By Kevin Sweeney
It’s August 8th, and many teams have finalized their rosters for the upcoming college basketball season. Summer practices are underway, and we are less than 50 days from the start of full practice in late September. However, the phrase “Never Stop Recruiting” rings true, as there are still plenty of talented players still available as grad transfers who will be immediately eligible for the 2017-18 season. So, let’s take a look at a few guys who are still available who, in the right situation, could be the piece that pushes a team over the top.
Bryan Alberts (Gonzaga)
Alberts’ numbers in his 2 seasons at Gonzaga weren’t impressive. However, that doesn’t mean that the 6-5 combo guard wouldn’t be a a very important add to a roster at this point. Alberts was unable to earn much playing time with the Bulldogs due to their outstanding guard depth, but he is an elite shooter, solid defender, and has NCAA Tournament experience. He had cut his list to 3 schools a few months ago (VCU, LBSU, and Weber State) but there has been little news on his recruitment since. VCU has since filled its final available scholarship, but Alberts could be the guy that makes LBSU or Weber State the favorite in their conference.
Update: Alberts has committed to Long Beach State.
Chuck Ester (Chattanooga)
Ester is the type of player that pretty much any team could use. In the words of Gene Henley of the Times Free Press: “He’s a versatile all-around player who can dribble, pass and shoot and can guard multiple positions”. The 6-7 Ester has the ability to help a team in a wide variety of ways, and that makes him such an intriguing option for teams looking for that final piece for the 2017-18 season. The only concern with Ester is that he’s coming off an ACL tear that caused him to miss this past season for Chattanooga. However, assuming he’s fully healthy, he could be a steal this late in the process.
Deontae Hawkins (Illinois State)
Hawkins is arguably the best player still available at this stage in the game. At 6-8, he can play both inside and out, averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for a very good Illinois State team this past season. It has been reported that Hawkins plans to visit (if he hasn’t already) Gonzaga and New Mexico. At New Mexico, he’d immediately step into a starring role for a rebuilding Lobo squad. At Gonzaga, Hawkins would be looked to as the piece to push the Zags past St. Mary’s in the WCC, factoring into a frontcourt that already features Johnathan Williams, Killian Tillie, and others. Wherever he lands, Hawkins should make a big impact.
Update: Hawkins has committed to Boston College.
Rashad Muhammad (Miami)
Muhammad is the biggest question mark still available. The 6-6 wing began his career with 2 seasons at San Jose State, where he averaged over 13 points per game. Then, he transferred to Miami, where he was eventually dismissed from the team without ever playing a game for the Canes. Now, he sits 2 years since playing his last collegiate game as a talented but unknown commodity. He took a visit to his hometown UNLV a few months ago, but there is little information about him available. The question is whether a team would risk bringing in a talented kid like Muhammad in given his checkered time in Miami. The talent is certainly there, that’s for sure.
Wes Myers (Maine)
Another guy who can really score the basketball, Myers highlighted his only season in Orono with 3 games of 30+ points. The 6-2 guard has received extensive interest from mid-major and some high-major programs since announcing his intention to transfer. Myers does come with some baggage, stemming from an incident in which he punched a teammate following an off-the-court dispute late last season, but he is very talented and would be a very nice add for a lot of programs at this point in the offseason.
Update: Myers has committed to South Carolina.
J-Mychal Reese (North Texas)
A former top-100 recruit, Reese hasn’t ever quite lived up to the hype he received coming out of high school. Still, he’s a proficient scorer and playmaker who averaged in double figures in each of his 2 seasons with North Texas. Reese could be slotted into a rotation as either a starter or as instant offense off the bench for a mid-major conference title contender in need of some scoring punch. After all, he posted double digit scoring outputs in 43 of his 61 games at UNT.
Terrence Thompson (Marshall)
Thompson recently announced his departure from the Marshall program, and is immediately one of the top big men on the market. The 6-7 forward posted 9.1 ppg and 6.5 rpg this past season for the Thundering Herd. He finishes well around the rim and is a solid rebounder who would fit right in as a rotation big at nearly any level. Thompson has been reportedly looking to go back home to North Carolina and pursue a Master’s degree in Business, which has caused speculation that Wake Forest is a fit for his services. The Demon Deacons are thin up front, are in North Carolina, and have one of the top business schools in the country. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Thompson landed with in the ACC with Wake Forest for his final year of eligibility.
Update: Wake Forest has announced the addition of Thompson for the 2017-18 season.
Jack Whitman (William & Mary/Kansas)
After a very solid season at William & Mary in which he averaged over 10 points and 5 rebounds per game, Whitman elected to use the grad transfer rule. He initially chose Kansas over a host of high-major programs, but elected to leave the program before ever playing a game. Now, he’s again one of the better bigs on the market and will have plenty of suitors. It’s unclear what caused him to leave the Jayhawks, but it’s possible that he decided he’d like to have a chance for significant playing time in his final year of college basketball, something Kansas likely wouldn’t be able to offer. If that is the case, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him land at the mid-major level.