Ranking the Best College Basketball Players Sitting Out the 2015-16 Season

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2015

Ranking the Best College Basketball Players Sitting Out the 2015-16 Season

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    Former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster will play for Creighton after sitting out the 2015-16 season.
    Former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster will play for Creighton after sitting out the 2015-16 season.David Purdy/Getty Images

    When college basketball players sign out of high school, they're in effect entering into a contract with the college they choose. It's similar to when you sign up for a cellphone plan or satellite TV service, and just like with those agreements, the penalty to get out of those contracts can be costly.

    But instead of an early-termination fee, players have to sacrifice a year of eligibility and participation for the right to switch schools.

    While those who have graduated with eligibility remaining may transfer without having to sit out a season, that scenario only applies to a small percentage of the more than 600 players who have decided to make a move this offseason, per Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello of ESPN.

    Most players who transfer do so early in their college career, often because the school they initially selected no longer feels right and they hope a change in scenery will lead to a better fit.

    In a lot of cases, this comes down to playing time, but other factors, such as coaching changes and new systems, come into play. And because of this, some of the better players in the country from the 2014-15 season won't be in action until 2016-17.

    Here's our ranking of the 20 best college basketball players who must sit out this upcoming season, listed based on how well they have performed to this point and what their value is to a future team.

20. Jevon Thomas

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Former team: Kansas State

    2015-16 destination: Seton Hall

    One of five players to either transfer or be dismissed from Kansas State's program, Jevon Thomas was diligent in choosing where he'd end up after leaving the Wildcats. He waited more than a month to make his decision, which was likely impacted by the fact his new team had just lost a similar player.

    The 6'0" guard picked Seton Hall about a week after the Pirates lost leading scorer Sterling Gibbs to the transfer carousel. Thomas won't be able to immediately replace Gibbs, since he isn't eligible until 2016-17, but he does have the capability to control the offense and will hope to show that more than he did with K-State.

    Thomas led the Wildcats with 3.3 assists per game, but his poor shooting (37.8 percent) kept him from doing better than 4.5 points per game as a sophomore.

19. Tariq Owens

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    Former team: Tennessee

    2015-16 destination: St. John's

    In the brief time that Donnie Tyndall was in charge of Tennessee's program, he made solid recruiting inroads that included the signing of promising freshman Tariq Owens. But the 6'10" power forward saw very little action last season, averaging just 1.2 points per game over 7.6 minutes.

    After Tennessee fired Tyndall in the wake of an NCAA investigation of his time at Southern Mississippi, Owens apparently didn't feel new coach Rick Barnes was going to make a difference in how things went with the Volunteers, and he left the school in April.

    It was the second time Owens had decided to go elsewhere because of a coaching change. According to Ben Frederickson of KnoxNews.com, Owens had originally signed with Ohio but backed out of that pledge after Jim Christian left to coach Boston College.

    Ironically, he'll be part of another program dealing with a coaching change, as he's one of the first players the new St. John's coach was able to pick up.

18. Frank Booker

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Former team: Oklahoma

    2015-16 destination: Florida Atlantic

    Oklahoma has a deep backcourt that brings back a trio of starters who averaged more than 95 minutes per game last season. Though they won't all be around after the 2015-16 campaign, that wasn't enough to convince Frank Booker to wait things out.

    Instead, Booker decided he'll be in a better position to contribute at Florida Atlantic after sitting out a year. The Owls were last in Conference USA and will graduate two of their top three scorers after this coming year, so Booker is very likely to see more than the 14.3 minutes he averaged for the Sooners.

    Booker, a 6'4" guard, averaged 5.0 points but only shot 32.9 percent from the field.

17. Marcquise Reed

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    Skip Peterson/Associated Press

    Former team: Robert Morris

    2015-16 destination: Clemson

    Marcquise Reed got a chance to show his frenetic style of play in a pair of NCAA tournament games this season, helping Robert Morris beat North Florida in the First Four and then pouring in 22 points in a second-round loss to Duke. At 15.1 points per game, he was second on the team in scoring, and his 49 percent shooting was stellar for someone who launched it as much as he.

    Now Reed will see if he can score at that level in the ACC, albeit not for another year, after the 6'3" guard chose Clemson after seeing how it played during a December nonconference meeting in South Carolina.

