As high-flying freshmen dazzle fanbases, veteran faces in new places are ready to show just how impactful they can be.
With the dawn of the college basketball season on the horizon, it’s about that time to dissect the rosters of teams around the country. While highly-touted freshman talent fills the gaps for several of the elite programs, others are relying on other new faces to propel them to stardom. A team led by transfers is becoming the fad in college basketball, and if teams like Nevada weren’t convincing enough last year, just look at the landscape of college basketball now. Bubble teams, mid-majors, and blue bloods alike are all relying on transfer talent, and there figures to be a whole lot of it on display come November. Here are five transfers ready to make an impact this season.
Ehab Amin — Oregon
Oregon has become the transfer destination in the Pac-12 in recent years, landing productive transfers like Dylan Ennis, Kavell Bigby-Williams, MiKyle McIntosh, Elijah Brown, and Paul White. The addition of Ehab Amin might just be the Ducks’ best get to date.
Amin sat out last season with a hip injury and chose Oregon after losing his potential scholarship at Nevada as a grad transfer. The 6’4 guard out of Alexandria, Egypt, came off the bench in his first two years at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before blossoming in his junior campaign to the tune of 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He should slip right into the Ducks’ lineup from day one and produce. Between top recruits Bol Bol and Louis King, as well as now-senior Paul White, Oregon figures to have a stout frontcourt, and pairing Amin with an experienced Payton Pritchard gives them the backcourt to match.
While he doesn’t flash elite athleticism, Amin wins with his feel for the game, finding scoring pockets around the free throw line extended, where he can burn opponents with his mid-range and high post offense. It’s a skillset that a lot of combo guards aren’t used to defending. Where Amin figures to help most, however, is on the defensive end on the floor, and what he creates is something that very few teams have in college basketball: the combination of an elite perimeter defender with an elite rim protector.
Amin and Bol will bring shades of the Dylan Ennis/Jordan Bell duo that stymied opponents defensively, which should really make things difficult for opponents in an offensively focused conference. Amin’s 3.4 steals his junior season ranked first in the nation, and his steal percentage ranked second, ahead of notorious thieves like Jevon Carter and Barry Brown. Expect Oregon to be playing lockdown defense from the jump, and Amin will be one of the big reasons why.
Ryan Taylor — Northwestern
No player in college basketball took a higher percentage of his team’s looks last season than Taylor, who hoisted up 40.7% of Evansville’s shots. In doing so, Taylor put up 21.3 points per game while still shooting an extraordinary 42.4% from beyond the arc. His frame at 6’7 allows him to play both the two and the three, giving Northwestern lineup flexibility to play him off Vic Law at the three, or stick him in an inexperienced backcourt to make up for the losses of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey.
Of course, putting up 20-point games with regularity might not be in the cards for Taylor, but make no mistake about it—he won’t struggle to score even in a major conference. He averaged 22 points per game in nine games against top-100 opponents in 2017-18. Now at Northwestern, Taylor will get the chance to score while not commanding all the attention from opposing defenses. At Evansville, his usage percentage sat at 34.5%, top-10 in the nation, which resulted in a less than desirable field goal percentage.
His true field goal percentage remained solid, though, and at 53.3%, Taylor ranked better than Lindsey, the Wildcats’ leading scorer.
Chris Collins’s group really regressed last season, failing to live up to expectations after the program’s first tournament appearance in the university’s history. Now with Law and Dererk Pardon entering their senior years, and Taylor having just one year of eligibility left, it’s all in for the Wildcats in 2018-19. While Taylor won’t be taking nearly half of the team’s shots, expect him to carry the bulk of the workload offensively.
Dedric Lawson — Kansas
Lawson isn’t just one of the best transfers in the country. He’s one of the best players in the country, and don’t be surprised to see his name all over award watch lists around college basketball. After posting two monster seasons at Memphis, the latter of which he averaged an insane stat line (19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.3 steals per game), Lawson, along with his brother KJ, looked to take his talents to a top-flight program. He found a home in Kansas, and he’ll be an instant hit for the Rock Chalk faithful.
Lawson possesses an extremely rare skillset, one that combines the ability to lead the break and shoot from the outside like a seasoned wing with the hard-nosed, glass-eating nature of a top-notch big man. His versatility was on display night in and night out in Memphis, and his game against Oklahoma illustrates perfectly the way he can do it all on the floor.
Lawson shows his adroitness getting position and cleaning up the offensive glass to the tune of an and-one, followed by an excellent outlet pass to lead the break a few possessions later. He then shows off his range, hitting a deep three, then cuts to the basket for a strong finish, and finishes it off with a steal and dish to his brother on a perfectly executed fast break. There simply aren’t a lot of players like Dedric Lawson in college basketball, and even fewer that find a home via transfer.
Brandon Clarke — Gonzaga
Like Oregon, Gonzaga has made a living in recent years off transfers. Just look at the impact Nigel Williams-Goss and Jonathan Williams have had on the program, en route to a National Championship berth.
Williams-Goss is long gone, and now Williams has graduated, but Clarke is a more than worthy replacement. The 6’8 big man averaged 17.5 and 8.9 as a sophomore at San Jose State and sat out last season watching Gonzaga exit at the hands of a red-hot Florida State squad. This season, the bulk of the roster returns, and Clarke figures to get starters minutes whether he starts at the four or comes off the bench in favor of Rui Hachimura.
Clarke was scarcely recruited out of high school, and it’s easy to see why. He stood at just 6’2 until halfway through his sophomore year, and was still at a very developmental stage for a big by the time he would have been getting significant collegiate looks.
Now, Clarke has really tapped into his potential as a big man, showing off his guard-like swift movement that allows him to maneuver seamlessly throughout the post. He seems to have a knack for finding himself in great position to catch the ball deep enough for easy looks, which should fit perfectly alongside an excellent post passer in Killian Tillie.
Defensively, Clarke’s long arms and outstanding jumping ability allow him to protect the rim with ease and helped create fast breaks at San Jose State. Gonzaga has shined in recent years with two bigs who can play off each other in the post and limit easy looks on the other end of the floor, and with Clarke in the fold this year, that formula should ring true once again in Spokane.
Reid Travis — Kentucky
Take Travis out of the equation, and Kentucky’s mix of young talent and depth is unrivaled. Throw him in and it’s just plain unfair. Travis has been the equivalent of a bell cow running back for Stanford the past few years, and not just because of his football player frame at 6’8, 245 lbs.
Pac-12 teams really struggled to find an answer for Travis, who finished his junior season with 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. They often resorted to just putting him on the line, where he ranked near the top of college basketball in free throw attempts. Even with hard contact on virtually every drive, Travis was able to have his way with opposing bigs.
Here he’s matched up with one of the best low-post defenders in the conference in Chimezie Metu, and Travis catches and faces immediately in the post. One dribble and a quick spin to the center of the paint puts him right under the basket, and he uses his thick frame to shield Metu and get the bucket.
Adding in Travis as the focal point of an already dominant frontcourt that will feature Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Wenyen Gabriel, PJ Washington, and Nick Richards will make it virtually impossible for teams to compete down low with the Wildcats. Look for Kentucky to regain its spot atop the SEC standings, and for Travis to bring home SEC Player of the Year honors.
Honorable Mentions: Tevin Mack — Alabama, CJ Bryce — NC State, Joe Cremo — Villanova, Nisre Zouzoua — Nevada, JaQuan Lyle — New Mexico, Marial Shayok — Iowa State
Edited by Emily Berman.
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