Ranking the best available men’s college basketball transfers, high school recruits: Malachi Smith joins top 10

It’s free-agency season in college basketball.

Well, not technically. But in the age of the free one-time transfer (as well as graduate transfers), the offseason has become a time for teams to radically rebuild their rosters. Nearly 1,700 players entered the transfer portal last year, and while those numbers might have been boosted by the pandemic, we can expect another busy spring and summer of player movement.

The Athletic is here to help you keep up with all of the transactions. We’re ranking the top uncommitted transfers and high school prospects, and we’ll constantly update this list as players come on and off the board. College players here are listed by the class in which they’ll participate in the 2022-23 season. A good rule of thumb to remember with the portal: guards are always easier to find than bigs.

As players commit, we’re updating this list with a ranking of the best fits. Nijel Pack to Miami, and Kendric Davis to Memphis lead the list right now.

Let’s go portaling (and crootin’):

1. Tyrese Hunter | 6-0 guard | sophomore | Iowa State

This one is a surprise. Hunter was the starting point guard on a Sweet 16 team and the foundational piece for Iowa State to build around. He is arguably the best two-way guard on the market and one of the best returning point guards in college hoops. The Big 12 was an old man’s league, and only three freshmen were real contributors this year: Hunter and Baylor’s two wings who are off to the NBA. Hunter was one of the best defensive point guards in the league and flashed plenty of upside on the offensive end. He needs to find consistency in his jumper — he shot 27.4 percent from 3 — but there’s hope there, especially after making 7-of-11 3s in tourney win over LSU. He’s further along as a driver and passer. His ability to read a defense and deliver passes most don’t see is impressive. Put him with a good roller and surround him with shooters, and his assist numbers could skyrocket. He averaged 4.9 on a bad shooting team. He’s also got some burst with the ball in his hands. You can plug him in and make him the starter on just about any team in college basketball.

2. Kenneth Lofton Jr. | 6-7 center | junior | Louisiana Tech

This is a big one. Lofton is one of the most productive players in college basketball, a big-bodied double-double machine that dominates the glass on both ends of the floor and finishes on the interior with smart touch. One of those guys that have seemingly been questioned at every single level going back to high school due to his unusually hefty frame, the results are undeniable. He was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2021 before going to play with the gold medal-winning FIBA U19 team last summer, where he was basically the team’s third-most productive player behind future top-five picks Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey. He returned to Louisiana Tech this year and continued to carve out his position on the court against basically anyone he wanted, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds, showcasing dramatic improvement as an offensive hub by passing at a high level and creating opportunities for his teammates. He’s an unconventional player as a 6-foot-7, 275-pound center, and with that comes downsides. He’s a mess in defensive coverages out in space, and he needs to keep working on his conditioning in order to stay on the court. But Lofton should be expected to be one of the most productive players in the country for each of the next three years he has eligibility. I’d expect most schools to reach out. Originally from Port Arthur, Texas, the best stylistic fit within that area would be Houston — about a two-hour drive from Port Arthur — given its emphasis on crashing the offensive glass and playing with physicality.

Kenneth Lofton Jr. has a unique frame and a whole lot of game. (Jerome Miron / USA Today)

3. Baylor Scheierman | 6-6 forward | senior | South Dakota State

Scheierman was a point forward for the Jackrabbits and is one of the most skilled players in the country. He’s a knockdown shooter with deep range. He shot 46.9 percent from 3 and made 50 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities, according to Synergy. He can really handle and pass it and has a good understanding of how to use his body and change of speeds to get where he wants on the floor. He’s also excellent out of ball screens, freeing himself or setting up a teammate. His foot speed — or lack thereof — is a slight concern when making the leap to the high-major level, where he should be expected to land. But he can make up for it with his understanding of how to get shots and craftiness. He showed he could score against high-major athletes in SDSU’s NCAA Tournament loss to Providence when Scheierman went for 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. He had a one-handed, wrong-footed righty scoop off the glass in that game that illustrated how he’s going to be able to score no matter the level. There’s some similarities to Brady Manek in that his size, range and ability to get his shot off quickly is extremely valuable to any offense. Scheierman is a Manek-like shooter but with more playmaking in his tool bag. He may struggle to keep quicker guys in front of him, but his offense and shooting is good enough to not worry about that too much. He’s listed at 6-6 but looks taller. He’ll likely play the four defensively, and offensively, he should go somewhere that has a vision for taking advantage of his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, similar to what he was able to do at South Dakota State.