    Reed had 21 points in that 64-57 loss, despite coming off the bench, marking one of 11 times he'd top 20 points in his freshman year.

16. Shaqquan Aaron

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    Former team: Louisville

    2015-16 destination: Oregon, San Diego State, USC, Washington

    Rick Pitino pulled Shaqquan Aaron out of Seattle last recruiting cycle, keeping him from several top West Coast programs who would have loved to have the 6'7" wing. Now they'll have a chance after Aaron decided his abbreviated freshman year with the Cardinals was enough.

    Aaron didn't become eligible until the 11th game of last season because of an NCAA clearinghouse issue. Once he was cleared to play, Aaron struggled to get into the rotation and finished the year with just 1.6 points per game in just over seven minutes per contest. He logged double figures in minutes only five times and had an 11-point performance against Wake Forest as his top achievement.

15. Anton Gill

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    Former team: Louisville

    2015-16 destination: Nebraska

    Anton Gill struggled to get much playing time in his two years at Louisville, even after the Cardinals dismissed fellow guard Chris Jones in February. More could have been in the cards for the 2015-16 season, with Terry Rozier turning pro, but Gill chose to look elsewhere and give up a year for the chance at a better situation.

    The 6'3" sophomore will be at Nebraska for 2016-17, where he'll look to contribute more than the 2.5 points per game he had in 9.4 minutes this past season.

    Gill had moments of strong play, such as scoring 14 points in 12 minutes (on 5-of-5 shooting) against Florida State in mid-February and chipping in a huge seven points (making all three of his shots) in the Sweet 16 win over North Carolina State. But he was scoreless in the Elite Eight loss to Michigan State, one of 22 games that he either didn't play or score in.

14. Deandre Burnett

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    Former team: Miami (Florida)

    2015-16 destination: Ole Miss

    Miami rebounded from a disappointing end to its regular season by reaching the NIT championship, falling to Stanford in the title game, and it looked like the Hurricanes could be a real player next year with their top 10 scorers back. But that scoring depth didn't resonate with all of the players, as Deandre Burnett was one of two guards who decided to transfer just a few days later.

    Miami looked at Burnett, a 6'2" freshman, and 5'11" Manu Lecomte as part of its future in the backcourt, backups to Angel Rodriguez, who saw valuable minutes this season. Now they'll be playing elsewhere but have to wait a year to do so.

    Burnett, who averaged 7.0 points but only shot 35.6 percent, will move from the ACC to the SEC with his choice of Ole Miss.

13. Reggie Lynch

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Former team: Illinois State

    2015-16 destination: Minnesota

    Not only was Reggie Lynch one of the best available non-graduate transfers this spring, but he's also one of the biggest. At 6'10" and 257 pounds, the sophomore is a beast who has shown the potential for great things but was also inconsistent in his two years at Illinois State.

    Lynch averaged 9.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks last season, going for 11 points, seven boards and five sways in the Redbirds' upset of Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

    In choosing Minnesota he's returning to his roots. Lynch's father, Kevin, played for the Golden Gophers, and Lynch went to high school in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina.

12. Nick King

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    Former team: Memphis

    2015-16 destination: Alabama

    The way Nick King's career began at Memphis it seemed like the only way he'd leave the Tigers would be to jump to the NBA early. King scored 48 points in 49 minutes in his first three games as a freshman in 2013-14.

    Yet he only reached double figures in two more games that season, averaging 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the year, and as a sophomore the 6'7" forward only improved to 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting just 20 percent.

    Now King is headed for a fresh start at Alabama, joining new coach Avery Johnson's team for 2016-17 after choosing the Crimson Tide over Arkansas, Miami (Florida), Ole Miss and UNLV.

11. Kethan Savage

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    Former team: George Washington

    2015-16 destination: Butler

    Kethan Savage started 58 games in three seasons for George Washington, including 25 during his junior year in 2014-15. He'll have to wait until 2016-17 to play that final season after he left the Colonials and chose Butler as his destination.

    The 6'3" guard averaged 11.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season, scoring a career-high 25 in George Washington's NIT loss to Temple that ended up being his final game in a Colonial uniform. It was also one of the 10 he played in as a reserve, losing his starting job.

    At Butler, Savage will look to hone his skills as a point guard rather than in the wing role he'd played for George Washington.

