College Basketball: Eligible Transfers Ready to Explode
The 2012 offseason in college hoops has seen an astonishing number of high-profile transfers, and many of the best are eligible to play for their new teams right away (or at least during the upcoming season). Add in the 2011 transfers who sat out last year, and many of the biggest impact newcomers on rosters around the country will be arriving from other D-I programs.
A year after ex-Minnesota forward Royce White led Iowa State to an NCAA Tournament bid, the Cyclones are looking to another crop of transfers to carry them in 2012-13. Coach Fred Hoiberg’s Big Ten pipeline has brought former Spartan Korie Lucious to run the point, and he should excel at feeding ISU's strong collection of shooters.
Herein, a closer look at Lucious and the rest of the top-20 established standouts who will be wearing new uniforms next year.
20. Sam McLaurin, Illinois
Meyers Leonard’s departure for the NBA leaves the Illinois frontcourt a virtual blank slate for next year.
Whether or not Sam McLaurin is ready for the jump in competition from the Big South to the Big Ten, he’ll be thrown into the fire immediately as the one proven inside presence on the roster.
McLaurin has the size to compete in Big Ten play (6’8”, 230 lbs), and his success at Coastal Carolina shows that he has some talent to go with it.
He’s not likely to top the 7.5 rebounds a game he grabbed for the Chanticleers last season, but expect McLaurin to hold his own against Big Ten power forwards and put up the best numbers of any Illini big man.
19. Keala King, Long Beach State
Long Beach State’s outstanding 2011-12 performance relied mainly on now-departed seniors such as Casper Ware and T.J. Robinson.
If the 49ers are to stay afloat against another fearsome non-conference schedule next season, it will be a slew of newly-eligible transfers who have to carry much of the load, and the best of that group is Keala King.
King was booted from Arizona State mid-season for “unacceptable conduct,” but with luck, a fresh start will help him sort out his off-court concerns.
On the court, he’s a versatile 2-guard who scored 13.7 points a game, shot .387 from beyond the arc and even pulled in 4.9 rebounds a night—all skills the depleted LBSU backcourt will be glad to have.
18. Eric Wise, USC
USC fielded one of the nation’s most undersized teams a year ago, and 6’6” Eric Wise isn’t the ideal choice to help with that problem.
Still, the 240-lb Wise’s considerable muscle will allow him to step in as the best low-post option on the Trojans roster next season.
Wise dominated all three years he played at UC-Irvine, capped by a stat line of 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a junior.
Obviously, the competition he’ll face as a senior is a big step up from the Big West, but the ex-Anteater is still set to put up some impressive stats as a Trojan.
17. Trent Lockett, Marquette
With Darius Johnson-Odom off to the NBA, Marquette is in serious need of a new go-to scorer. If the Golden Eagles are lucky, Trent Lockett could be just the man for the job.
Lockett, who left Tempe to be closer to his ailing mother in Minnesota, was among the Sun Devils’ top scorers in each of his last two seasons.
The 6’4” guard isn’t a deadeye three-point shooter (just 21 treys last year), but his 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game will be welcome additions for Marquette.
16. Ryan Harrow, Kentucky
Ryan Harrow may not be the most accomplished player on this list, but he’s absolutely the one with the best chance to contribute to a Final Four run.
The former NC State point guard will be handed the reins to a new-look Wildcats team that’s long on frontcourt star power but very short on ballhandling.
In his lone season in Raleigh, Harrow dished out 3.3 assists per game while serving as a respectable scoring option (9.3 points a night) in his own right.
He’ll need to pick up his defense under John Calipari after recording a lackluster 0.8 steals per contest as a Wolfpack freshman.
15. Luke Hancock, Louisville
For all of Louisville’s defensive brilliance in last year’s Final Four run, the offense left a lot to be desired.
The loaded Cardinals have several contenders hoping to boost the team's scoring punch, but George Mason transfer Luke Hancock will certainly earn a spot in that rotation.
