As the college basketball transfer portal continues to grow and, in some cases, become the primary way for coaches to build rosters year to year, the discussion surrounding newcomers is beginning to change. Entering a season, the elite freshmen are always the biggest talking point. Last season, it was Chet Holmgren vs. Paolo Banchero, the Memphis freshmen, the emergence of Jabari Smith. This season, the strength of the freshmen was prevalent: Nick Smith Jr., Cameron Whitmore, Keyonte George, Duke’s No. 1 class, the looming Brandon Miller breakout.
As we enter the final few weeks of the 2022-23 regular season, though, transfers are by and large making a bigger impact. When we did our freshman scorecard around Christmas, only 19 ESPN 100 recruits were averaging double figures in scoring — and 12 of them were top-25 recruits. That leaves very little impact for any freshmen outside of the high-end prospects.
Of the top 100 transfers in ESPN’s transfer rankings last spring, a whopping 57 are averaging in double figures. Sure, these players are older and already adapted to college basketball, and while most don’t possess the ceiling of a Miller or the NBA potential of a Whitmore, transfers are showing they come with a much higher floor.
Let’s look at some of this season’s notable impact transfers, as well as some who haven’t panned out just yet.
Best of the best
Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State Wildcats: It really is a remarkable story. Johnson hadn’t played since collapsing during a game in December 2020. He has not only picked up where he left off two years ago; he has gotten better. Johnson, averaging 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds, is one of the reasons K-State is the biggest surprise in college basketball this season.
Souley Boum, Xavier Musketeers: Sean Miller wanted an attack-minded scoring guard in the portal last spring, and he went with Boum, who notched 16 point against Miller’s Arizona team in 2020. Boum has been one of the best guards in the country this season, averaging 16.1 points and 4.9 assists and shooting 44.2% from 3-point range.
Kendric Davis, Memphis Tigers: Davis was our No. 1 transfer in the portal last spring, and he has lived up to the hype. He won AAC player of the year while at SMU, and he could win it again this season with Memphis, as he is averaging a career-high 21.5 points, along with 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals.
Memphis wins at the buzzer on off-balance jumper
Kendric Davis sinks a shot as time expires to lift Memphis past Temple.
Bryce Hopkins, Providence Friars: Hopkins showed flashes of his ability during his one season at Kentucky, but he couldn’t carve out a spot in the rotation. He has certainly done more than that with the Friars, averaging 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds. He has eight double-doubles this season, including a 29-point, 23-rebound effort against Marquette.
Jake Stephens, Chattanooga Mocs: When Stephens hit the portal last spring, he could have easily moved up a level; but the 7-footer opted to follow his coach, Dan Earl, from VMI. Stephens’ numbers are still remarkable, with averages of 21.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 blocks, all while shooting 40.8% from 3.
Ricky Council IV, Arkansas Razorbacks: Eric Musselman having success with a transfer? Not a huge surprise! That doesn’t make what Council is doing any less impressive. He is averaging 17.3 points, is shooting 46% from the field and has shown he can carry the offense for stretches in the half court. He can also do this:
— Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Basketball 🐗 (@RazorbackMBB) February 1, 2023
Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois Fighting Illini: Shannon dealt with a variety of issues last season at Texas Tech, from an early-season suspension to nagging injuries. With those woes in his rearview mirror, he has been a consistent producer for the Fighting Illini. He is averaging 17.2 points and 5.2 rebounds, and he was fantastic down the stretch in wins over UCLA and Texas.
Grant Sherfield, Oklahoma Sooners: Sherfield’s 30 points against Alabama on Saturday certainly helped his inclusion in this category. He started his career at Wichita State and spent two seasons at Nevada, putting up big numbers in the Mountain West. He is averaging 17.0 points and 3.4 assists and shooting a career-high 43.6% from 3-point range in the Big 12 this season.
Jahmir Young, Maryland Terrapins: Young quickly put to rest any concerns over his Charlotte production not translating to College Park by scoring 24 points against Illinois in early December. He has rarely slowed down since, hitting 20-plus points in five of his past seven games, including 30 points and 11 boards against Ohio State in January.
Jahmir Young comes up with huge steal and score for Maryland
Jahmir Young comes up with huge steal and score for Maryland.
Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Appleby has been a consistent scorer throughout his college career, averaging double figures all four seasons at Cleveland State and Florida. But having the best campaign of his career in the ACC was unexpected. Averaging 18.1 points and 6.0 assists.
KJ Williams, LSU Tigers: Williams followed coach Matt McMahon from Murray State to LSU, and last season’s OVC player of the year has been one of the few bright spots for a struggling Tigers team. Despite the step up in competition, Williams is still averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and shooting 43.2% from behind the arc.
Jarkel Joiner, NC State Wolfpack: Terquavion Smith receives most of the attention for the Wolfpack, but Joiner has been fantastic for Kevin Keatts since arriving from Ole Miss in the spring. Joiner had four games of at least 26 points in November and December, and he has hit his stride again during NC State’s recent 6-1 stretch. He is averaging 16.8 points and 3.4 assists.
Norchad Omier, Miami Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are a perimeter-oriented team, leaving Omier to do most of the interior work on his own. He has managed admirable thus far, after winning Sun Belt player of the year last season at Arkansas State. The Nicaragua native is averaging 13.9 points and 10.3 rebounds, with 10 double-doubles this campaign.
Mixed bag for expected difference-makers
Pete Nance, North Carolina Tar Heels: On paper, Nance seemed like a logical replacement for Brady Manek in North Carolina’s lineup. In reality, it hasn’t turned out that way. His numbers aren’t bad at all — 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in 18 starts — but the energy and toughness Manek played with at both ends of the floor has been missed.