10. Kyle Washington

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    Former team: North Carolina State

    2015-16 destination: Arizona State, Butler, Cincinnati, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Marquette, Providence, West Virginia and Xavier

    Kyle Washington had 11 points in nine minutes for North Carolina State in its Sweet 16 loss to Louisville in March, but over the final month or so he was coming off the bench after losing his starting job and seeing his minutes go down. That was part of what prompted the 6'9" sophomore forward to leave the Wolfpack, a move that came just days after guard Trevor Lacey turned pro.

    Washington averaged 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds last year, but he averaged only 6.2 minutes over his final six contests.

    Wherever he ends up, the year off could be helpful for Washington to improve on poor defense that contributed to his loss of playing time.

9. Josh Cunningham

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    Former team: Bradley

    2015-16 destination: Arizona, Colorado State, Dayton, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Purdue, St. John's or South Carolina

    Bradley made a great coaching hire in bringing in Green Bay's Brian Wardle, but not before the program saw half of its basketball team decide to transfer. A few more left after the Braves hired Wardle, though none was as significant as Josh Cunningham.

    The 6'7" forward was a 4-star recruit from Chicago, per 247Sports, who chose the Braves over Indiana, St. John's and South Carolina. He averaged 7.9 points and 7.5 rebounds as a freshman.

    Now many of the same schools who wanted Cunningham out of high school are hoping to get a second crack at recruiting him even if that means having to wait until 2016-17 to get his services.

8. Andrew Rowsey

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    Former team: UNC Asheville

    2015-16 destination: Marquette

    Other than ex-Drexel guard Damion Lee, who is eligible immediately for Louisville as a graduate student, no player on the transfer wire scored more last season than Andrew Rowsey. As a sophomore the 5'10" guard averaged 19.2 points per game, slightly down from his 20.3 rate as a freshman.

    Rowsey was also UNC Asheville's leading assist and steal man, but despite being the first player in program history to reach 1,000 points in his first two seasons, he wanted something better for the remainder of his career.

    "He expressed a desire to compete for a national championship and play in a Final Four," UNCA coach Nick McDevitt told Keith Jarrett of the Citizen-Times.

    Rowsey visited all three of his finalists then decided on Sunday to join Marquette for 2016-17. 

7. Terry Larrier

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    Zach Gibson/Associated Press

    Former team: VCU

    2015-16 destination: Unknown

    He was arguably the highest-rated recruit in VCU history, the latest sign that Shaka Smart had elevated the program to a higher level. But Terry Larrier wasn't interested in continuing with that advancement without Smart, who left in April to take the Texas job, and instead put himself back on the market for his last three seasons of eligibility.

    The 6'8" forward averaged only 6.6 points and 3.0 rebounds as a freshman, making just 34.3 percent of his shots, but "his ceiling is very high due to his size, length and ability to knock down shots from the perimeter," ESPN's Jeff Borzello and Jeff Goodman wrote.

    Most of the top uncommitted transfers have made public where they're looking to go, but Larrier has remained mum since announcing his transfer on April 29.

6. Evan Payne

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Former team: Loyola Marymount

    2015-16 destination: Long Beach State

    Evan Payne had the best freshman season in Loyola Marymount history in 2013-14 and then upped his performance to 18 points per game last year. But not many people noticed the 6'1" guard's efforts because the Lions won 20 games in two seasons, including only eight last year.

    Long Beach State wasn't much better, going 16-17, but the school that has become a frequent landing point for transfers under coach Dan Monson and regularly plays a tough non-league schedule should be a great place for Payne to get more exposure.

    The 49ers' 2014-15 roster consisted of five players who were previously at other Division I programs, including Maryland guard Nick Faust and ex-Loyola Marymount guard Gabe Levin. Both sat out last year but will be eligible next season while Payne sits out.

5. Johnathan Williams III

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    Former team: Missouri

    2015-16 destination: Georgetown, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Oregon or SMU

    He was signed by one coach and then thrived under another. Now Johnathan Williams is guaranteed a third different head coach after deciding to leave Missouri to spend his final two seasons of eligibility elsewhere. Where that will be is still up in the air, but Williams did know where he was not allowed to go after Mizzou imposed numerous program restrictions in order to grant his scholarship release.

