Monday, June 27, 2022

Ranking top 25 transfers for 2022: Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Lofton no longer in portal, will stay in NBA Draft

After a strong showing at the G League Elite Camp and NBA Draft Combine last week, former Louisiana Tech star Kenneth Lofton Jr. announced Monday night that he will stay in the NBA Draft. Lofton was also one of the top available players in the transfer portal prior to his announcement after averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Bulldogs as a sophomore this past season.

His decision to remain in the draft further narrows the pool of remaining talent available in the transfer portal at a time when some programs are scrambling to fill available scholarships. But even with many of the big-name transfers having announced their destinations already, some talented players remain available in the portal who could impact college basketball next season.

A few of them will have decisions to make, like Lofton, over whether to stay in the draft or return to college basketball. Matthew Mayer, a key player at Baylor over the last three seasons, and A.J. Green, formerly of Northern Iowa, are among the big dominoes yet to fall. Other potential transfer stars such as as reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyrese Hunter aren’t going through the NBA pre-draft process but nonetheless appear to be in a holding pattern ahead of the June 1 NBA Draft withdrawal deadline.

Once the deadline passes, the portal picture will become more clear and coaches should be able to finally nail down their 2022-23 rosters. For now, though, here are the top 25 transfers of the 2022 offseason.

1. Kendric Davis

Old school: SMU | New school: Memphis

The 5-foot-11 guard played a key role in helping SMU to three straight winning seasons and is the reigning AAC Player of the Year. In 2021-22, he finished second in the AAC in scoring behind a 37.2% 3-point mark on 6.5 attempts per game. Davis is more than just an outside shooter, though, and has the profile of a starting point guard for a big-time program. During the 2020-21 season, he ranked fourth nationally with 7.6 assists per game while still scoring 19 points per contest. He is also skilled at scoring inside the arc as a career 49.8% shooter on 2-point attempts. He’ll be an instant impact player for the Tigers, who are more than familiar with his capabilities. 

2. Nijel Pack

Old school: Kansas State | New school: Miami

Pack earned All-Big 12 First Team honors as a sophomore and finished third in the league in scoring at 17.4 points per game. His 43.6% 3-point shooting percentage this past season was particularly strong. Considering that he also shot 40.5% from deep as a freshman and is averaging 6.9 attempts from deep for his career, Pack might be the best shooter in the portal who has consistently proven it against elite defenses. He can do more than just shoot, though, and he should be able to play a key role for the Hurricanes next season.

3. Tyrese Hunter

Old school: Iowa State

Hunter won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors while averaging 11 points and 4.9 assists for Iowa State. The former four-star prospect played a key role in helping the Cyclones reach the Sweet 16 in their first season under coach T.J. Otzelberger following a 2-22 season in 2020-21. Though his 27.4% 3-point shooting percentage and 3.2 turnovers per game leave plenty to improve on moving forward, Hunter showed considerable promise as a freshman, finishing second in the Big 12 in assists per game and tied for second in steals per game.

4. Isiaih Mosley

Old school: Missouri State

Mosley helped coach Dana Ford turn Missouri State into a force in the Missouri Valley during his three seasons with the program. The 6-5 shooting guard led the league in scoring at 20.4 points per game in the 2021-22 season and did it while shooting an efficient 50.4% from the floor. He turned in 40-point outings against MVC powers Northern Iowa and Loyola-Chicago during the regular season and also flashed his offensive prowess against high-major opposition with an 11 of 20 showing against Oklahoma in the NIT.

5. Fardaws Aimaq

Old school: Utah ValleyNew school: Texas Tech

Aimaq averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds for a 20-12 Utah Valley team in 2021-22, and he began flashing his outside shot by hitting 43.5% of his 46 attempts from 3-point range. He was also a two-time WAC Defensive Player of the Year, which makes him a perfect fit for Texas Tech’s gritty defensive system under coach Mark Adams. His all-around game should make him an impact player for one of the Big 12’s top programs.

6. Terrence Shannon Jr.

Old school: Texas Tech | New school: Illinois

The 6-6 shooting guard upped his 3-point shooting mark to 38.4% this season while averaging 10.4 points for a Texas Tech team that took Duke down to the wire in the Sweet 16. Given the program he’s coming from, you know he can play defense. Offensively, he could likely be a 15-points-per-game type of player if given 30 or more minutes per game in the Illinois system.

7. Johni Broome

Old school: Morehead StateNew school: Auburn

Broome is a monster shot blocker who finished third nationally with 131 blocked shots this season, putting him ahead of players like Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Mark Williams, Arizona’s Christian Koloko and KC Ndefo of Saint Peter’s. But he’s also a skilled player in the post who came up with big offensive performances in the OVC Tournament title games over the past two seasons. He will be big in helping Auburn replace Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler.

