Ranking the Top Junior-College Transfers to Watch in the 2015-16 CBB Season
The influx of talent that comes into college basketball each year isn't just from the high school ranks. Quite often some of the biggest breakout stars emerge in Division I after spending time at the junior-college level, where they began (or spent part of) their careers before moving up to Division I.
Players' reasons for starting at the JUCO level vary individually, but they're usually associated with academic issues or lack of scholarship opportunities at four-year schools. Whatever the reason, that time is meant to give them a chance to get in position to contribute to a bigger school, and each year we see a handful of JUCO transfers make a big impact.
In the 2014-15 season we saw the likes of Dwayne Benjamin (Oregon), Cinmeon Bowers (Auburn), Stefan Moody (Ole Miss) and Gary Payton II (Oregon State) become key contributors for their teams.
Who has the best shot of making a splash in 2015-16? Here's our look at the top 20 junior-college transfers for this upcoming season. They're ranked based on their performance to this point and their expected value to their new team.
20. Akolda Manyang, C, Oklahoma
Height, weight: 7'0", 220 lbs
Thanks to Buddy Hield's decision to come back for another year, Oklahoma is one of the favorites in the Big 12 and could put an end to Kansas' long run of conference titles. Having more potency in the paint could push the Sooners over the hump, which is why they went out and signed the top junior-college center, Akolda Manyang in November.
But whatever contribution Manyang is going to make this season depends on how he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot. According to Bob Przybylo of SoonersIllustrated.com, Manyang suffered the injury in mid-July and will wear a boot for four to six weeks.
Manyang, who is former Oklahoma player Longar Longar's cousin, is the school's tallest player since 7'2" Oleg Reztsov in 1999-2000. He played last year at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.
19. Legend Robertin, C, Clemson
Height, weight: 7'0", 220 lbs
The name alone should make Legend Robertin a memorable player this season. But the big man also has a strong game and could help Clemson return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
A native of St. Lucia who grew up in England but attended prep school in South Carolina, Robertin spent last season at Chipola Junior College in Florida where he also picked up offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Memphis, Old Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech and West Virginia, per Kerry Capps of OrangeAndWhite.com.
18. Justin Leon, SF, Florida
Height, weight: 6'7½", 200 lbs
Florida's late-in-the-spring coaching change, prompted by Billy Donovan making the jump to the NBA after 19 seasons, led to additional moves regarding the Gators' roster. Freshman signee Noah Dickerson asked for a release from his national letter of intent. Kevaughn Allen considered doing the same before choosing to stay, according to his stepfather, John Curry, in an interview with the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly radio show (via Richard Davenport of Whole Hog Sports).
And a player that new coach Michael White was poised to add at Louisiana Tech decided instead to follow him to Gainesville.
Justin Leon, who spent the last two seasons at Shawnee Community College in Illinois, averaged a double-double (21.5 points, 10 rebounds) in 2014-15. He'd signed with Louisiana Tech but was granted a release after White departed.
17. Ty Outlaw, SF, Virginia Tech
Height, weight: 6'5", 200 lbs
Virginia Tech's first season under Buzz Williams showed some improvement from prior to his arrival, but two of the team's top three scorers either transferred or were kicked out of the program. That opens the door for the next crop of newcomers to make an impact, and Ty Outlaw could be one of the biggest of that bunch.
Outlaw was one of the country's top scorers last year at Lee College in Texas, where he averaged 21.8 points per game while scoring 90 three-pointers. He was only there for one season, having played at UNC-Greensboro the year before.
16. Rasheed Brooks, SG, Ole Miss
Height, weight: 6'6", 200 lbs
Ole Miss hit the jackpot last season with junior-college transfer Stefan Moody, who led the Rebels in scoring, at 16.6 points per game, after coming over from Kilgore Junior College in Texas. Coach Andy Kennedy is hoping to repeat history with Rasheed Brooks, who was a star at Southwest Tennessee CC and chose Ole Miss over West Virginia, who was also interested, according to the Clarion-Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger.
