Top Unsigned Grad Transfers That Will Impact the 2017-18 Season

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.

 

 

With Mitchell Robinson Gone from WKU, Who is the Favorite in the C-USA?

By Kevin Sweeney

The biggest story in college basketball this week is 5-star center Mitchell Robinson’s decision to transfer from Western Kentucky just a few weeks after arriving on campus in July. The move sent shockwaves throughout the country, and while the story that most national media will cover will be where Robinson will land next, I’ll be focusing on the impact it has on Conference USA. The top of the C-USA is now (if it wasn’t already) one of the most wide-open and exciting races in college basketball for the 2017-18 season, with several talented teams at the top duking it out for the top spot and likely the league’s only NCAA Tournament bid. So, I decided to take a look at the top contenders in the C-USA and make my early pick for conference champion.

The Contenders

Western Kentucky

Key newcomers: Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo), Darius Thompson (Virginia), Dwight Coleby (Kansas), Jordan Brangers (#3 JUCO player), Josh Anderson (4-star 2017 recruit), Moustapha Diagne (4-star JUCO player)

Key departures: Pancake Thomas (graduation), Que Johnson (graduation), Anton Waters (graduation), Junior Lomomba (graduation)

Key returners: Justin Johnson (14.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg)-will join team in January after playing for WKU football team.

It’s almost an entire roster of newcomers for Rick Stansbury’s club, but boy, are the Hilltoppers talented. Even with the devastating departure of Robinson, WKU has the best roster in the conference, whether it be proven D1 commodities like Bearden (13.7 ppg, 4.2 apg at Buffalo), Thompson (6.2 ppg at Virginia), and Coleby (5.6 mpg at Kansas), or highly-touted prospects like Brangers, Diagne, and Anderson who’ve never played D1 basketball. The big question is whether a team with that many new faces can come together and knock off more experienced teams like UAB, MTSU, and Louisiana Tech. The frontcourt minus Robinson is the biggest concern for me, as Johnson and 3-star Robinson Idehen won’t be able to play until January. Johnson’s effectiveness after a full football season is unknown, there isn’t much depth up front as it is. Stansbury will have to get creative with smaller lineups, especially if Johnson struggles to return to his typical form.

The Hilltoppers certainly have the pieces to win this conference, but their inexperience makes them one of the most fascinating teams to watch in all of college basketball this season.

UAB

Key newcomers: Zack Bryant (2-star 2017 recruit), Luis Hurtado (3-star 2017 recruit), Makhtar Gueye (3-star 2017 recruit), Jalen Perry (2-star JUCO prospect)

Key departures: Dirk Williams (graduation), Hakeem Baxter (graduation), Denzel Watts (graduation)

Key returners: William Lee (13.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 bpg), Chris Cokley (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Nick Norton (8.9 ppg, 5 apg in 2015-16)

Last season for the Blazers was derailed by injury, as a torn ACL for the point guard Norton plagued year 1 of the Robert Ehsan era in Birmingham. However, with Norton back and Bryant, who the UAB staff is incredibly high on, joining the fray, those point guard issues shouldn’t be a problem this season. With that pair of playmakers returning to help compliment one of the best mid-major frontcourts in Lee & Cokley, it seems more than possible that the Blazers could jump from 7th all the way to the top of the C-USA this season.

Middle Tennessee State

Key newcomers: Therren Shelton-Szmidt (2-star 2017 recruit), TJ Massenburg (2-star 2017 recruit), James Hawthorne (2-star JUCO prospect), Nick King (Alabama)

Key departures: Jacorey Williams (graduation), Reggie Upshaw (graduation), Xavier Habersham (graduation)

Key returners: Giddy Potts (15.3 ppg), Tyrik Dixon (5.6 ppg), Brandon Walters (4.9 ppg)

MTSU may not have the talent that UAB or WKU has, but the Blue Raiders bring back C-USA Player of the Year candidate Giddy Potts and a few other good contributors from last season’s championship campaign. Key will be the development of Brandon Walters, a load inside who really came into his own late last year, and Tyrik Dixon, a sure-handed PG coming off an excellent freshman campaign. Still, it won’t be easy to replace Williams and Upshaw, who were almost unstoppable last season. The x-factor for this Blue Raider team is grad transfer Nick King, a former top-50 recruit who never reached his potential in his first 3 collegiate seasons at Memphis and Alabama. If Kermit Davis can tap into that potential, he could be the piece that puts MTSU over the top in the C-USA.

My Pick

Honestly, any of these 3 teams could easily win the conference for the reasons I mentioned. It wouldn’t surprise me if it came down to a tiebreaker to see who gets the #1 seed in the conference tournament. Before the Robinson departure, I was all-in on Western Kentucky. Now, I’m rolling with UAB. Adding a pair of ball-handling guards in Norton and Bryant gives the Blazers a much scarier look offensively. Lee is the best big man in the conference, and his numbers should get a big boost from having guards who can get him better looks.

Who do you think will win Conference USA this season? Comment below or send me a tweet (handle is @CBB_Central).