8. Mark Sears

Old school: OhioNew school: Alabama

After earning first-team All-MAC honors during a breakout sophomore season, Sears is returning to his home state of Alabama to help the Crimson Tide reclaim their 3-point shooting prowess. Alabama ranked first among the 14 SEC teams in 3-point attempts, makes and percentage in the 2020-21 season, but he slipped to 12th in percentage this past season. Sears hit 40.8% of his 3-point attempts for a 25-10 Ohio team and led the Bobcats with 19.7 points per game. He looks like a perfect fit at the perfect time for Alabama.

9. Brandon Murray

Old school: LSU | New school: Georgetown

Amid the transition from Will Wade to Matt McMahon at LSU, there is a deep group of players from both LSU and Murray State — McMahon’s old school — on the move. Several of them are good enough to wind up as impact players on NCAA Tournament teams. Of the group, Murray stands out for his size as a well-built 6-5 guard with two-way chops. Though he played off the ball as a freshman, he flashed distribution prowess with nine assists in an SEC Tournament win over Missouri. Ultimately, he is a versatile guard who averaged double-digits as a true freshman for an NCAA Tournament team known for defense. That’s a winning formula in portal season. Georgetown’s hiring of ex-LSU assistant Kevin Nickelberry appears to have given it a huge leg up in landing Murray after the Hoyas struggled to a 6-25 record this past season.

10. KJ Williams 

Old school: Murray State | New school: LSU

Williams upped his production each season during a stellar four-year run at Murray State. This past season, he averaged 18 points and 8.4 rebounds for a team that finished 31-3 and earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s not much of a shot blocker for a 6-10 player, but he makes up for it with a career 3-point shooting percentage of 35.5%. He is reuniting with Matt McMahon, his former coach at Murray State, to play a key role on an LSU roster that will be almost unrecognizable compared to the one that former coach Will Wade fielded during the 2021-22 season.

11. Malachi Smith

Old school: Chattanooga

Smith was the SoCon Player of the Year as he led the conference in scoring while guiding Chattanooga to a regular season title and conference tournament championship. Though Smith struggled in the Mocs’ NCAA Tournament loss against Illinois, he demonstrated a strong all-around game during the course of his redshirt sophomore season. At 6-foot-4, he can play on or off the ball and is a quality rebounder and defender. His 38% career 3-point shooting mark and ability to score at multiple levels could make him an immediate factor at the high-major level.

12. Tanner Holden

Old school: Wright State | New school: Ohio State

Those who watched Holden go 3 for 11 and finish with 12 points in Wright State’s first round NCAA Tournament loss to No. 1 seed Arizona were likely not blown away. His three-year body of work for the Raiders is phenomenal, though, and his junior season made it clear he can handle big-time college basketball. The 6-6 guard averaged 20.1 points per game and finished second in Division I with 280 free-throw attempts. He’s not much of a 3-point shooter, but Holden is skilled at finding his spots inside the arc and attacking, which leads to points at the charity stripe.

13. Matthew Mayer

Old school: Baylor

Mayer’s shooting percentages dropped in the 2021-22 season as he entered the starting lineup for the first time in his career and played an increased offensive role amid a crushing streak of injuries for the Bears. But in the 2020-21 season, he demonstrated exactly what would make him so valuable as a transfer when he played a key role off the bench for a team that won the national title. At 6-9 and 225 pounds, Mayer’s positional versatility, shot-creation ability and experience on the sport’s biggest stage make him an elite college role player.

14. Norchad Omier

Old school: Arkansas State | New school: Miami

The Sun Belt Player of the Year is on the move after averaging 17.9 points and 12.2 rebounds for Arkansas State as a sophomore while shooting 63.2% from the floor. He doubled as the league’s defensive player of the year while blocking 1.9 shots and snagging 1.6 steals per game. The only question is, at just 6-7 and with no 3-point shot, how will Omier fit with the Hurricanes? It will take some thoughtful strategizing from Jim Larranaga to maximize Omier’s unique game at a higher level of competition. 

15. A.J. Green

Old school: Northern Iowa

The two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year bounced back to form as a redshirt junior in the 2021-22 season after playing in just three games during the 2020-21 campaign due to a hip injury. Green is a lethal 3-point shooter and looks capable of slotting in as an elite role player for a great team. His defensive acumen is a question, but Green would thrive as a 3-point specialist in the right system.

16. Tristen Newton

Old school: East CarolinaNew school: UConn

With R.J. Cole moving on following a nice two-year run as UConn’s starting point guard after transferring in from Howard, coach Dan Hurley is banking on another transfer guard to help the Huskies next season. Newton averaged 17.7 points, 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 43.5% from the floor for ECU in the 2021-22 season. At 6-5, he’s got nice positional size and should be able to improve his offensive efficiency while playing in a system with more weapons.