Brooks can help fill the void left by departing guards Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, who combined to score 23.1 points per game for Ole Miss in 2014-15. He averaged 14.2 points per game as a JUCO All-American last season at Southwest Tennessee.
15. Conor Clifford, C, Washington State
Height, weight: 7'0", 265 lbs
Conor Clifford already has a season of Division I college experience under his belt, having spent his freshman year, 2012-13, at UC Irvine where he played in 32 games and averaged 2.5 points. But the school brought in more big men the following season, including 7'6" Mamdou Ndiaye, and Clifford was forced to redshirt.
He wasn't going to get on the floor ahead of Ndiaye this past season, so he transferred to Saddleback Junior College in California. He averaged 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds and was his conference's MVP last year, all of which enticed Washington State.
Clifford could pair with power forward Josh Hawkinson to make a very formidable duo for the Cougars.
14. Rozelle Nix, C, Pittsburgh
Height, weight: 7'0", 320 lbs
Pittsburgh's roster has undergone massive turnover this offseason, with seven players leaving the program and another five coming in, including four transfers (three graduate, one JUCO). It's fair to say the Panthers are looking for big things from those newcomers, none of whom come bigger than massive Rozelle Nix.
Because Pitt didn't have a natural center on the roster last year, it rotated four guys—three of whom are gone—at the position and struggled inside on both ends of the court. This was particularly noticeable on defense, as Mark Powell of the Pittsburgh Sports Report noted Pitt was 231st nationally in defensive rebounding and 248th in two-point field-goal defense.
Nix averaged a double-double at Pensacola State College in Florida last year. It's the same school that Pitt assistant Ontario Lett played at for two seasons before spending two years as the Panthers' center.
13. Maurice O'Field, SG, Arizona State
Height, weight: 6'5", 200 lbs
New Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley' first official recruit was one he'd had lined up to join him at his old school, Buffalo. But when Hurley made the move West, so too did Maurice O'Field, though he was coming from Midland Junior College in Texas.
The athletic wing played just one season of JUCO ball, averaging 15.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, and will have three years of eligibility at ASU. According to Brad Winton of JUCOReporting.com, O'Field had originally picked Buffalo, despite holding scholarship offers from power-conference teams Maryland, Virginia Tech and, ironically, Arizona State.
O'Field will compete for playing time at the 2 or 3 with several other ASU players, including fellow JUCO signee Andre Spight. The two faced off against each other twice last season.
12. Ray Kasongo, PF, Tennessee
Height, weight: 6'9", 235 lbs
Tennessee's basketball program has undergone plenty of change in the past few seasons, with three coaches in as many years, the latest being former Texas coach Rick Barnes. It's a scenario that Ray Kasongo is used to, since he's bounced around between many schools since moving from Canada to Kentucky a few years ago.
Kasongo spent a year at an Arizona prep school before signing with Oregon, but he was denied admission last July and ended up at the College of Southern Idaho. There he only played 15.6 minutes per game but managed 6.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
According to SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria, Texas was recruiting him prior to that program letting Barnes go, and before choosing Tennessee he was also looking at Mississippi State. With the Volunteers, Kasongo should play a lot right away after two of the school's frontcourt players transferred.
11. Kenan Guzonjic, PF, Colorado
Height, weight: 6'8", 215 lbs
With the news that Xavier Johnson could miss a huge chunk of the upcoming season (if not all of it) with a torn Achilles tendon, Colorado's frontcourt is going to look very thin and its three-point shooting is going to be depleted. But the injury could open the door for players like Kenan Guzonjic, who, at the junior-college level, established himself as both an inside- and outside-scoring threat.
Originally from Bosnia, Guzonjic spent only one season at Midland Junior College in Texas and will have three seasons available for the Buffaloes. Last year he sat out while nursing a knee injury, but he's worked out against Colorado's veterans in Boulder this summer and appears ready to make a contribution right away.
"I really feel like I fit in," he told Brian Howell of the Broomfield Enterprise. "We've had a few practices, and I really think this is the place for me."
