Underrated transfers can have a profound impact on NCAA basketball programs. Who are some of the under-the-radar additions from the 2022 cycle to watch?
The rise in prevalence of the transfer portal has changed the way rosters are constructed in college basketball. Whether a team needs just one more piece for its title hopes or a complete overhaul, all can be accomplished via the transfer portal. The ability to land several proven, experienced pieces in a given offseason has changed the timelines for many teams. In the past, multiple years of excellent high school recruiting could be required to gain national prominence.
While transfer commitments dominate the headlines for the first couple of months of each college basketball offseason, there are often so many moves that it’s hard to keep track. As a result, some of the best additions go underappreciated for one reason or another. Sometimes a player transferring down a level no longer receives the buzz that came as a recruit. Or perhaps a commit is overshadowed by a different, more high-profile transfer joining the program.
These under-the-radar additions can also have a profound impact on a program. For instance, Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams was an unsung addition before blossoming into the ACC Player of the Year last season. Tulane transfer Jelly Walker guided UAB to its first NCAA Tournament since 2015. The list goes on and on.
While some of the highest-profile transfers live up to their hype, there will always be underrated players who break out or provide stable minutes on quality teams.
Discovering these underrated transfers isn’t easy. If it were, they wouldn’t be underrated. With that in mind, here is a look at 12 players heading to new destinations who could thrive.
Darin Green Jr., Florida State
Florida State experienced a significant down season in 2021-22, but do not expect the program to stay out of the national spotlight for long. Head coach Leonard Hamilton has a strong group on his hands for next season, adding a vital floor-spacer via the transfer portal. Darin Green Jr. has in-the-gym range and should instantly fill a much-needed role in Tallahassee. The Seminoles shot 33.1 percent from three last season, their lowest rate since 2015.
Green can help alleviate those spacing concerns with his ability to spray from distance at high volumes. The 6-4 guard is fresh off averaging 13.3 points per game as an All-AAC performer. His three made 3-pointers per game ranked 23rd nationally. Green has three years of experience, mostly as a starter, and is a proven sniper. He is a career 208-for-536 (38.8 percent) from 3-point range.
Florida State’s last two NCAA Tournament-quality teams ranked in the top 100 nationally in 3-point percentage. Coach Hamilton recognized his need for a sniper alongside an exciting rising sophomore class and accomplished that with Green.
Tyree Eady, North Texas
North Texas fell short of the NCAA Tournament last season, losing in the CUSA semifinals. It was a disappointing end to a spectacular campaign that started 23-4 and 16-1 in Conference USA action. Head coach Grant McCasland turned down opportunities for bigger jobs this offseason and appears poised to contend for a second straight conference title. The Mean Green were excellent in two departments last season: defense and 3-point shooting. Adding North Dakota State transfer Tyree Eady adds to those primary strengths.
The Wisconsin native brings quality size to the backcourt at 6-5, can spray from beyond the arc, and locks down on the perimeter. While not a particularly high-volume shooter, he has made at least one 3-pointer per game in each of his four collegiate seasons. Eady is a career 38.7 percent from deep on over 300 total attempts. He was also named to the Summit League’s All-Defense team last season. He should fit like a glove with Coach McCasland and the returning core.
Additionally, Eady is tremendously experienced. He already has 123 games and 90 starts under his belt at the collegiate level. Pairing him with Tylor Perry and Rubin Jones in the backcourt not only means a very talented trio taking the court in Denton but also one full of well-seasoned performers. North Texas should be right in the thick of the C-USA race along with UAB and Western Kentucky this season.
Dylan Penn, Vermont
Vermont reached the NCAA Tournament this past season but is entering a transition phase. Star players Ryan Davis and Ben Shungu have graduated, leaving a sizable void for the America East’s top program. Thankfully, though, the Catamounts were able to secure Bellarmine transfer Dylan Penn in hopes of continuing their regular-season conference title streak. Head coach John Becker’s group has won the America East six straight times.
