By Kevin Sweeney
As transfers have become more and more prevalent in college basketball, monitoring the movement of players from one team to the next has become a job of its own. With the season less than 4 months from tipping off, I decided to take a look at some of the transfers coming off a redshirt season who will make the biggest impact on their teams this season. Here are ten players who could be immediate stars at the mid-major level:
#10. Byron Hawkins-Murray State
The Racers already had one of the best guards in the country in Jonathan Stark. However, with a pair of talented guards in Bryce Jones and Damarcus Croaker graduating, there are plenty of minutes to be had in the backcourt. Enter Hawkins, a transfer from Towson who posted 13.2 ppg as a sophomore for the Tigers. The only knock on Hawkins was his struggles from beyond the arc, as he shot just 31% from 3 while at Towson. Still, he provides another excellent offensive weapon for the Racers, who are among the favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference.
#9. A.J. Harris-New Mexico State
The best way to describe Harris is “fun to watch”. The former top-100 recruit stands just 5-9, but he’s lightning-quick with the ball in his hands, a capable outside shooter, and makes plays defensively as well. While he struggled in his only season at Ohio State, his game should be much better suited for the mid-major level, where his quickness is even more of an advantage and the players guarding him won’t have such a big height advantage. I anticipate Harris starting at point guard for NMSU and making a big impact from day 1.
#8 Milik Yarbrough-Illinois State
A transfer from Saint Louis, Yarbrough follows in the footsteps of his father, who starred at ISU from 1976-1980. With 4 starters departing from last season’s team, Yarbrough should get the chance to be a top option right away. In 2 solid seasons at SLU, Yarbrough demonstrated a versatile skillset, as his muscular 6-6 frame allows him to finish at the rim while also being a threat to knock down threes at an excellent clip. If Illinois State wants to stay near the top of the Missouri Valley, Yarbrough must have a big season.
#7. Brekkott Chapman-Weber State
Chapman, who was a solid role player for 2 seasons at Utah, will be looked to to play a big role for this Weber State club this season. A versatile 6-8 forward who can impact the game in a variety of ways, Chapman is a matchup nightmare at the mid-major level. He can handle the ball, make shots from the outside, and has added strength during his redshirt year to become a force down low. He certainly has the talent to be an all-conference performer with the Wildcats.
#6. Kameron Chatman-Detroit
Some outlets had Chatman as a 5-star prospect coming out of high school. While he didn’t live up to that hype in his two seasons at Michigan, he will get a chance to redeem himself the next 2 years, and that’s bad news for the rest of the Horizon League. Chatman is a beast of a wing who struggled with his jump shot while with the Wolverines. However, with a redshirt year to improve his game and the drop in competition level, Chatman should be able to to impose his will off the bounce and in the post. If the shooting has improved, Chatman is one of the most talented players in the Horizon League.
#5 Caleb Martin-Nevada
It is rare at the mid-major level to land a player who is a proven starting-caliber player at the high-major level. However, that’s exactly what Eric Musselman and his Nevada Wolf Pack landed with Martin, who averaged over 11 ppg as a sophomore at NC State in 2015-16. Martin is a long, fluid athlete who can stroke it from outside (36% from 3 in 2015-16). Martin is one of the guys who makes this Nevada team have such incredible positional versatility on both offense and defense. Look for him to be one of the stars of the Mountain West favorites this season.
#4 Devin Watson-San Diego State
Watson is such an important piece for this San Diego State team this season. Last year, the Aztecs were anemic on offense, and it caused them to stumble to a 6th-place finish in the Mountain West. Watson hopes to change those offensive struggles, and if he can even come close to his production at San Francisco (20.3 ppg as a sophomore), it would be a massive boost to the SDSU offense. Watson is capable of playing both guard spots, is a good shooter, and is explosive going to the basket. He’s the type of offensive weapon that every team would love to have, and I’m sure 1st-year head coach Brian Dutcher is happy Watson will be suiting up for his squad this season.
#3 Lamonte Bearden-Western Kentucky
Overshadowed by incoming 5-star big man Mitchell Robinson at WKU, Bearden is quietly one of the top players who changed teams last summer. Now, after choosing Rick Stansbury’s HIlltoppers over a host of other top programs, the dynamic PG who led Buffalo to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances is ready to lead WKU to a C-USA title. He’s an explosive athlete who is proficient at getting to the rim and is a good distributor. The only weakness of his game at Buffalo was 3-point shooting, as he shot just 26% from downtown as a member of the Bulls. If he can improve on that number, the sky truly is the limit for Bearden and his Hilltoppers this season.
#2. Jordan Johnson-UNLV
Johnson is perhaps the most important transfer to his team in the country. The Milwaukee transfer averaged 8.1 assists per game in 2015-16 before transferring to Las Vegas following a coaching change. With an influx of talent in 5-star center Brandon McCoy and #1 JUCO player Shakur Juiston, UNLV wants to challenge for a Mountain West title, and to me, Johnson is the key to that. Teams with so many new faces often struggle to mesh and lead to disappointing seasons despite having lots of talent. However, a true distributor in Johnson who can get all of his teammates involved and help the Rebels get out in transition. Check out what Johnson said in a recent interview with Mike Grimala of the Las Vegas Sun:
“I love passing. My teammates shoot — I’ll just pass. I love to see my teammates score. When you start passing, it makes everybody happy and it brings everybody close, because they know if they pass the ball, I’m going to pass it back. They don’t have to worry about not getting the ball back. That’s how you want to play. That’s what I do.”
-Jordan Johnson, per the Las Vegas Sun
#1 Kendrick Nunn-Oakland
Oakland won 25 games last season and brings back 4 starters. That would be scary enough for most teams. However, Greg Kampe’s squad adds Nunn to the mix too, an extremely talented guard who scored over 15 ppg at Illinois before being kicked off the team. Nunn is one of the best players in all of mid-major basketball, and elite scorer who can get buckets from anywhere on the court. His strength and size allow him to be an excellent defender as well, and Kampe mentioned in an interview on the Marching to Madness podcast with Blake Lovell and Ken Cross that Nunn is getting already getting looks from NBA teams. Nunn may be the piece that helps Oakland put their recent Horizon League Tournament struggles behind them and get the Golden Grizzlies back to the NCAA Tournament.
10 More To Watch
- Jontrell Walker-Ball State
- Elijah Minnie-Eastern Michigan
- Kanayo Obi-Rapu-ETSU
- Ricky Doyle-Florida Gulf Coast
- Akolda Manyang-Utah Valley
- Stuckey Mosley-James Madison
- Taishaun Johnson-Kent State
- Kendall Small-Pacific
- Devine Eke-Rider
- Joe Burton-Valparaiso