Less than three days after a scholarship for this upcoming season unexpectedly came open, the Wichita State men’s basketball team has successfully swooped in to make the finals of a heated recruiting battle for 6-foot-10, 235-pound French forward Josaphat Bilau.
On the same day WSU dismissed redshirt sophomore Teddy Allen, the Shockers convinced Bilau to use his fifth and final official visit to come to Wichita on Tuesday and Wednesday. Now WSU is firmly in the mix for the services of Bilau, who told The Eagle on Thursday that he is also considering Nevada, West Virginia and Wake Forest and wants to make a decision by the end of this week.
“The visit went great and I was really surprised by how great of a town Wichita was,” Bilau said in a phone interview. “I was really impressed by the support. I haven’t even committed yet, but I could already feel the love from their fans and everyone supporting me.”
Bilau has not been evaluated by a major recruiting service, but a host of high-major programs have been fighting over the services of the versatile big man. Programs such as Kansas, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Georgia Tech all extended scholarship offers to Bilau.
WSU offered Bilau last November and stayed in touch, but didn’t have an opening in its 2019 recruiting class. That changed on Tuesday when the program decided to dismiss Allen less than a week after he was arrested and later charged with domestic violence property crime and petty theft, both misdemeanors.
After it became clear Allen would no longer be with the team, WSU’s assistants immediately went to work to find a good fit. Assistant Tyson Waterman had kept in contact with Bilau over time and picked back up where WSU left off.
“They started recruiting me a long time ago, so we already had that relationship,” Bilau said. “They just didn’t have a scholarship available, but they’ve always been really interested. As soon as they got a scholarship available, they called me, and I felt like I had to go take a look at Wichita.”
That’s how WSU convinced Bilau to use his final official visit to come to WSU straight from his fourth official visit, to West Virginia, on Tuesday evening. After a night out at Chicken N Pickle, Bilau enjoyed lunch out at Georges French Bistro in College Hill on Wednesday and then dinner at Red Rock to conclude the visit.
More importantly, Bilau was able to observe Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall and the Shockers in a practice setting and even play with potential teammates in pick-up games. Bilau has the size of a center, but the ball-handling and passing skills of a wing. He views himself closer to a small forward than a center and could fit in nicely at the power forward position at WSU.
The Shockers recruited Trey Wade, an undersized 6-7 wing, and 6-8 freshman DeAntoni Gordon to play at the power forward position, but Bilau (6-10, 235) would give the team more size to play along side traditional centers like Jaime Echenique (6-11) and Asbjorn Midtgaard (7-0).
“I’m pretty versatile for my size, and I think can shoot the ball and can rebound and bring the ball up the court and make a play for myself or my teammates,” Bilau said. “People haven’t really seen what I’m capable of doing since I played on a really talented team. I haven’t showed what I’m fully capable of yet.”
Originally from France, Bilau came to the United States in fall 2017 and has been playing basketball for five years. He played this past season at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, but was overshadowed on a team that featured five-star guard LaMelo Ball, guard Rocket Watts, a Michigan State commit, and forward Isaiah Jackson, a five-star prospect in 2020.
There isn’t much film on Bilau, but the few clips that have surfaced from his time at SPIRE show Bilau attacking defenders off the dribble from the three-point line, Euro-stepping past help defenders and scoring easily. He also displayed a deft passing touch for a 6-10 player with the ability to stretch the defense with an occasional outside shot.
WSU has made a stunning come-from-behind recruiting victory on a highly-sought-after recruit before, in this very same recruiting cycle. Last fall, Waterman was able to get WSU’s foot in the door with four-star, top-150 guard Tyson Etienne with Marshall closing the deal to land one of the most highly-rated prospects in his tenure.
Bilau entered this week believed to be down to West Virginia, Nevada, Wake Forest and Pitt until WSU swooped in on Tuesday and replaced Pitt in his final four.. Now the Shockers are hopeful they will be able to sway Bilau for another major recruiting win.
If the Shockers are able to land his commitment, Bilau would be the sixth recruit in WSU’s 2019 recruiting class and join guards Tyson Etienne, Noah Fernandes and Grant Sherfield and forwards DeAntoni Gordon and Trey Wade.