Basketball

Dribble Handoff: Kentucky, Texas among big winners during college basketball transfer portal season


On the heels of a Final Four that featured an unprecedented eight transfer starters between the four teams, the transfer trend in college basketball is only accelerating. With new NCAA rules in place that will allow first-time transfers immediate eligibility at their new schools, transferring is set to become even more common in the coming years.

Over the last two months alone, rosters all across the sport have been reshaped through transfers — some for the better and some not. Take Georgia, for example. The Bulldogs have seen seven of their top eight scorers from the 2020-21 season enter the transfer portal on the heels of Tuesday’s news that KD Johnson is looking for a new home.

The Bulldogs won’t be the only program with a substantially different roster next season due to transfers, and some will benefit greatly from their transfer additions. Though several quality players remain in the portal, some clear winners from transfer season have started to emerge. For this edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are naming the teams they believe have fared best so far on the transfer market.

When Shaka Smart left Texas for Marquette, Chris Beard was immediately identified as the most suitable replacement. So it was no surprise when the job was offered, nor was it a shocker when he accepted. And the way he’s remade the Longhorns’ roster in the subsequent weeks is also unsurprising given his track record. 

Just as he previously did at Texas Tech, Beard has flourished in the transfer market since taking over in Austin. He’s added three players — Timmy Allen (Utah), Christian Bishop (Creighton) and Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt) — who averaged double-figures in points this past season at the high-major level, and a fourth, Devin Askew, who started 20 games at Kentucky after leaving high school as a top-35 national recruit. It’s enough of an influx of talent to make me rank Texas No. 20 in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1, which suggests Beard will have a legitimate chance to win the Big 12 in his first season after moving 375 miles southeast. — Gary Parrish

Start with this: David Cobb has been doing a great job of tracking the ever-growing list of meaningful transfers. If you want to get a clearer understanding of college basketball’s quasi-free agency in the past month-plus, head here and look at 60-plus new faces going to new places. So, with that in mind, I’m also going to come at you a bit here, Cobb. You’ve vastly underrated one transfer in particular, which translates to why I’ve picked Maryland. Fatts Russell all the way down at No. 37? No shot. Tantalizing potential as a top-20 transfer. Toss in the slightly overvalued Qudus Wahab (No. 2 overall) and the Terps have one of the best 1-2 combo deals in this year’s market. 

After a little behind-the-scenes drama with Mark Turgeon and whether or not he was actually looking for a different job, he got a new deal. Fresh off a two-and-through showing in the 2021 tournament, Turgeon’s done well for himself in the portal. Wahab was one of the most improved players in college hoops last season — his defection from Georgetown to play for Maryland is juicy — while Russell is among the toughest point guards in the sport. He gets to the foul line a ton and could be an All Big Ten-level player in his one and only season in College Park.

It’s too early to definitively project where Maryland should land in the Big Ten’s pecking order, but these two transfers (a combined 27/28 points per game?) figure to give Turgeon a healthy shot at having an NCAA Tournament-level team for a fourth straight year. — Matt Norlander

Kentucky

Kentucky under John Calipari has traditionally relied upon blue-chip recruits to replenish its talent void. Since his arrival in 2009, the program has landed seven top-ranked recruiting classes. Yet after a 9-16 season, Calipari has stocked the cupboard in an unconventional way by his own standards, seeking out help successfully on the transfer market. By his own standards, it has been nothing short of exceptional. 

Within virtually every crevice of the roster, transfers are on their way to shore up sore spots. West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe is a plug-and-play to replace Olivier Sarr, Davidson guard Kellan Grady is a big-time scorer and Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick adds a needed dimension as an outside shooter and reliable 3-point shooting threat. Now UK is a threat to land Georgia point guard transfer Sahvir Wheeler, this coming the same week five-star recruit TyTy Washington is trending UK’s direction.

In terms of top-end transfer talents, Kentucky probably won’t wind up with the biggest haul in college hoops or perhaps the most impressive. But it has plugged holes in commendable ways via the transfer market. A serious bounceback may be in short order for UK after a dreadful 2020-21 season. — Kyle Boone

The Gators have hauled in a low-key impressive group of transfers that should provide a defensive boost while replacing the departing production of guards Tre Mann, Noah Locke and Scottie Lewis. Headlining the group in terms of potential name recognition is Penn State transfer Myreon Jones, who averaged 15.3 points on 39.3% 3-point shooting in 2019-20. It’s easy to envision Jones’ Big Ten production translating to the SEC. 

Underrated in coach Mike White’s transfer haul, though, are Charleston Southern transfer Phlandrous Fleming and Kansas City transfer Brandon McKissic. Both are super seniors who were big-time scoring guards at their previous stops. Both were also the defensive players of the year in their prior conferences, and that’s where this group could help Florida improve the most.

The Gators were an average defensive team last season, ranking sixth in the SEC in points allowed during league contests and 41st nationally in defensive efficiency at KenPom. Those figures are not good enough for a program with lofty expectations, and it’s no coincidence that Florida’s deepest postseason run under White (the Elite Eight in 2017) came when the Gators ranked fifth in defensive efficiency and were second in the SEC in points allowed. Jones, Fleming and McKissic are each quality defenders who should shore up the Gators on the perimeter. 

Throw in 6-foot-7 Boston College transfer forward CJ Felder, who averaged 2.2 blocks per game last season, along with the potential return of star forward Keyontae Johnson, and it looks like the Gators can be a top-20 defensive team nationally next season.— David Cobb





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