Bellarmine transitioned to Division-I a couple of years ago, and Penn instantly proved capable of contributing at this level. After their transition, the 6-3 guard from Evansville, Ind., started 54 of 55 games for the Knights. While not much of a 3-point shooter, he is a dynamic creator who gets to his spots inside the arc and creates for others. A two-time All-ASUN performer, Penn averaged 16.6 points and 5.0 assists per game this past season.
His efficiency inside the arc, coupled with his self-creation as evidenced by his unassisted scoring rate, was impressive:
Penn is elite in the intermediate as well as at the rim. He is a big-time player with a 31.5 percent assist rate in addition to his high-efficiency, self-created scoring.
Penn was also named the ASUN Tournament MVP last season. Due to the NCAA’s transitioning rules, though, the Knights were ineligible for the Big Dance despite winning the conference tournament. Penn will now have that chance to compete to play on the college sport’s biggest stage as one of Vermont’s top players. Shungu is leaving some pretty big shoes to fill in the Catamounts’ backcourt, but Penn is a big-time player.
Souley Boum, Xavier
Sean Miller returned to Xavier this offseason after a brief hiatus from coaching following his firing from Arizona. The three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year inherited a talent-rich roster but one that lost Paul Scruggs and Nate Johnson to graduation. The frontcourt feels set with Colby Jones, Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle but needed a scoring punch from the backcourt. Enter UTEP transfer Souley Boum, who attracted attention from a wide array of high-majors before inking with Xavier.
Boum, 6-3, is an experienced bucket-getter with 122 collegiate games under his belt. He began his career at San Francisco before spending the last three seasons at UTEP. He was twice an All-CUSA selection with the Miners, averaging 19.3 points per game over those campaigns on 37.7 percent shooting from three. Boum’s scoring and 3-point shooting will not offset the departures of Scruggs and Johnson, but those traits will help.
He also brings some solid playmaking chops to the table. If asked to fill lead guard duties for stretches following Dwon Odom’s transfer to Georgia State, Boum has that capability. Coach Miller has reinvigorated a proud program’s fanbase after Xavier missed four straight NCAA Tournaments under Travis Steele. The Musketeers will receive some preseason Top 25 votes.
Zeb Jackson, VCU
A former top-100 recruit, Zeb Jackson committed initially to head coach John Beilein at Michigan. However, he never played under Beilein at the collegiate level, and instead played sparingly under Juwan Howard. Jackson played just 120 total minutes over two years with the Wolverines before entering the transfer portal and garnering high-major interest. VCU is one of the most consistent programs outside of the high-major conferences and figures to again be in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid this season.
Jackson was seen as a tweener-guard out of high school, known more for his scoring but lacking size. The lefty is now listed at 6-5, though, and should slide nicely into the Rams’ wing rotation next season. Ace Baldwin is the heart and soul of VCU hoops right now with his tenacious defense and scoring ability, while Jayden Nunn is coming off an A10 All-Freshman season. Jackson should fit nicely alongside them in a three-guard lineup. Jackson brings perimeter shooting, ball-handling, and good length to the backcourt.
Jackson is one of two former Michigan players transferring to VCU this offseason. Frontcourt addition Brandon Johns is the other. The Rams did a nice job adding to a preexisting core that includes Baldwin, Nunn and Jamir Watkins. They will be a tremendously athletic unit that should again thrive defensively. If a change of scenery is what Jackson needed to succeed, he will add a missing dimension offensively.
Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest
Alondes Williams was a superstar for Wake Forest last season. While the Oklahoma transfer could not take the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Tournament, he led Wake to 25 victories while winning ACC Player of the Year. Following his departure, head coach Steve Forbes had a big hole to fill in his backcourt. So, why not try for another proven high-major guard? Florida transfer Tyree Appleby likely won’t be able to fill Williams’ large shoes, but he has succeeded at every stop in his college career.
