Auburn and 9 High-Major College Basketball Programs with Key Mid-Major Transfers

Ari Kramer@Ari_KramerSenior Analyst IIJuly 17, 2014

Auburn and 9 High-Major College Basketball Programs with Key Mid-Major Transfers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Bruce Pearl snatched up a handful of transfers for Auburn this spring.

    One of those players scored more points per game than every Division I player not named Doug McDermott.

    That would be Antoine Mason, son of former NBA player Anthony Mason. He averaged 25.6 points per game for Niagara as a redshirt junior before electing to transfer up a level.

    Mason is just one of many former mid-major players who will make an impact at a high-major program in 2014-15.

    Here's a look at Auburn and eight other high-major teams that will rely—to varying degrees—on mid-major transfers.

    Check out the 11 high-major transfers that will make the biggest impacts for high-major programs.

Tennessee: Ian Chiles

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    Two college basketball players named "Ian Chiles" competed at the Division I level last season. Tennessee would probably rather have the 7'2" center from Morgan State, but head coach Donnie Tyndall will gladly welcome the 6'1" guard who graduated from IUPUI.

    Though Chiles is not an efficient scorer, he has proven he can put points on the board against high-major competition. He averaged 17.3 points in games against Northwestern, Missouri and Marquette last season—up from his season average of 15.8 points per game.

    As you can see in this video, Chiles has good lift on his jumper. That enables him to hang and nail challenging shots against longer, more athletic competition.

    Until Tuesday, former Florida Gulf Coast forward Eric McKnight planned on suiting up for Tennessee, but the SEC denied his graduate transfer waiver.

    The Vols lost forwards Jarnell Stokes to the NBA and Jeronne Maymon to graduation, so McKnight would have helped fill the void. Whereas Stokes and Maymon were strong forwards, McKnight is a high-flying athlete who played a key role in the coining of "Dunk City" with alley-oops like this.

Alabama: Christophe Varidel, Michael Kessens and Ricky Tarrant

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    When you nail 10 of your 16 three-point attempts against a Top 20 team, you can pose with a "three monocle."

    That's exactly what former Florida Gulf Coast guard Christophe Varidel did for Chaminade in the 2013 Maui Invitational. 

    Even though Chaminade lost to Baylor, Varidel's 42 points in 39 minutes were the story of the tournament. The 6'3" guard would play just three more games for the Silverswords before an injury ended his season, but he had already made his impression on Division I coaches.

    Anthony Grant signed the graduate transfer in May, adding him to a pack of new faces that includes a pair of mid-major transfers: Michael Kessens from Longwood and Ricky Tarrant from Tulane.

    Kessens brings length, defense and a good touch from inside the arc to the lineup. He posted a well-rounded line of 17 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks against Arkansas in 2012-13.

    Tarrant earned Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2011-12, averaging 14.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He shot 42.6 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from deep, but those clips dipped in 2012-13 as teams game-planned for him. 

    Even in his second year, (subscription needed) says his advanced stats equated him with 2013-14 A.J. English of Iona and 2012-13 Juan'ya Green of Niagara, two mid-major guards that could play high-major basketball.

Colorado State: Stanton Kidd and John Gillon

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    Colorado State took a step back in 2013-14 after a deep senior class graduated. Then Chane Behanan and Jon Octeus announced they would not return to the program.

    But the Rams should still be better in 2014-15 than they were a year ago thanks to a pair of transfers from mid-major programs.

    Stanton Kidd, who spent one year at North Carolina Central, and John Gillon, who played one season at Arkansas Little Rock, will team up with J.J. Avila—a mid-major transfer, himself—and Daniel Bejarano in the Rams' starting lineup.

    Kidd, a 6'7" forward, has proven he can compete with high-major talent.

    In 2012-13, he faced a pair of teams that would eventually embark on deep tournament runs. He averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game against Wichita State and Marquette. Wichita State reached the Final Four, while Marquette bounced out in the Elite Eight.

    Kidd can score in a number of ways, as you can see in this somewhat grainy highlight reel. He shot 37.3 percent from long range and 55.3 percent overall for North Carolina Central.

    As good as Kidd can be for Larry Eustachy, Gillon is just as important, following Octeus' decision.

    "How good Colorado State can still be next season will probably depend on Gillon's readiness at the point guard," Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg wrote in June.

    While Avila and Bejarano were Colorado State's most reliable scorers last season, Octeus ran the offense. Gillon has limited experience—just one year in Arkansas Little Rock's backcourt. 

    Cincinnati's highly ranked defense forced Gillon into eight turnovers that season.

    The 6-footer scored 14 points in a win over Ole Miss and dished out six assists in a win over Southern Methodist.

    Dantiel Daniels from Southern Illinois is a third mid-major transfer who will be eligible for Colorado State this year. He, however, likely won't be relied on as heavily as Kidd and Gillon.

Iowa State: Abdel Nader

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    Nobody in Division I posted a higher usage rate or shot percentage than Abdel Nader in 2012-13.

    Northern Illinois was so woeful offensively that Mark Montgomery allowed his 6'6" forward to take nearly 14 shots per game even though opponents primarily focused on limiting Nader's scoring opportunities. The rest of the team couldn't score.

