By Kevin Sweeney
The transfer market in college basketball has grown exponentially over the last several years, as players are leaving their original program at record rates and teams are recruiting junior college players more than they ever have. Many teams have completely revamped the way they recruit to focus more on transfers rather than high school players. Here’s a look at some transfers making the biggest impact in their first seasons with their new teams:
- Marcus Keene (Central Michigan)- Keene has almost single-handedly brought Central Michigan into MAC contender status in his first season with the Chippewas. CMU fans were optimistic that Keene, who averaged over 15 points per game in his sophomore season at Youngstown State, could be a big contributor, but I’m sure not even they imagined him leading the nation in scoring with over 30 points per game so far this season. Keene’s ability to knock down 3’s, as well as being an excellent passer, makes him one of the top players, let alone transfers, in the country.
- Marcus Marshall (Nevada)- Marshall is an example of the rare “sit one, play one” transfer, having transferred from Missouri State to Nevada after his junior season. While this practice is often criticized and head coaches are often questioned for taking on these players, Eric Musselman will be receiving zero complaints from Wolf Pack fans. Marshall has been a Mountain West Player of the Year candidate so far, averaging 20.9 points per game and sinking a buzzer-beater to help the Wolf Pack knock off Washington:
- Matt Mobley (St. Bonaventure)- While Jaylen Adams gets much of the national attention in the stacked St. Bonaventure backcourt, Mobley has also put up outstanding numbers after spending 2 seasons at Central Connecticut State to begin his career. He’s been a workhorse for the Bonnies, ranking in the top 10 nationally in minutes per game at 38.6. Mobley’s 20.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game has helped replace the production of Marcus Posley, a former star for the Bonnies who graduated last year.
- B.J. Johnson (La Salle)- La Salle had many transfers sitting out last season while they endured a 9-win campaign. None of them have been as outstanding as Johnson, who returned home to Philadelphia after beginning his career at Syracuse. A true inside-out threat, Johnson’s ability to post up or catch and shoot from downtown make a matchup nightmare in the Atlantic 10. Johnson has quickly become the Explorers’ leading scorer and rebounder, and is a big reason for La Salle’s major improvement from a season ago.
- Jacorey Williams (Middle Tennessee State)- Another “sit one, play one”, Williams’ off-the-court issues led to the end of his time at Arkansas. However, Williams has straightened out his act, took time during his redshirt season to improve his game, and is now perhaps the best player on a Middle Tennessee team that is one of the top mid-majors in the country. Williams ranks in the top 10 of nearly every major statistical category for the Conference USA, and has allowed Reggie Upshaw to play more of a “point-forward” role for the Blue Raiders, something that has been huge for the success of MTSU this season.
- Darral Willis Jr. (Wichita State)- Willis joined the Shockers after two years of junior college at Pearl River Community College (Mississippi), where he was a NJCAA All-American. He’s been an instant-impact player for the Shockers, helping them not miss a beat despite the losses of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. After an inconsistent start to the season, Willis has really turned it on lately, posting double figures in scoring in six straight games. In those 6 games, Willis has averaged 17 points and 7.7 rebounds and has looked like an all-conference player in the MVC.
- Jonathan Stark (Murray State)- The former Conference USA Freshman of the Year, Stark has resurfaced at Murray State after a tough sophomore campaign at Tulane and a redshirt year at Murray State. He’s made a huge impact for the Racers, averaging 21 points and 5.5 assists per game. One aspect of Stark’s game that has really improved has been his 3-point shot. He’s knocking down more than 3 triples per game after shooting just 33% from downtown in his two seasons at Tulane. Stark should contend for Player of the Year honors in the Ohio Valley Conference, and hopes to bring the Racers back to the NCAA Tournament.
- Alex Murphy (Northeastern)- Murphy’s story is one of the best in college basketball. The former 4-star recruit who began his career at Duke fought injuries and ineffectiveness in both Durham and in Gainesville, where he spent two seasons at Florida. Murphy graduated from Florida and was able to transfer and play immediately at Northeastern, where he has played an integral role in his team’s early success. Murphy is averaging over 15 points per game for the Huskies, including an 18 point performance in Northeastern’s win over Michigan State in December.
- Frank Bartley IV (Louisiana-Lafayette)- Louisiana-Lafayette was picked 7th in the Sun Belt in the preseason, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have outperformed that selection and are out to an 11-4 start. Bartley, who began his career at BYU but was played out of position, has found his way at ULL, averaging 15.9 points per game to lead the team.
- Jordan Caroline (Nevada)- After one season at Southern Illinois, Caroline opted to leave Carbondale for Reno, where he has thrived following his redshirt season. Caroline has combined with fellow sophomore Cam Oliver to make a scary frontcourt for the Wolf Pack. He’s been named the Mountain West Player of the Week once already this season, and could average a double-double for a Nevada team that looks like the best in the Mountain West.