4. AJ Green | 6-4 guard | senior | Northern Iowa

Green is one of the most skilled guards in the country and built to score. He can get his jumper off in a phone booth. He needs little time or space and can shoot it off the bounce or catch with accuracy. He knows how to use a ball screen and change speeds, allowing him to get to his spots to score. He also can make all the passes and reads out of ball screens. He’s got an assortment of finishes with either hand and is tricky with fakes, allowing him to get to the line frequently, where he’s a career 90 percent foul shooter. The expectation is that he’ll join his father Kyle Green at Iowa State. The elder Green joined T.J. Otzelberger’s staff a year ago. He’d slide right into the Izaiah Brockington role as the primary scorer. He also has the passing and ball handling skills to play point guard, so he could help eat up some of the minutes of the gaping hole left by Tyrese Hunter’s departure. Green still has two years of eligibility remaining because of a hip injury that forced him to sit after three games during the 2020-21 season. Northern Iowa went 28-8 in the Missouri Valley in 2020 and 2022 and just 7-11 without him in 2021. Assuming he doesn’t stay in the NBA Draft — he’s also testing the waters — he’ll be a huge addition wherever he lands, but it’d be surprising if he leaves the state.

5. Julian Phillips | 6-8 forward | HS senior | Link Academy (Branson, Mo.)

Phillips is a long, lanky, 6-foot-8 combo forward who profiles really well for the next couple of levels. According to the 247Sports Composite, he is the top recruit available, and I get why that’s the case. He’s an athletic wing who can drive in a straight line and finish at the rim, but more than that we’re fans of his jumper. Phillips has a clean shot that gets excellent rotation coming out of his hand. He hit 40 percent of his 3-point attempts on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit last year off the catch, as well as 40.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point shots at Link Academy this past year, per Synergy. He was originally committed to LSU, but decommitted following LSU firing Wade. He’s seen by NBA scouts as a potential one-and-done next year if things really go to plan given his tools and shooting, although certainly not a surefire one given that his frame still needs a bit of work and he has to work on his comfort level off of the bounce. Finding the right landing spot will be key. Phillips is raw enough outside of his shooting that his first year could go very right, or it could result in him being more of just a piece that develops into a high-level collegiate player.

6. Malachi Smith | 6-4 guard | senior | Chattanooga

The Southern Conference Player of the Year looks like a guy who should have no issue playing at the high-major level on either end of the floor. This is a league that’s produced some good players in the ACC recently, most notably Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma. Smith is a big, physical guard built to score who also excels on the defensive end. He averaged 19.9 points, 3.0 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game this year for Chattanooga, which nearly upset Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. Smith is a good spot-up shooter — 40.7 percent from 3 — and does a lot of his work off the bounce. He’s tough with a live dribble. He drives with force and is a good finisher at the basket. He’s also a good cutter and Chattanooga often played through him in the post as well. Smith started his career at Wright State and moved on after one year, then sat out a season at Chattanooga. He still has two seasons of eligibility left. He has also put his name in the NBA Draft. Surely former Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris will try to bring in his former star at South Carolina, but he’ll likely have some competition. Smith can play either guard spot and an efficient scorer like him with a game that looks like it will translate should generate a lot of interest from high-majors.

7. Johni Broome | 6-10 center | junior | Morehead State

Broome is one of the best long-term prospects coming from the the mid-major level in the portal. He still has three years of eligibility left and would be a valuable defensive anchor. He averaged a double-double (16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds) and was one of the nation’s top shot-blockers, averaging 3.9 blocks per game and ranking seventh nationally in block rate, per KenPom. He has great instincts as a shot-blocker. He doesn’t bite on fakes, stays down and can block shots with either hand. That allows him to stay out of foul trouble. He committed only 3.4 fouls per 40 minutes this season and fouled out of only one game in two years. Broome is also intriguing on the offensive end. He’s skilled enough to short roll and make a mid-range jumper or attack from that area of the floor. He moves well for his size and is more comfortable putting the ball on the floor than most centers. Morehead State posted him up off the block a lot, and he’s good at getting to his spots off dribble-down moves. He’s a lefty who can score over his right should and also has the Dirk Nowitzki one-footed jumper in his arsenal.