    That could explain Nader's dreadful offensive rating of 80.4 and shooting percentages of 33.7 percent from the field and 27.7 percent from deep.

    While he was asked to shoot and score for Northern Illinois, Nader will provide depth and rebounding in the front court for Iowa State upon reinstatement from an indefinite suspension.

    Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue will be the one-two punch up front, regardless, as the Cyclones search for ways to replace Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.

Kansas State: Justin Edwards

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    Justin Edwards' athleticism had no place in the America East. 

    The 6'4" guard could get up and high in a hurry. He could dunk. He could rebound. He could score.

    Edwards led Maine and the America East in scoring as a sophomore with 16.7 points per game before electing to transfer to a higher level. He didn't just beat up on inferior athletes in conference play.

    Over two seasons, Edwards played Seton Hall, Florida State, UConn and Notre Dame. He never scored fewer than 18 points in those four games.

    In fact, he averaged 19.3 points on 44.6 percent shooting from the floor.

    Edwards displayed a below-average three-point shot in his two seasons with Maine, but some key pieces at Kansas State think he could lead the Wildcats in scoring.

    "People asked Marcus [Foster] who's going to lead us in scoring next year and he tells them Justin Edwards," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber told "There were times last year when Justin was our best player. He's really going to add some explosiveness."

    Foster led the Wildcats with 15.5 points per game last season. He and Edwards will form a potent offensive duo.

    Edwards' athleticism also positively impacts his defense, where he averaged 1.9 steals per game as a sophomore.

LSU: Keith Hornsby

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    Even in the year between Johnny O'Bryant's departure and Ben Simmons' arrival, LSU will field a solid core.

    Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin elected to return to the Tigers, keeping LSU's frontcourt in decent shape even without O'Bryant. But with Andre Stringer graduating, LSU needed another guard to fill a hole in the backcourt. 

    Keith Hornsby, son of Bruce Hornsby, is that guard.

    Hornsby had a breakout sophomore season for UNC-Asheville that drew the attention of high-major programs. In 33.6 minutes per game, the 6'4" guard averaged 15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He shot 43.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from deep, and posted a 111.3 offensive rating.

    Hornsby, who suited up for Oak Hill Academy in high school, played five games against high-major competition in 2012-13. He averaged 16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

    He averaged 24.5 points in games against NC State and Ohio State while knocking down 10 of his 14 three-point attempts.

Ole Miss: M.J. Rhett

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    If athleticism was the only determining factor of a player's ability to compete at the highest level of Division I, M.J. Rhett would have been here already.

    Rhett was always more athletic than Tennessee State's typical foes. The rest of his game, though, needed work.

    Rhett, who graduated from Tennessee State, developed into a reliable rebounder and floor-runner and a decent finisher by his final season in the Ohio Valley Conference. In 2013-14, the 6'8" forward averaged 10.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 54.1 percent from the field.

    Tennessee State faced Wichita State and Tennessee in nonconference play last season, and Rhett delivered a pair of productive games. He averaged 15 points on 11-of-18 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three blocks per game.

    With an influx of new faces, Ole Miss will have a different look than the Marshall Henderson-led Rebels did a year ago. Rhett should contribute immediately around the hoop and in transition.

Maryland: Richaud Pack

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    Richaud Pack finally settled at a place where he could thrive: North Carolina A&T.

    In 2013-14, Pack averaged 17.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He shot 38.2 percent from three-point range and 44.1 percent overall. 

    Pack parlayed that success into a scholarship offer from Maryland, where he will find a role in the backcourt next season.

    Testudo Times' Andrew Emmer did a thorough breakdown of Pack's efficiency, noting that 89 percent of his field-goal attempts came either at the rim or from three. He posted a 118.6 offensive rating, per, and a 53.1 percent effective field-goal percentage, per

    From Emmer's article:

    The percentages of shots at the rim and from three combined with his eFG% tell us that he's a very smart player that understands the difference between good and bad shots. For the uninitiated: shots around the rim are good, threes are better -- if you can hit them consistently -- and mid-range shots are bad (read: inefficient). Pack plays like a stat-nerd's dream guard.

    Though Maryland could use another point guard, head coach Mark Turgeon will certainly find a way to use an efficient scorer like Pack.

Auburn: Antoine Mason and K.C. Ross Miller

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    Only Doug McDermott scored more points per game than Antoine Mason's 25.6 in 2013-14. 

    Mason had the freedom to launch at will at Niagara, where he averaged 18.5 shots per game as a redshirt junior. He played just one game against a high-major program last season, and he dropped 34 points.

    Mason, the son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, shot 9-for-22 that game, and Seton Hall was the opponent.

    But, nonetheless, Mason clearly has a scorer's mentality and an irreverence for opponents that are supposedly "better."

    Mason won't have the same offensive freedom under Bruce Pearl at Auburn, but he will certainly play a key role for the Tigers as a graduate transfer in 2014-15.

    New Mexico State transfer K.C. Ross-Miller also committed to Pearl and Auburn this spring. Ross-Miller, who graduated this spring, will add the three-point shooting lacking in Mason's game to the backcourt. 

    The 6'1" guard shot 39.3 percent from long range and also distributed 3.5 assists for the Aggies last season.

    Unless otherwise noted, all advanced statistics are courtesy of