17. Baylor Scheierman

Old school: South Dakota State | New school: Creighton

Scheierman won Summit League Player of the Year while averaging 16.2 points for a Jackrabbits squad that finished 30-5 (18-0 Summit) with a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Providence. The 6-6 guard is a lefty with a smooth stroke who shot 50.8% from the floor, including 46.9% from 3-point range on 5.1 attempts this past season. He’s a slippery ball-handler with the ability to create space for his shot. It will be fascinating to see if he can translate that offensive prowess to the Big East and help lift the Bluejays to new heights.

18. Andre Curbelo

Old school: Illinois | New school: St. John’s

Curbelo’s sophomore season never got off the ground after a concussion-related issue kept him from building on a standout freshman season. Still, St. John’s coach Mike Anderson should be thrilled to have a chance at helping Curbelo reach his full potential. The former top-50 prospect from the 2020 class averaged 4.2 assists in just 21.5 minutes per game as a freshman, and he showed deftness at beating defenders off the dribble and finishing inside the arc. Turnover issues, a lack of 3-point shooting and his sophomore season as a whole are all legitimate red flags. But the potential reward outweighs the risks for a St. John’s program looking to break through and reach the NCAA Tournament

19. Courtney Ramey

Old school: Texas

After four seasons at Texas, 128 games and 106 starts, Ramey is in the portal. It will be weird seeing him in another uniform, particularly if he ends up playing in a more guard-friendly, up-tempo system. The 6-3 guard is a proven shooter and secondary ball-handler who scored 1,275 points during his time with the Longhorns. His best season was during the 2020-21 campaign, Shaka Smart’s last as Texas’ coach. Ramey averaged 12.2 point per game on 41.4% 3-point shooting before struggling in the postseason that year.

20. Kevin McCullar

Old school: Texas Tech | New school: Kansas

Kansas is getting a hard-nosed three-year veteran of Big 12 battles in McCullar, who should be an impact defender on the perimeter for the Jayhawks. McCullar’s career 29.9% 3-point shooting mark is unremarkable, but his distribution and defense packaged into a 6-6 frame make him a great pickup for the reigning national champions. 

21. Pete Nance

Old school: Northwestern

Nance is a stretch forward who drilled 45.2% of his 3-point attempts while averaging 14.6 points for Northwestern last season. With four years of Big Ten experience under his belt and some solid ball skills for his size (2.7 assists last season), he should be able to play a big role for an NCAA Tournament caliber team.

22. Manny Bates

Old school: NC State | New school: Butler

A shoulder injury in NC State’s season opener knocked Bates out for the year. However, if he can return to the form he showed as a sophomore, he could be a huge boost for Thad Matta’s hopes of a quick turnaround at Butler. The 6-11 menace led the ACC in blocks during the 2020-21 season and swatted a ridiculous 4.9 shots per 40 minutes over his two seasons of play with the Wolfpack. He’s shown no 3-point shot in his career, but he is a reliable finisher around the rim who may be the Big East’s top shot blocker next season.

23. Makhel Mitchell

Old school: Rhode IslandNew school: Arkansas

Makhel Mitchell is an excellent shot-blocker at 6-10, and if the skill translates to the SEC, he could wind up being the best rim protector of Musselman’s time so far at Arkansas. Mitchell can also get buckets in the paint as a roll guy and rim runner. While he lacks a track record with 3-point shooting, he is versatile enough to put the ball on the floor offensively if operating out of the high post. Defensively, he is athletic enough to handle a switch in the pick and roll.

24. Makhi Mitchell

Old school: Rhode Island | New school: Arkansas

Makhi Mitchell is a 6-9 forward who began his career at Maryland alongside brother Makhel Mitchell. Both are transferring to Arkansas and should flourish in coach Eric Musselman’s system, which has a proven track record of getting the best out of transfers. Makhi is the more versatile player of the two and averaged 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 24.1 minutes per game last season while shooting 52.2% from the floor. Makhi began to shoot 3-pointers last season, converting on 7 of 23 attempts. If he can add a consistent outside shot to his versatile, defense-first identity, then he can be impact player on an SEC title contender.

25. Kyle Lofton

Old school: St. Bonaventure | New school: Florida

With 116 starts under his belt for a solid St. Bonaventure program, it stands to reason that Lofton can handle a transition to the SEC. He’s just a career 30.3% 3-point shooter but is a grade-A distributor, excellent free-throw shooter and solid on-ball defender. Having a veteran point guard like Lofton will help ease first-year coach Todd Golden’s transition from San Francisco to one of the nation’s big-time jobs.

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