the Hill after averaging a double-double in his freshman season with 14.6 points and 10 boards per game. Bassey had no shortage of honors during his historic year.
After leading the league in double-doubles and racking up 10 C-USA Freshman of the Week Awards, Bassey was named C-USA Freshman of the Year and C-USA Defensive Player of the year. He was also named to the All-C-USA First Team, C-USA All-Defensive Team and C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Bassey set the program’s freshman block record, scored the second-most points by a freshman in program history and also finished as a top-five finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
Tolu Smith — Sophomore — Forward
Smith didn't start once last season, but he still made strides as the season wore on. The Mississippi native appeared in all 34 games last year in a key bench role, scoring 3.3 points per game on 58% shooting. He also grabbed 2.6 rebounds per game in 10.1 minutes of action.
Smith will be expected to contribute more in his sophomore season after an impressive freshman year.
Isaiah Cozart — Freshman — Forward
Cozart played his high school ball at Madison Central High School in Richmond. Just two games into his senior year, Cozart became Kentucky’s all-time leading shot blocker, recording his 542nd block.He finished his career with 716 blocks.
Cozart averaged 20 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.8 blocks and one assist per game as a high school senior last season.
Nick Ongenda — Freshman — Center
Ongenda played his high school basketball for Southwest Christian Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. Standing 6-foot-10 and possessing a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, Ongenda brings immediate length to the Hilltopper frontcourt for the upcoming season.
247Sports Composite ranks Ongenda as the 286th best player in the 2019 class and the 53rd best center.
Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and email@example.com. Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.