Terrence Shannon Jr. will test the NBA Draft waters as well as explore a transfer from Texas Tech. (Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

8. Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6-6 wing | senior | Texas Tech

A three-year player at Texas Tech, Shannon entered the portal within 24 hours of the Red Raiders’ season ending in the Sweet 16 to Duke. It’s worth noting that he has said he is considering a return to Texas Tech. Also note: if Shannon declares for the draft, he exhausts his collegiate eligibility. So the early portal entrance was likely a strategic move on his part to get a full examination of the options at his disposal. A draft prospect in 2021 who chose to return to school despite real NBA interest, Shannon never took the next step this season. He started a majority of the Red Raiders games and improved his shooting numbers, but he was merely a piece of the Tech puzzle, not a standout, All-Big-12 quality player. Shannon is undeniably the best athlete in the portal, an explosive 6-foot-6 leaper with a great first step. But he’s more of just a solid defender than a great one, as his focus seems to waver at times. He’s gotten better playing off the catch because his shooting has improved, and he can attack in a straight line off the bounce. But we see him more as a starting-quality high-major player as opposed to a star.

9. Antoine Davis | 6-1 guard | graduate | Detroit Mercy

His dad has let him rock for four years, basically shooting it anytime he could see the rim. He averaged 24.6 points and 4.4 assists for his career with usage rates north of 34 percent in three of four seasons. He’s likely looking to make the jump to a higher level, and so with that will come some adjustments. But in some ways the game could get easier for him on a better team. He’s had to create his own offense with defenses geared to stop him. That can be exhausting, and on top of the offensive demands, he rarely ever went off the floor, averaging 37.3 minutes. He was originally committed to Houston out of high school, and let’s say as a thought exercise, he lands back with the Coogs. Definitely possible considering the connection and chance to play on a bigger stage. Now he’d be on a team where there are a lot of other options and guys who can set him up. He shot 45.9 percent this season on catch-and-shoot shots, per Synergy, and that’s an impressive number considering he often didn’t have much space. On a really good team, he’d get much better catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s also got some wiggle to him and can create his own shot. With better teammates and more space to work out of, he’d have more options when he shakes his man. It’s going to take a little rewiring. There will be more demands on him to defend. He’s going to generate plenty of interest, because the man is an elite shooter.

10. Ricky Council | 6-6 wing | sophomore | Wichita State

Council is one of the most athletic players in the country and an AAC coach called him the best NBA prospect in that league this past season. He can fly in an open court and finish above the rim. He’s also got some shiftiness to him and can get his own shot off the bounce. He’s a little wild sometimes and takes some questionable shots, but when he’s on, he can really score. He averaged 12.0 points in 26.6 minutes per game in a Wichita State offense that was a train wreck this season. He’s a capable shooter, but that’s where he needs the most work. His mechanics are not consistent and he has some really bad misses. But plenty of coaches are going to look past that because of everything he can do athletically. He can defend, guard multiple positions, rebound and slash. It’s hard to find a wing with his size and explosiveness, and that’s why a lot of heavy hitters are going to be coming after him. Put him in a stable environment and get him to play within a structure and he might just hit big-time. The challenge on his end will be playing a smarter game.

11. Courtney Ramey | 6-3 guard | graduate | Texas

Ramey is just an easy fit into any backcourt as an absolutely terrific 3-and-D player who profiles exceedingly well next to a creative guard. Ramey locked up some of the Big 12’s best players this season for Texas, including potential Kansas lottery pick Ochai Agbaji. On top of that, he has hit 37 percent of his 3s over the course of his time in college, and has shown the occasional ability to play some point because he’s a reliable decision-maker (even if he’s not necessarily the most natural playmaker or ballhandler). A third-team All-Big 12 selection in 2021, Ramey isn’t officially in the portal yet, but he has announced through his father’s Twitter account that he’ll be entering the 2022 NBA Draft as well as exploring his transfer options. If that’s the case, we would anticipate him being highly sought after as a solid power conference starter who can reliably take tough assignments and make shots. He’s the kind of scalable player to any situation who helps teams win games.

12. Grant Sherfield | 6-2 guard | senior | Nevada

Sherfield is among the most productive guards to have hit the portal this year, coming off of a season of having averaged 19 points, six assists and four rebounds. He was the only player in college basketball to average at least 19 points and five assists last season. Pretty good! Oh, and by the way, that’s the second-straight year that he’s done it. He’s a dynamic offensive creator who can buzz in and out of the lane out of ball-screens with ease and make high-level passing reads. He’s also a legitimate three-level scorer. He can drive all the way to the rim to finish reasonably well (or get fouled), he has a strong floater game, and he can pull up with reasonable efficiency from 17 feet and out. He hit his pull-ups at a 43.1 effective field goal percentage, a solid number for a primary ballhandler who takes exceedingly difficult attempts. Any team looking for an immediate starting guard and an infusion of offense will do a deep dive on Sherfield. I’d expect he ends up at one of the bigger schools in the country.