Malachi Smith, Gonzaga Bulldogs: Last season’s Southern Conference Player of the Year put up huge numbers at Chattanooga, averaging 19.9 points. He’s had his moments since joining the Zags, including double figures in big games against Baylor and Alabama, but he has been used off the bench exclusively and is averaging 8.5 points.
Malachi Smith forces a Portland timeout with a 3
Malachi Smith forces a Portland timeout with a 3
Kevin McCullar Jr., Kansas Jayhawks: McCullar’s toughness and defensive ability have been huge assets to the Jayhawks, and he’s been one of the better all-around transfers in the Big 12 after leaving Texas Tech. He’s averaging a career-high 10.7 points and 7.8 rebounds and is coming off three straight double-double performances.
Baylor Scheierman, Creighton Bluejays: Scheierman doesn’t have quite the same role offensively this season as he did at South Dakota State, but his shooting and unpredictability have added a different dimension to the Bluejays. He’s averaging 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds and is starting to round into form after a slow start.
Tyrese Hunter, Texas Longhorns: One of the three best players in the portal last spring, Hunter stayed in the Big 12 after leaving Iowa State. His overall scoring and shooting numbers are similar to a year ago, although he has struggled offensively and taken a backseat to Marcus Carr in Big 12 play. He had 13 points on Monday against Baylor, though, so he could be snapping out of his slump.
Benefiting from a change of scenery
Blake Hinson, Pittsburgh Panthers: To be more specific, Hinson is benefiting from simply being on the court. The last time he played was in 2019-20 at Ole Miss, but now that he’s back, he’s averaging 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds and shooting 38.3% from 3 as the leading scorer for the 15-7 Panthers.
Blake Hinson puts Pitt ahead for good
Pitt completes the comeback win over Miami thanks to tip-in shot from Blake Hinson.
Keion Brooks, Washington Huskies: Brooks started every game for Kentucky last season but struggled with consistency. With the Huskies, he’s showing off his full arsenal, averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 rebounds as one of the focal points of the offense.
EJ Harkless, UNLV Rebels: Last season, it was Alondes Williams who had a huge season after leaving Oklahoma. This season, it’s Harkless. The versatile 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season — up from 10.0 points and 1.7 assists a year ago.
Frankie Collins, Arizona State Sun Devils: After backing up DeVante Jones as a freshman at Michigan, Collins went back out west and landed in Tempe, where he’s started every game for the Sun Devils. He’s averaging 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists after posting 2.8 points and 1.4 assists last season.
Frankie Collins gets the layup to fall vs. Washington State Cougars
Frankie Collins gets the layup to fall vs. Washington State Cougars
Khalid Moore, Fordham Rams: Moore couldn’t have expected to be playing 30-plus minutes on an 18-4 Fordham team when he signed with the Rams last season. But the Georgia Tech transfer has boosted his averages from 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds last season to 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds this season.
Brandin Podziemski, Santa Clara Broncos: The Illinois transfer has played himself onto NBA draft radars with his breakout season in the WCC. Podziemski is averaging 19.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while shooting nearly 42% from 3. He’s coming off a 38-point performance against Pacific.
Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan Eagles: Bates looks much more like his old self this season, after being given plenty of freedom offensively. He’s averaging better than 20 points per game, shooting 36% from 3. He had one of the best individual performances of the season recently, scoring 43 points against Toledo — including 29 straight.
Emoni Bates scores a staggering 29 straight points for Eastern Michigan
Top prospect Emoni Bates scores 29 straight points for Eastern Michigan vs. Toledo.
Sam Sessoms, Coppin State Eagles: Sessoms has been a big-time scorer everywhere he’s been, starting his career at Binghamton before going to Penn State for a couple of seasons. But he’s taken it to a new level in Baltimore, ranking in the top 10 nationally in scoring at 21.6 points.
Aziz Bandaogo, Utah Valley Wolverines: Bandaogo showed promise before he arrived at Akron in 2020 but struggled to contribute in the MAC. The 7-footer from Senegal has put it all together at Utah Valley, averaging 11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks for the Wolverines.
Austin Crowley, Southern Miss Golden Eagles: Southern Miss is tied atop the Sun Belt, and Crowley is a major reason for that success. The 6-4 guard spent three seasons at Ole Miss, playing mostly in a reserve role and never averaging more than five points in a season. This year, he’s at 17.6 points.
Grass isn’t always greener
Tanner Holden, Ohio State Buckeyes: Holden was a first-team All-Horizon League selection at Wright State last season, averaging 20.1 points and 7.1 rebounds. At Ohio State, he’s seen his minutes dwindle over the course of the season, and is averaging just 4.2 points.
Jalen Graham, Arkansas Razorbacks: Down the stretch last season, Graham was terrific for Arizona State, averaging 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in his last 18 games. This season, however, he’s been a frontcourt reserve, averaging 5.0 points. That said, he’s started to see a bigger role in the past couple of weeks.
Efton Reid III, Gonzaga Bulldogs: A former five-star recruit, it just hasn’t quite clicked for Reid in college. He wasn’t consistent at LSU in his freshman campaign but is barely getting off the bench in Spokane. He has three DNPs in his past seven games and 19 total minutes in conference play.
Dominick Welch, Alabama Crimson Tide: Welch had proved himself as a versatile two-way player during his time at St. Bonaventure, but he’s gone from averaging double figures in three seasons for the Bonnies to averaging 1.5 points as a reserve in Tuscaloosa.
Kendal Coleman, LSU Tigers: Coleman averaged 15.4 points and 10.1 rebounds last season at Northwestern State, including big performances against top competition. The production hasn’t translated to the SEC, where the 6-8 big man is averaging 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.