Appleby began his career at Cleveland State, notching double-digit points per game in both of his seasons and being named All-Horizon once. After sitting out the 2019-20 season due to transfer rules, he posted back-to-back strong seasons with Florida. Appleby started 44 of 59 games for the Gators while averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 assists per contest. He is a career 35.5 percent 3-point shooter and made 193-of-230 (83.9 percent) free throws with UF.
Appleby is remarkably quick with the ball and attacks the basket relentlessly. His free-throw rate at Florida was particularly impressive, as was his efficiency on those attempts. Next season, he will pair with Daivien Williamson and fellow transfer addition Jao Ituka in Wake Forest’s backcourt. Given Appleby’s track record of contributions at the high-major level, he is a solid addition to the Demon Deacons.
Andre Kelly, UC Santa Barbara
It’s not often that a mid-major can land an experienced double-digit high-major scorer via the transfer portal. Yet, that is precisely what UC Santa Barbara was able to do with California transfer Andre Kelly. The in-state product is coming off consecutive double-digit scoring seasons with the Golden Bears and has been a steady contributor throughout his career. Kelly played in 113 total games with Cal, starting 73 times and posting 11 total double-doubles.
He brings size to the frontcourt at 6-8 and just posted his best career season. Kelly averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest while finishing on 60.7 percent of his field goals. He is a non-threat from beyond the arc but does his damage nicely inside the arc. He should help fill the void departed by star player Amadou Sow next season in the frontcourt.
Kelly’s addition up front is enormous given what UCSB already has returning in the backcourt. Rising sophomore guard Ajay Mitchell should be one of the team’s top players after posting 11.6 points and 3.7 assists per game as a freshman. The Gauchos also bring back Ajare Sanni, Josh Pierre-Louis and Calvin Wishart, among others. With Kelly in tow, UCSB should be among the Big West contenders.
Not enough people are talking about how good Kelly will be at this level.
Neal Quinn, Richmond
I pegged Richmond as one of my “winners” of the transfer portal mainly due to how their new arrivals should fit in their system. As much as Jason Roche’s floor-spacing will aid the Spiders’ offense over the next few years, their most underrated addition was Lafayette transfer Neal Quinn. Head coach Chris Mooney’s Princeton-inspired offense maximized Grant Golden’s versatile offensive skill set over the past few years, and Quinn appears to be the perfect heir to that role. He brings size to the frontcourt as a true 7-footer and is an excellent passer.
Replacing Golden, a three-time All-A10 selection, will not be easy. However, Quinn is similarly skilled with excellent vision and the ability to finish around the rim offensively. He was named an All-Patriot performer last season while averaging 14.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
Richmond is losing a lot of talent this offseason, and that could lead to a step back in terms of success, but Quinn should fit like a glove within the offensive scheme. Quinn also posted the 153rd-best block rate in the country last season, so he can add a degree of rim-protection on the other end of the floor.
Richmond added a solid transfer class that also includes Wofford’s Isaiah Bigelow. If the Spiders are going to be successful again, fans will likely get used to the transfer connection of a Quinn pass leading to a Roche 3-pointer.
Jaren Holmes, Iowa State
Iowa State has been among the most discussed programs surrounding the transfer portal this year. The Cyclones experienced a major blow with Tyrese Hunter departing but have otherwise done a tremendous job scooping up talent from other programs. They also remain heavily in the mix for Northern Iowa transfer AJ Green, so head coach TJ Otzelberger might not be done yet. ISU’s transfer class includes frontcourt upgrades, most notably elite shot-blockers Hason Ward (VCU) and Osun Osunniyi (St. Bonaventure).
Osunniyi is the biggest name committed, but his continued teammate is the most underrated addition for the Cyclones. Jaren Holmes is also making his way to Ames via St. Bonaventure, and he should be among the team’s leading scorers next season. The 6-4 guard averaged 13.1 points per game over his three seasons with the Bonnies. While his 3-point shot dipped this past year, he shot better than 38 percent in each of the previous two campaigns:
A collegiate veteran with 78 games (77 starts) under his belt, Holmes is a much-needed addition for Iowa State with his three-level scoring and leadership.