10. T.J. Dunans, SG, Auburn
Height, weight: 6'5", 190 lbs
In an effort to speed up the rebuilding process, Auburn's Bruce Pearl has gone after transfers of all varieties to help complement whatever high school talent he can bring to the program. That resulted in strong contributions from junior-college and Division I transfers last season, and the plan is in place again this year.
T.J. Dunans won't have as much hype as last year's No. 1 overall JUCO recruit, Cinmeon Bowers, when he signed with the Tigers. Neither will he garner as much attention as graduate transfer Tyler Harris from Providence or ex-Marshall standout Kareem Canty. But Dunans has been a productive player in college to this point and should be involved in Auburn's 2015-16 plans.
At Columbia State Community College in Tennessee, Dunans wasn't the greatest shooter—he made just 21 percent of 132 three-point attempts—but he did show off great length for a guard, as well as the willingness to push the ball.
9. Malik Dime, PF, Washington
Height, weight: 6'10", 215 lbs
Part of an enormous 2015 recruiting glass that essentially represents an all-new Washington roster, Malik Dime should play a huge role in Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar's make-or-break season.
Romar has made six NCAA tournament appearances, won three Pac-12 tourney titles and won the league's regular-season title twice in his 13 seasons, but the last three teams have failed to make the NCAA field and the last two didn't play in any postseason event. Eight players are gone from that team, with five transferring and another dismissed from the program.
Dime will represent a talented-but-raw option for Washington, as he's only been playing organized basketball since 2011 after he moved to the U.S. from Senegal. He spent the last two years at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, where he averaged 7.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and just under three blocks per game, despite only playing 11 minutes per contest.
"He has plenty of upside and should continue to develop at a quick pace," scout Brad Winton told Scout.com's Aaron Beach.
8. Kadeem Allen, SG, Arizona
Height, weight: 6'3", 180 lbs
Rank: 2nd (class of 2014)
Kadeem Allen was among the best junior-college players to watch for 2014-15 as well, but because Arizona had enough shooters to work with last season, he was redshirted, despite having been the reigning NJCAA JUCO Player of the Year. Given a chance to work in the system and learn for a year, though, Allen now should be a key part of the Wildcats' backcourt.
There's plenty of depth at that position for Arizona, thanks to the signing of star freshman Allonzo Trier and returning shooter Gabe York, but Allen is as much a driver and penetrator as he is a jump-shooter. In 2013-14, at Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas, he averaged 25.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game and finished his two-year career as the school's No. 2 all-time assist man and its No. 3 scorer.
7. Deshawn Freeman, PF, Rutgers
Height, weight: 6'7", 200 lbs
Rutgers finished at the extreme bottom of the Big Ten in its first season, and Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller predicts the Scarlet Knights will do so again in 2015-16. If there is any improvement, though, look for Deshawn Freeman to be a big part of that.
Freeman averaged 19.2 points and 9.5 rebounds last season for junior-college powerhouse Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He's very likely to be Rutgers' starting small forward when the upcoming season begins, especially with last year's top two rebounders no longer around.
"I'm comfortable playing both forward positions," Freeman told Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press. "I can get after it defensively. I'm a good passer, and I can finish around the basket."
6. Mychal Mulder, SG, Kentucky
Height, weight: 6'4", 184 lbs
Kentucky's 2015-16 recruiting class is as good as any it's ever had under John Calipari, ranking first in the nation, per 247Sports, thanks to three 5-star prospects, including late pickup Jamal Murray. But at one point the Wildcats were missing on most big names during the spring, which led Calipari to search the junior-college ranks for a quick fix to help fill his NBA draft-depleted roster.
That turned out to be Mychal Mulder, a fast-rising prospect who was on other power programs' radar but then became Kentucky's No. 1 target in May. The Vincennes (Indiana) University star was a first-team JUCO All-American who signed in May, at which time Calipari said he "fits our program," per Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader because of his ability to share but still take charge when needed.
The emergence of Murray, who ended up reclassifying from 2016 to join Kentucky this season, takes much of the shine off Mulder's signing in terms of immediate help. Kentucky now has plenty of backcourt depth again, though based on Calipari's past history of spreading minutes around Mulder should still get involved.
