Former Michigan SG/SF Cole Bajema announced tonight that he will be transferring to the University of Washington. The former Lynden, WA star originally entered the transfer portal 10 days ago but quickly made a decision that coming closer to home was the move that made the most sense.
6’7 Bajema was the #74 prospect in 247 Sports’ rankings coming out of high school after a series of standout showings on the AAU circuit following his junior year. The Huskies offered Bajema at that time and given his connections to the school, his sister Kara is a star on the volleyball team, it seemed like Washington would be the odds on favorite. However, Bajema grew up in Michigan rooting for the Wolverines and as his dream school he committed to them nearly on the spot after they offered.
Coach John Beilein left for a short lived stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers before the start of Bajema’s freshman year though and new coach Juwan Howard didn’t seem to value his contributions. Bajema played only 3% of the team’s minutes last season mostly in blowouts but was shockingly efficient when in the game (10/13 from the field and 4/7 from 3-point range). It appears Howard gave no indication that Bajema’s standing on the team was likely to increase in the future and so Cole is headed back home to greener pastures.
Coming out of high school Bajema’s calling card was his shooting from a 6’7 frame. He averaged 24 points and 8 rebounds per game as a senior at Lynden Christian. At 175 pounds entering college it was clear that Bajema had an extremely lean frame that needed to hit the weight room and you can be sure that will be a priority for the coaching staff once he’s officially in the program.
The shape of the 2020-21 Washington Huskies men’s basketball team will of course be dependent on the ability of games to take place as scheduled but also will heavily depend on transfer waiver legislation. With Bajema and Erik Stevenson both set to return to the state it gives the Huskies potential reinforcements on the wing to go along with Naz Carter, Jamal Bey, and RaeQuan Battle (and Marcus Tsohonis depending on what position you view him playing).
If both are required to sit out a year then it leaves the Huskies thin in the case of injury. If both can play then there isn’t enough playing time to go around. Because of that, even if Bajema is eligible it wouldn’t shock me if he redshirts to get stronger and help even out the classes after Washington signed zero high school recruits in the 2020 class.
Coach Hopkins would prefer to play an 8-man rotation which might be difficult if everyone is eligible. If you break it down by point guard, wing, and big here’s the current roster:
Point Guards: Quade Green, Marcus Tsohonis, Nate Pryor
Wings: Naz Carter, Jamal Bey, Erik Stevenson, RaeQuan Battle, Cole Bajema
Bigs: Hameir Wright, Nate Roberts, Bryan Penn-Johnson, J’Raan Brooks, (maybe Riley Sorn)
That gives the Huskies at least 12 scholarships spoken for, 2 seniors on the roster, and 1 player already committed in the class of 2021 (top-50 PF Jackson Grant). With Bajema’s addition the Dawgs are set to only have one or two scholarships open for a stacked local recruiting class that includes 5-star Paolo Banchero plus 4-stars Nolan Hickman and Shane Nowell. It seems likely that Cole took the spot of the two small forwards being pursued, Jusaun Holt and Peyton Watson. Although it would surprise no one if PG Quade Green departed after this season either because of superlative play or academic issues to open up another spot.
Without a stud down low like Noah Dickerson or Isaiah Stewart the Huskies will need to play a more perimeter-oriented game in coming seasons. With the additions of Stevenson and now especially Bajema it injects more shooting on the wing and gives the Huskies another option if they need a spark off the bench.
If Bajema is immediately eligible he will have 4 years to play 3 otherwise he will need to redshirt this upcoming season and then will have 3 years of eligibility remaining.