As the Fresno State men’s basketball team nears the end of nonconference play, two questions continue to hover over the Bulldogs like buzzing drones.
When will Karachi Edo return to the lineup?
What’s the status of William McDowell-White?
Both Edo, a senior forward, and McDowell-White, a freshman point guard who was the most heralded recruit of coach Rodney Terry’s tenure, were supposed to be key ingredients of this year’s team.
Now it appears one will be added to the Bulldogs’ stew any day now while the other remains on the shelf.
Edo was ineligible for the fall semester after failing to meet the NCAA’s continuing eligibility standards during the spring. I’m told he straightened things out and will rejoin the team as soon has his latest grades are submitted by his professors and certified by the registrar’s office.
Best-case scenario: The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder returns for Saturday’s game at Pacific. Worst case: He isn’t back until the Dec. 28 Mountain West opener at New Mexico. Tuesday’s game at Oregon is the other possibility.
“I’d like to have him for (Saturday), but it’s not in our control,” Terry told me earlier in the week. “The things we don’t have control over, the academic pieces, we don’t worry about.”
He’s practicing full tilt. He’s been in there with the regular guys.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry, on Karachi Edo
Likewise, an academic “piece” is the reason McDowell-White has spent the past few months attending Elite Educational Institute in Anaheim Hills instead of taking classes at Fresno State. The 6-foot-5 native of Brisbane, Australia, did not score high enough on the SAT or ACT to satisfy NCAA requirements.
By all indications, he has yet to do that.
Following Tuesday’s practice at the Save Mart Center, I asked Terry if he still expected McDowell-White to be part of the 2016-17 team.
“It’s been a magic question the whole time, and the reason he hasn’t been here is he hasn’t met academic standards,” Terry said. “If I had a magic wand and could get him the test score he needs to get in school, he’d be here already. He hasn’t been able to get that.”
I’m told there’s a way McDowell-White could still gain admission, by completing certain course work, but at this point the chance of that happening is slim.
What’s more, Terry sounded resigned to moving on without the player expected to be a primary ballhandler and facilitator.
“That’s fine for us, because we’ve got a point guard already,” Terry said in reference to junior Jaron Hopkins, who is averaging 13.3 points and 3.9 assists. “Of course we’d benefit from an extra ballhandler, but at the end of the day we can’t take the test for him.”
It’s just an unfortunate deal, but he hasn’t qualified to be in school.
Rodney Terry, on William McDowell-White
Terry was laughing when he said that, but you have to wonder if inside he’s weeping. The sixth-year coach put a lot of effort into wooing McDowell-White, flying to Australia on multiple occasions and even awarding a scholarship to older brother Darryl McDowell-White, a heady player but nowhere near a five-star recruit.
Now it appears those efforts won’t pay off. If William McDowell-White wants to play for the Bulldogs, he could enroll in community college. Or he could turn pro – an option Terry says McDowell-White strongly considered until he committed to Fresno State.
“Obviously anytime you spend some time recruiting a guy, you want to get him to campus,” Terry said. “You’d love to have him here. But at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world. Everything happens for a reason. When it does, you just keep moving forward.”
Edo is Fresno State’s best post defender (what he lacks in height he makes up for in strength) and someone who does most of his scoring off putbacks and lobs. He’s also a team leader who has been practicing with the team all season and with the starters in recent weeks.
So you can expect Edo’s return to be as seamless as possible for someone who missed the first 10 games, at least.
It would have been more difficult to integrate McDowell-White into Fresno State’s flow. He hasn’t been part of the team and, as a point guard, needs to have the ball in his hands.
But that’s not something Terry and the coaching staff need concern themselves with any longer.
265 Fresno State’s NCAA RPI ranking after Wednesday’s games
Despite a 7-3 record, the Bulldogs are lightly regarded in the power rankings (No. 265 in the NCAA RPI and No. 145 by KenPom.com) largely due to a soft nonconference schedule that has included two non-Division I opponents (Menlo and Holy Names) and seven weak D-Is.
Fresno State came within three points of beating the best team on its schedule (Marquette) and nearly blew a 20-point lead in an overtime victory over one of the worst (Drake, whose coach resigned three days later).
Despite a seeming logjam of big men, the Bulldogs need Edo’s rebounding and rim protection. Right now, despite the soft schedule, they’re seventh in the MW in rebounding margin and fifth in field-goal percentage defense.
Likewise, they could’ve used another primarily ballhandler to take some pressure off Hopkins, who is being asked to score and distribute.
“I’m happy with my team, happy with what we’ve got and where we’re going,” Terry insisted.
It’s not exactly the squad Fresno State fans anticipated. But still more than workable.