**Article updated at 3:05p to reflect Tyler Linhardt also entering the transfer portal**
Husky wing Cole Bajema announced this afternoon that he is entering the transfer portal. He has one more season of eligibility remaining as a grad transfer. Bajema averaged 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game on 36.0% 3-pt shooting this past season and provided the Huskies with one of their only long range shooting threats.
March 24, 2023
It became much more likely that Bajema was planning on taking this route when he decided to walk on senior day despite having another potential year available. Cole started his college career at Michigan where he had hoped to play under John Beilein. Unfortunately, Beilein took an NBA job after Bajema had already signed and new coach Juwan Howard seemingly encouraged him to look for another spot after a freshman season only appearing in garbage time.
Bajema opted to return home to Washington where his sister Kara was a star for the Volleyball team. Over the last 3 seasons Cole’s playing time has gradually increased and he started nearly every game for Washington this past season.
However, Cole was suspended by the conference for one game in February and upon return Bajema struggled mightily. Over the next 5 games he shot 3/21 from the floor and made just 2 of 4 free throws and his playing time diminished accordingly. Bajema started every game he was available for except the season opener but he never eclipsed 29 minutes in a game following the suspension after hitting that mark in 12 of 13 games previously.
There were parts of Bajema’s game that frustratingly never seemed to improve much. He was never quite able to figure out how to convert at the rim when defenders closed out too hard and he drove into the lane. Still, he shot 48% on open catch and shoot 3-pointers this season and was the only Husky who reliably demonstrated that skill. A big part of improving the offense would’ve been producing better ball movement but having a shooter like Cole open on the perimeter to knock down shots off of kickouts.
Bajema is potentially the 4th player to transfer from the Huskies this offseason joining Langston Wilson and Jackson Grant. P.J Fuller was reportedly planning to enter but has still yet to do so. Combined with Jamal Bey’s graduation this now represents 5 of Washington’s 11 minutes getters and 3 of their top-6 moving on. The only non-finance argument for keeping head coach Mike Hopkins was the expected continuity for next year’s roster. The guard and center duos of Menifield/Johnson and Meah/Kepnang have announced their returns but it appears everyone else on the roster is still a candidate to leave with Noah Williams and Keion Brooks Jr. the most important pieces still undecided.
Best of luck to Cole wherever he ends up in his next stop.
Washington experienced their second loss of the day when freshman Tyler Linhardt entered the transfer portal. The 6’7 forward out of King’s HS was the #231 recruit in the country in the class of 2022. He appeared in just 3 games for the Huskies this season totaling 11 minutes and scoring 6 points on 2/4 FG shooting with 4 rebounds.
me versus me pic.twitter.com/L79Pv7QWY0— ty (@tylerlinhardt1) March 25, 2023
Those are now the only minutes Linhardt will have played in a Husky uniform as he has opted to transfer less than a year after joining the Washington program. The departures of Linhardt and Bajema both mean that the Huskies are essentially out of wings on the roster unless Keion Brooks Jr. opts not to transfer or try his luck professionally.
The Husky roster now currently breaks down like this:
Have affirmed they’re returning: 6’1 G Keyon Menifield, 6’2 G Koren Johnson, 6’11 C Franck Kepnang, 7’1 C Braxton Meah
Incoming freshmen in 2023 class: 6’4 G Wesley Yates, 6’7 F Christian King
Maybe returning (nothing public): 6’5 Noah Williams, 6’7 Keion Brooks Jr., 6’8 Samuel Ariyibi
Have entered/reportedly going to enter portal: 6’4 G P.J Fuller, 6’7 Cole Bajema, 6’7 Tyler Linhardt, 6’9 Langston Wilson, 6’10 Jackson Grant
Graduated/Out of Eligibility: 6’6 Jamal Bey
With the most recent portal entries the Huskies have at least 3 openings on the roster and the biggest concern is finding wing players who can reliably knock down a 3-point shot. Even if Williams chooses to transfer, the guard trio of Menifield/Johnson/Yates should hopefully provide a solid rotation. It would be nice to have a 3rd center option in case Franck Kepnang isn’t fully healthy coming back from his torn ACL but theoretically Meah and Kepnang should be good enough to play the vast majority of center minutes.
Even if Brooks decides to return though there is a glaring hole at the small forward spot. No matter what expect Washington to pursue at least a pair of wing players in the transfer portal and if Brooks leaves then they’ll need at least 3 to field a semi-balanced roster.