Transfers This Offseason That Will Have the Biggest Impact in 2016
College basketball teams that have the patience to wait for a transfer to become eligible can see their investment pay off in a big way. Coaches wooing this summer's pseudo-free agents would like nothing better than to find this year’s answer to Rodney Hood or DeAndre Kane—even if they have to wait until 2015-16 to find out if they've succeeded.
One player with the potential to make that kind of a splash is following Hood’s lead by transferring to Duke. Rice forward Sean Obi is even less recognizable a name than Hood was when he left Mississippi State, but he could be just as valuable to the Blue Devils’ frontcourt two seasons from now.
Read on for more on Obi’s prospects in Durham, along with nine more players who should come back with a bang in their new (sometimes yet-to-be-determined) homes. Note that some transfers on this list are applying for NCAA waivers to play in 2014-15, but in the absence of an official decision, the default assumption is that they’ll sit out a year.
10. Trevor Thompson, Ohio State
Trevor Thompson didn’t see enough action at Virginia Tech to show much more than potential. Not surprisingly, the 6’11” freshman did that in spades.
Thompson will benefit immensely from his year off the court by getting a chance to add muscle to his 210-pound frame, the better to bang with Big Ten forwards as a Buckeye.
He’s still learning to get the most out of his length, but he’s already shown promise as a rebounder as well as an interior scoring option.
9. Damyean Dotson, Unknown
Damyean Dotson is the best of the three former Oregon players dismissed from the team following allegations of sexual assault.
As none of the trio has been charged with a crime, it seems likely that (as ESPN suggests) they’ll be looking to transfer to other teams.
There’s certainly precedent for players under similar clouds returning to on-court success, including Michael Dixon Jr. at Memphis and Dez Wells at Maryland.
Although Dotson’s numbers declined upon Joseph Young’s arrival in Eugene, the 6’5” junior-to-be is an aggressive scorer and gritty perimeter rebounder. He could fill a niche similar to the one Earnest Ross occupied at Missouri over the last two seasons.
8. Robert Carter Jr., Unknown
One of the toughest things to recruit in college basketball is low-post power, because so few high schoolers have the bulk for Division I lanes.
The many coaches seeking an improvement in that department would do well to take a look at Robert Carter Jr., who’s been proving his own effectiveness as an interior brawler for two seasons against fearsome ACC competition.
In 2013-14, the Georgia Tech sophomore averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a game for a fairly hapless 16-17 team, though he did miss some time with a torn meniscus.
Expect the 6’8”, 247-pounder to be very popular with programs hoping to add some of the same magic that helped Tennessee’s bulldozer frontcourt earn a surprise Sweet 16 trip.
7. Anthony Hickey, Unknown
Not many basketball players can make a virtue out of being the smallest man on the floor, but 5’11” Anthony Hickey (late of LSU) knows how to make the most of his stature.
Just ask 6’6” Andrew Harrison, against whose Kentucky squad Hickey piled up seven steals in three games last season, many by getting under the dribble of taller foes.
In addition to his defensive prowess, the senior-to-be is an improving three-point option who shot a career-best .344 from deep in 2013-14.
He’s never put up great numbers when it comes to assist totals, but he has three seasons of starting experience and is coming off a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.85.
6. Tyler Lewis, Butler
It’s not supposed to work like this for McDonald’s All-Americans.
First, Tyler Lewis spent his freshman year at N.C. State stuck on the bench behind entrenched point guard Lorenzo Brown. Then, he battled for minutes throughout 2013-14 as freshman Cat Barber ate into the sophomore’s ball-handling responsibilities.
Now, the sure-handed distributor is headed to Butler, where he’s sure to find a healthy supply of shooters to feed, especially if Kellen Dunham sticks around for his senior season.
He’ll also finally get to play for a coach with point guard experience. Having missed out on Sidney Lowe, who recruited him for the Wolfpack but resigned before he arrived, he’ll be playing for former Butler Bulldogs point guard Brandon Miller in Indianapolis.
5. Naadir Tharpe, Unknown
There’s no position where experience is more valuable than it is at point guard, where the ability to calm a rattled team or read a shifting defense counts for just as much as a smooth jump shot.
That’s a big reason that some team in Massachusetts is going to be very lucky to land Naadir Tharpe for his final college season. Tharpe, a Worcester native, is transferring to be closer to his ailing daughter after three seasons at Kansas.
He’s played in three straight NCAA tournaments, including a sensational effort against Player of the Year Trey Burke in a 2013 loss to Michigan.
He's also coming off career bests of 5.0 assists per game and .377 three-point shooting for the eternal Big 12 champs.
4. John Egbunu, Florida
Like home run numbers in a pitcher’s park, scoring totals from recent South Florida teams underreport the offensive talents of the players involved.
Correcting for Stan Heath’s slowdown system, the 7.4 points per game that John Egbunu averaged as a freshman would almost certainly have translated to double digits on a more aggressive team.
Florida coach Billy Donovan will get the chance to find out, as he coaxed the massive center to make a short trip north from Tampa following Heath’s firing.
With a 6’10”, 249-pound build and the defensive training of a year at USF, he’ll be a major addition to the Gators’ front line, even if he doesn’t manage to hone his raw offensive game by the time 2015-16 rolls around.
3. Eron Harris, Unknown
It’s a truism of college hoops that most players make their biggest developmental leaps between their freshman and sophomore years.
Eron Harris is the kind of sophomore who inspired that bromide, having added more than seven points per game to his scoring average in his second season at West Virginia.
The 6'3" marksman reportedly wants to play closer to his Indianapolis home, via Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com, and whichever school lands him will get a serious offensive weapon.
Anybody who could average 17.2 points per game (and shoot .422 from beyond the arc) in last year’s loaded Big 12 is going to put points on the scoreboard wherever he opts to play.
2. Sean Obi, Duke
The Rice Owls lost 14 of their 16 Conference USA games last season, which makes it a good bet that Obi was the only member of that roster looking for tougher competition.
After excelling as a big freshman in a small pond, Obi is heading east to give Duke a rare low-post bruiser.
Mike Krzyzewski has traditionally recruited for mobility rather than muscle up front, but there’s no mistaking what he’s going to get from the 6’9”, 265-pound Nigerian.
He needs work as a shooter—.544 from the foul line, compared to a dunk-heavy field-goal percentage of .591—but his 9.3 boards per game did account for more than a quarter of all the rebounds Rice collected last season.
1. TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma
The Houston Cougars have lost a mountain of talent in the wake of coach James Dickey’s resignation, none of it more productive than TaShawn Thomas.
The 6’8”, 240-pound power forward has made a legitimate run at averaging a double-double in each of his three collegiate seasons, and he’s blocked better than two shots a night in two of those.
Thomas, a Texas native, was barred from transferring to an in-state rival but opted to stay relatively close to home by joining Oklahoma.
The young Sooners are heavy on backcourt talent, and unless the likes of Jordan Woodard or Buddy Hield make a surprise jump to the NBA, Thomas will balance out a high-powered roster for his final collegiate season.