Gregg Marshall and Wichita State have been on a roll lately landing their first options in recruiting.
That trend continued on Sunday when Josaphat Bilau, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound French forward, announced he will be playing for the Shockers this upcoming season. Bilau rounds out WSU’s 2019 recruiting class, as he joins fall signees Tyson Etienne, Noah Fernandes and DeAntoni Gordon and spring signees Grant Sherfield and Trey Wade.
Within the same week that WSU dismissed redshirt sophomore Teddy Allen, Marshall and his staff swooped into Bilau’s recruiting and plucked him from the grasps of Nevada, West Virginia, Wake Forest and Pitt to fill the Shockers’ last scholarship.
Bilau told the Eagle that his connection with Marshall and WSU assistant Tyson Waterman, chemistry with the current players such as Dexter Dennis, and playing in front of a passionate fan base were the deciding factors in his decision.
“I’m just really excited right now,” Bilau told the Eagle in a phone interview. “It’s great to finally make a decision. I can’t wait to start.”
Bilau has not been evaluated by a major recruiting service, but a host of high-major programs came calling this spring. Kansas, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Georgetown all offered a scholarship to Bilau.
WSU offered Bilau last November, but never had a scholarship opening in its 2019 class. That changed this past 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.
When it became clear Allen was gone, Waterman reached out to Bilau. He had just completed an official visit to West Virginia on Tuesday when the two arranged for him to come to Wichita for his fifth and final official visit that lasted Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“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.”
During Bilau’s visit, he was able to observe Marshall and the Shockers in a practice setting and even play with his future teammates in pick-up games. According to a source, Bilau made a significant impression. He has the size of a center at 6-10, but the ball-handling and passing skills of a play-making wing. Bilau also showed the ability to step outside and knock down an outside shot.
Bilau said many assume because of his size that he plays center, but he views himself closer to a small forward or power forward. Currently WSU was planning on playing Wade, a 6-7 junior-college transfer, and Gordon, a 6-8 freshman, at power forward, although Bilau’s 6-10 frame makes for an intriguing pairing with WSU’s traditional centers, 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.
“I felt like after we got done playing together, everybody knew that I could play at this level for sure and I can help them. I feel like we can do something special.”
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, Michigan State commit Rocket Watts and five-star forward Isaiah Jackson.
There isn’t much film available on Bilau, but the lone clip that surfaced from his time at SPIRE seems to back up Bilau’s claim to be able to dribble, pass and shoot well. There’s several clips of him attacking defenders off the dribble from the three-point line, Euro-stepping past help defenders and scoring. He also showed high basketball IQ with his passing and stretched the defense with an occasional outside shot.
Landing Bilau is just another stunning come-from-behind recruiting victory on a highly-sought-after recruit for WSU in this recruiting cycle alone. Since the addition of Waterman to the staff, the Shockers arrived late in the recruiting but ultimately sealed the deal on Etienne, a four-star, top-150 guard who is the second-highest-rated recruit of the Marshall era, Sherfield, another top-150 guard, Wade and now Bilau.
Bilau entered this week with recruiting analysts pegging him for West Virginia or Nevada. But after visiting WSU and meeting the players, Bilau said it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“I can’t wait to play in front of the fans,” Bilau said. “Dexter (Dennis) told me that first game is incredible. He was shook. There are so many people and they’re so loud. It was crazy. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be crazy.”
Although Bilau make a quick decision on WSU, his decision to commit in late June puts him behind schedule for the typical high school recruit. Etienne, Gordon and Sherfield arrived at WSU at the start of June, while Fernandes came after his graduation on June 17.
Bilau, who is staying with his guardian in Virginia, will pack up and head to Wichita sometime this week so he can start the second session of summer school, which begins July 1.