    There were initially 25 schools that Williams couldn't transfer to, including every Big 12 and SEC school as well as 2015-16 nonconference opponents Arizona. The Tigers eventually lifted the ban on Big 12 destinations, which made it possible for hated rival Kansas to throw itself into the mix for the 6'9" power forward.

    "To state the obvious: It would be an intriguing transfer move," Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star wrote.

    Williams was recruited to Missouri by Frank Haith, who left to coach Tulsa after Williams' freshman year. New coach Kim Anderson saw Williams average 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, but the Tigers finished last in the SEC and won only nine games.

4. Eric Paschall

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    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

    Former team: Fordham

    2015-16 destination: Villanova

    The Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year was stuck on a bad team last season, as Eric Paschall put up 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds for a Fordham team that went 10-21 and never won more than two consecutive games. That led to Rams coach Tom Pecora's firing, and Paschall decided not to stick around and see who would take over the program.

    The 6'6" forward ended up picking Villanova over Florida, Kansas and Providence, and he also considered returning to Fordham after meeting new coach Jeff Neubauer, per Josh Thomson of LoHud.com.

    He'll have three years of eligibility remaining and could be stepping into a Villanova lineup that has a chance to win a third straight Big East title.

3. Shannon Evans

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    Former team: Buffalo

    2015-16 destination: Arizona State

    Shannon Evans' play for Buffalo during his sophomore season had as much to do with the Bulls' first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament as any other player. It also helped his coach, Bobby Hurley, land a major promotion when he was hired by Arizona State in April.

    So it wasn't much of a surprise that when the 6'1" Evans decided he didn't want to stay in upstate New York, he chose to follow Hurley to the desert. Evans committed to ASU on April 24, just 15 days after Hurley arrived in Tempe.

    Though he won't return to action for another year, Hurley has a known quality in Evans, who was Buffalo's second-leading scorer at 15.4 points per game along with 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range.

2. Marcus Foster

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    Former team: Kansas State

    2015-16 destination: Creighton

    Marcus Foster was unheralded coming into college, but after a standout freshman year in 2013-14, he quickly became one of the top players in the Big 12. His sophomore season fell far short of the raised expectations, not just statistically but in terms of behavior and accountability, and Kansas State ultimately booted him from its program in March.

    The 6'3" guard was suspended for three games in February for violation of team rules, and in the Wildcats' Big 12 tournament loss to TCU he was scoreless in 19 minutes of play. Foster averaged 12.5 points as a sophomore, down from 15.5 his first year, and his shooting dipped from 42.3 percent to 38.8 percent despite fewer attempts.

    Once without a team, Foster ended up turning to one of the programs that wanted him badly as a prep recruit but lost out to K-State. Creighton won't get to use him until 2016-17 instead of 2013-14 as previously hoped, but the Blue Jays are becoming used to being patient after landing two transfers last spring who sat out.

    Creighton will get former Boston University guard Maurice Watson Jr. and former Nevada former Cole Huff for this season; then Foster will be available the following year. 

1. Nigel Williams-Goss

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Former team: Washington

    2015-16 destination: Gonzaga

    The best player who will be sitting out this season is one many didn't expect to play in 2015-16 anyway, since Nigel Williams-Goss seemed to have NBA aspirations that would have led him to jump to the draft early. Instead, the former McDonald's All-American decided he wanted to stay in college but play on the other side of the state of Washington.

    Williams-Goss, a 6'3" guard, picked Gonzaga over Ohio State, Providence and UNLV, and after waiting a year to get into a Bulldogs uniform, he should be a key piece of their 2016-17 lineup.

    "I just had that gut feeling that (Gonzaga) is where I’m supposed to be," Williams-Goss told Jim Meehan of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, adding that he is excited about being part of a potential two-point guard lineup like Gonzaga has operated in the past. "All the players were very receptive and encouraging."

    A second-team All-Pac-12 selection this past year, Williams-Goss led Washington in scoring (15.6 points per game) and assists (5.9) while adding 4.7 rebounds and shooting 44.2 percent. He was a big reason the Huskies began the season 11-0 but then seemed frustrated as they stumbled to a 5-13 finish in the conference to place 11th.

    Williams-Goss was one of four Washington players who transferred after the season.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.