The Cyclones boasted the country’s fifth-best adjusted defensive efficiency rating last season. While losing Hunter will impact their point-of-attack defense, the Cyclones still bring back Gabe Kalscheur as a wing stopper and are loaded with rim-protectors. They should remain an excellent defensive team, and Holmes will add a scoring punch. If they can land Green, who is also considering the NBA and Duke, in the coming weeks, they will be a team to watch on the national scale.
Al-Amir Dawes, Seton Hall
Seton Hall experienced a change in leadership this offseason, transitioning to Shaheen Holloway as the new head coach following Kevin Willard’s departure. Previously of St. Peter’s, Coach Holloway is returning to where he played college ball and needed to overcome the Pirates losing their two leading scorers from last season. Thankfully, he traversed the transfer portal for several vital additions. The Davis Bros., for instance, could easily crack this list as underrated commits.
The transfer commitment that perhaps flew most under the radar, though, was Al-Amir Dawes from Clemson. Dawes lived up to his four-star billing out of high school with three strong seasons as a member of the Tigers. He started 66 of 88 games while contributing scoring, shooting and defense. He is a career 37.2 percent 3-point shooter on 5.4 attempts per game and has also connected on over 80 percent of his free-throw attempts. Dawes posted a career-high 11.3 points per game last season.
Rising junior guard Kadary Richmond, 6-5, has long been seen as the next star for Seton Hall. Adding Dawes to the mix gives Richmond a running mate in the backcourt, and both of them should average double-figures in the scoring column. The Pirates will need to hang their hat on the defensive end in 2022-23, and Dawes will aid offensively for a team lacking proven scorers.
Khristian Lander, Western Kentucky
According to EvanMiya’s transfer database, only eight former five-star recruits have entered the portal this year. Four of those are uncommitted, while three others remained at the high-major level. Indiana transfer Khristian Lander is the other, and he recently inked his commitment to play for Western Kentucky. The 6-2 lead guard from Evansville, Ind., reclassified to enter college a year early and then played sparingly over the past two seasons with the Hoosiers. He logged 377 total minutes with the program before transferring.
Lander still boasts athletic burst that made him such a highly rated recruit. He is a smooth operator with a tremendous first step that should allow him to thrive. If his perimeter jumper improves more consistently, that would be a considerable development for his game. Perhaps all it will take is a change of scenery for him to burst onto the scene and finish closer to the high bar that comes with a five-star rating. His athleticism should shine in the C-USA:
Western Kentucky also brought back Jairus Hamilton and Jamarion Sharp from its existing core, and added Dontaie Allen from Kentucky via the transfer portal. Head coach Rick Stansberry once again proved his ability to land high-level talent. The Hilltoppers should be one of the top contenders in a very strong Conference USA that also features UAB and North Texas this year.
Ryan Larson, College of Charleston
Ryan Larson is a mid-major-to-mid-major transfer with numbers that do not jump off the computer screen. He averaged just 8.7 points and 3.6 assists per game as a senior at Wofford this past season. Looking beyond the box score, though, he is a reliable playmaking point guard with loads of experience. The 6-1 guard has already played in 120 career games, starting 82 times. He is also a career 37.3 percent 3-point shooter with a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his last two seasons.
College of Charleston posted a 17-15 (8-10 CAA) record in the first season of the Pat Kelsey era while experiencing a radical shift in the style of play. The Cougars rated in the bottom 100 for adjusted tempo in each of the prior nine seasons before jumping to the second-fastest tempo in the country last year. The schematic change also contributed to rating 320th in turnover rate, coughing up over one-fifth of their possessions.
Larson will need to adjust to the faster tempo at CofC, but he is the likely starter at point guard next season. He will pair with rising sophomore Reyne Smith, a lights-out shooter from Australia. Larson’s playmaking should create looks for Smith, and he can also bury the open jumper when left alone. Coach Kelsey’s two NCAA Tournament teams at Winthrop shot better than 35 percent from three; Larson and Smith will help CoC become a formidable shooting team.