Hancock served as a point forward for the Patriots in 2010-11—he dished out 4.3 assists per game—so he’ll be a nice complement to standout PG Peyton Siva.
Hancock is also a respectable jump shooter who drained 23 three-pointers on .359 shooting, hardly a top-tier marksman but still a cut above most of the Cardinals’ options on the wings.
14. Murphy Holloway, South Carolina
A native of Irmo, South Carolina, Murphy Holloway is coming home for his senior year of college. The woeful Gamecock frontcourt will be glad to have him, considering how well the 6’7”, 240-lb PF has already performed in three seasons of SEC competition.
Holloway isn’t a go-to scorer by any standard, but he did post a solid 11.2 points per game last year for Ole Miss. More importantly, he’s a beast on the glass, averaging nine rebounds a night last season (and 6.6 even in his worst year, as a true freshman).
13. Earnest Ross, Missouri
As Missouri joins the SEC, they’ll have the benefit of one Tiger who’s been there before. Newly-eligible Missouri Tiger Earnest Ross spent his first two college seasons as an Auburn Tiger.
The 6’5” Ross led Auburn with 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He’ll fit right in with the big-guard philosophy that's served Mizzou so well over the last few seasons.
12. Korie Lucious, Iowa State
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg struck gold last season with transfers (including star Royce White) who’d struggled with disciplinary problems at their old programs.
Hoiberg looks to continue that success as he mines the Big Ten again for Michigan State castoff Korie Lucious.
Lucious, a 5’11” PG, dished out a career high 4.1 assists per game in 2010-11 before being dropped from the roster for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Assuming Hoiberg can get him focused (as he did with another ex-MSU guard, Chris Allen), Lucious’ leadership will be a big factor in helping the Cyclones survive White’s departure for the NBA.
11. Alex Oriakhi, Missouri
Missouri’s embarrassing NCAA Tournament loss to Norfolk State highlighted the Tigers’ crippling lack of size. The return of injured Laurence Bowers will help in that capacity, but adding a bruiser like Alex Oriakhi certainly isn’t going to hurt matters either.
Oriakhi, like his UConn team as a whole, suffered through a miserable 2011-12 season.
If, however, he plays for the Tigers like he did for the 2011 national champs—9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game as a designated defensive stopper—Oriakhi will take a huge amount of pressure off the rest of Mizzou’s frontcourt.
10. Khem Birch, UNLV
Playing time isn’t going to be easy to come by in the UNLV frontcourt, where star Mike Moser is joined by a slew of impact newcomers. Still, Khem Birch brings one element the Rebels can’t ignore: The best defensive potential on the roster.
In 10 games before transferring out of Pitt last season, Birch averaged 1.9 blocks in a mere 15 minutes per game.
Every offense UNLV faces will have to account for the 6'9" Birch, and that fact alone will force coach Dave Rice to find minutes for him, even if he doesn’t bring the scoring of Moser or Anthony Bennett.
9. Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State
Wichita State’s veteran 2011-12 backcourt has been gutted by graduation, but the Shockers will still have one guard with big-time experience. Malcolm Armstead arrives to run the point after two strong years with the Oregon Ducks.
Armstead isn’t much of a scorer, but he dished out 4.4 assists a night as an Oregon sophomore. He’s even more dominant on defense, having racked up 2.3 steals per game in his last season with the Ducks.
8. Keion Bell, Missouri
Of the horde of transfers that Frank Haith is counting on at Missouri this season, none put up more impressive stats at his former school than Keion Bell.
In his final two seasons with Pepperdine, the 6’3” SG led the squad with better than 18 points per game in each year.
Bell isn’t the kind of world-beating three-point shooter the Tigers have relied on lately, but his career-high 40 treys as a sophomore are nothing to sneeze at.