5. Andre Spight, SG, Arizona State
Height, weight: 6'3", 165 lbs
The second—and more highly regarded—of Arizona State's two junior-college pickups on this list, Andre Spight committed to and signed with the Sun Devils several months before Herb Sendek was let go. He probably fits into new coach Bobby Hurley's system even better than Sendek's, though, because he's fond of pushing the tempo and getting up the court quickly.
Spight spent the last two seasons at South Plains College in Texas, where he averaged 15 points per game and shot 37 percent from three-point range in 2014-15 for a team that reached the NJCAA National Tournament.
The Sun Devils lost nearly 65 percent of their three-point production from last year's team, and though they return guards Tra Holder and Gerry Blakes, it's very likely Spight will become a well-used outside shooting weapon.
4. Igor Ibaka, PF, Oklahoma State
Height, weight: 6'9", 220 lbs
Oklahoma State is hoping there's something that runs in the family with its latest junior-college pickup. Igor Ibaka, the younger brother of NBA standout Serge Ibaka, is part of the Cowboys' three-man class for 2015-16 but far older than the other recruits.
Ibaka, who turns 23 on July 30, was too old to play JUCO ball last season after playing for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2013-14. He averaged 14 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while shooting 64 percent from the field that year.
OK State returns two starters from last year's 18-14 team, most notably sharpshooter Phil Forte, but doesn't have much returning experience inside. Ibaka and Eastern Illinois transfer Chris Olivier will provide the size down low this season.
3. Chris Boucher, PF, Oregon
Height, weight: 6'10", 200 lbs
Chris Boucher was the NJCAA National Junior College Player of the Year last season, averaging 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game for Northwest College in Wyoming. That earned him offers from eight Division I schools, including Minnesota, TCU and Texas Tech, but by choosing Oregon he became the latest in a very long line of transfers to be part of the Ducks' program during Dana Altman's tenure.
Boucher is the 23rd transfer Oregon has taken on since 2010, including Villanova's Dylan Ennis, who must sit out the 2015-16 season. The Ducks team that went 26-10 last season featured former transfers Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook, both of whom are back for their senior years.
With Boucher in tow, along with three other 4-star recruits, including point guard Tyler Dorsey, Oregon figures to be in the hunt for the Pac-12 title, despite losing Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young.
2. Dominic Artis, PG, UTEP
Height, weight: 6'1", 190 lbs
UTEP isn't in a power league, but thanks to a power-level player getting a second chance in El Paso the Miners have a good shot at winning Conference USA.
Dominic Artis played two seasons at Oregon, averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists as a freshman but dipping to 4.1 and 2.2 as a sophomore. During that year he lost his starting job and served a nine-game suspension, and shortly after the season ended, he was dismissed from the program in the wake of allegations that he and two other Ducks players raped a woman in March 2014.
No charges were ever filed, but Artis was kicked off the team and spent this past season at Diablo Valley College in California.
"Dominic made a poor decision and as a result has learned a tough life lesson," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said, per a school release. "But I believe he is a good person and is worthy of a second chance."
Artis didn't play basketball there, so he'll have to shake the rust off at the start of this season, but his talents, combined with sophomore guard Omega Harris, should make UTEP a force to be reckoned with.
1. Darius Paul, PF, Illinois
Height, weight: 6'8", 220 lbs
This isn't Darius Paul's first time as a member of Illinois' program, though he hopes to get some on-court time this time around. At the same time, the Fighting Illini hope he's able to stay out of trouble and be worth the risk.
Paul first joined Illinois for the 2013-14 season, after transferring from Western Michigan where he was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the year the season before. Paul redshirted his first year with Illinois, per NCAA transfer rules, but then in May 2014 he was arrested by on-campus police on charges of underage drinking and resisting arrest. He was suspended for the season and plead guilty to the underage drinking charge, eventually going to Lamar State College in Texas.
At Lamar State, Paul averaged more than 17 points per game while also leading the team in rebounding, blocks and assists. That kind of production will be huge for an Illinois team that graduated leading scorer Rayvonte Rice and big man Nnanna Egwu.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Follow Brian Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.