As long as he can bounce back from a subpar defensive showing (just 0.8 steals per game in his last season), Bell will be a critical factor in the Mizzou backcourt.
7. Juwan Staten, West Virginia
Point guard wasn’t exactly a strength for the Mountaineers last season, as freshman Jabarie Hinds led the team with an unimpressive 3.3 assists per game. Hinds is a good bet to be relegated to the bench in 2012-13, thanks to newly-eligible Juwan Staten.
Staten, too, jumped in as a starting PG as a true freshman (at Dayton), but did so with a lot more success. After averaging 5.4 assists per game for the Flyers, Staten will play a vital role in keeping WVU competitive in the point guard-rich Big 12.
6. Trey Zeigler, Pitt
Ashton Gibbs may be gone, but the Pitt backcourt will still have its share of firepower in 2012-13. PG Tray Woodall will have a new scorer to feed in Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler.
Zeigler is a 6’5” SG who averaged a combined 16 points a game in two seasons with the Chippewas.
He’s a slasher who will be sure to get to the free throw line in Big East play, especially since he’s also a formidable rebounder (6.7 boards a night as a sophomore).
5. Aaric Murray, West Virginia
Kevin Jones’ graduation leaves a very big hole in the West Virginia frontcourt, but Aaric Murray is well suited to filling big holes. The 6’10”, 240-lb center brings a full-fledged Big 12 body as he arrives from Atlantic 10 also-ran LaSalle.
Murray didn’t face the same level of post play in the A-10 that he will go up against the likes of Kansas and Baylor on a nightly basis, but he dominated so thoroughly for the Explorers that he’s a sure bet to be very good (at worst) as a Mountaineer.
Bob Huggins’ team will be in great shape if Murray can even approximate his impressive sophomore season—15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game—in his WVU debut.
4. Larry Drew II, UCLA
Larry Drew II had his problems as North Carolina’s point guard, but he also showed some impressive passing ability.
After dishing out as many as 5.9 assists per game in a Tar Heel uniform, Drew gets another chance with another loaded lineup at UCLA.
With the likes of Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker ready to turn his passes into points, Drew should rack up solid assist numbers again.
Even if ballyhooed freshman Kyle Anderson beats him for the starting PG spot, expect Drew to get plenty of minutes and keep the Bruin offense flowing in 2012-13.
3. Will Clyburn, Iowa State
Former juco standout Will Clyburn arrived at Utah just in time for Jim Boylen, the coach who recruited him, to get fired. The Utes’ loss becomes Iowa State’s gain as the high-powered swingman is set to play his final collegiate season as a Cyclone.
Clyburn dominated the Pac-12 in his one season with Utah, averaging team highs of 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The 6’7” swingman has a great chance to step into the go-to scoring role vacated by Royce White in Ames.
2. Mark Lyons, Arizona
After two seasons of ceding the spotlight to Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons gets to be the main man in the backcourt. Of course, it’s not the Xavier backcourt, where he served as SG to Holloway’s PG, but rather the one belonging to the Arizona Wildcats.
Lyons is going to be asked to run the point for the first time in his career, and that experiment may or may not blow up in the Wildcats’ faces.
Either way, though, Lyons’ lethal scoring punch (15.1 points per game and .392 long-range shooting last year) will be crucial in spreading the floor for Arizona’s freshman, and talent-laden frontcourt.
1. Rotnei Clarke, Butler
Butler’s disappointing 2011-12 performance had a lot to do with an offense that never found its rhythm.
After shooting a dismal .281 from three-point range as a team last season, the Bulldogs look to bounce back with the addition of Rotnei Clarke, one of the most dangerous pure shooters in the nation.
The last time Clarke played, in 2010-11, he led Arkansas in scoring with 15.2 points per game as a junior.
Even more crucially, the 6’ sniper shot a scorching .438 from beyond the arc while recording his third consecutive season with at least 80 three-pointers made—just what the doctor ordered for shooting-poor Butler.