13. Leonard Miller | 6-10 wing | post-grad | Fort Erie International

Miller is considered the best prospect remaining in Canada, a 6-foot-10 playmaker who has high-major schools chasing after him due to the upside he has as a scorer. It’s worth noting that he’s draft-eligible this year, but has recently announced a list of 10 options he’s still considering, including the G League Ignite and Overtime Elite. On the college front, it’s a who’s who of interesting potential landing spots, from Gonzaga, Kentucky, Auburn and Kansas down to TCU, where his brother Emmanuel is a starting forward. He has kind of a unique game, as he’s a legit creator off of the bounce with real attacking capabilities at 6-foot-10. There really aren’t many guys with this level of size and are this coordinated and capable in that regard. He also has a pretty smooth shot, although one that he’ll need to keep working through as he moves up to playing at higher levels of athleticism and speed. He’s not a crazy athlete in terms of explosiveness, but his balance and fluidity are very high level. He’s a genuine high-major talent who could start very quickly, but there is some real uncertainty as NBA teams and coaches try to figure out his game, as he just utterly dominates the talent level he currently plays at due to his length and skill. The ceiling makes him worthy of a top-10 spot on this list, though. He’s extremely gifted and has potential to be a 15-point-per-game scorer next year in the right collegiate situation.

14. Efe Abogidi | 6-10 forward | junior | Washington State

It’s tough to find forwards with two-way upside like this. Abogidi, originally from Nigeria by way of the Australian NBA Global Academy, burst onto the scene as a breakout freshman in 2021, averaging nine points and seven rebounds per game. But more than that, it was his combination of shooting and shot-blocking that caught scouts’ eyes. Abogidi blocked 1.3 shots in his first year while hitting a 3 every other game, not a normal skill set. This season, Abogidi’s minutes were a bit more hit or miss than in that first season — in part due to a preseason knee injury that forced him to miss the entire preseason and held him back throughout portions of the season — but his close to the year showcased some real growth that will make him a highly sought-after player in the portal. He averaged 11 points, seven rebounds, 1.3 steals and over two blocks per game while shooting 52/36/82 in his last 11 games. He has tremendous defensive upside in the right situation that allows him to roam a bit around the rim and be a weak-side terror with his 7-foot-4 wingspan. However, the knees remain a factor. Abogidi suffered a very serious knee injury — tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus — in 2017 that actually held him out for almost two years as he underwent three surgeries. Teams that recruit Abogidi should be certain to have a backup option. But as long as they have that infrastructure in place, he’s a no-brainer add across the country as a big man that helps you win games on both ends of the court.

15. K.J. Williams | 6-10 big | graduate | Murray State

The Ohio Valley Player of the Year this past season, Williams joined wing Tevin Brown and guard Justice Hill to form the nucleus of a 31-3 Murray State team that went to the Round of 32. Given the accolades, though, Williams was the centerpiece. He is an inside-out big who can punish smaller players on the block just as easily as he can pick-and-pop from distance. He hit just 30.4 percent from 3 this year, but over his career he’s made 35 percent of his 219 attempts. Because of that inside-out skill, he’s a fit almost anywhere at the collegiate level. He’s definitely more offense-first than defense, but he averaged 18 points and eight rebounds and is good enough on offense and versatile enough to play at the high-major level as a difference-maker. His coach at Murray State, Matt McMahon, is now the LSU head coach, so that could be a real fit.

16. Souley Boum | 6-3 guard | senior | UTEP

Boum should generate some high-major interest, much like former teammate Bryson Williams did a year ago. Boum was one of the best mid-major scorers in the country, averaging 19.8 points per game this season. He can shoot both off the bounce and catch, knocking down 36.8 percent from 3. He’s best when set up for open catch-and-shoot 3s, but he’s also effective in the mid-range and he has a floater game. Where he struggled was finishing at the rim — 40.7 percent in the half court, per Synergy — but he can get there. He’s slithery with a live dribble and effective working out of ball screens. He can play either guard spot, but he’s probably best suited at shooting guard.

17. Fardaws Aimaq | 6-11 center | graduate | Utah Valley

The most productive player in the portal, Aimaq was the 2021 WAC Player of the Year, and averaged nearly 19 points and 14 rebounds for Utah Valley this season on his way to being named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. He’s an enormous presence inside and absolutely crushes the glass at the WAC level. Offensively, Utah Valley loved to get him involved out top with dribble handoffs, using him to activate his guards on the move. They’d roll him into post-ups and get him the ball throw it up off of the offensive glass. The main issue with Aimaq, though, is his touch. He only made 42 percent of his post-up attempts, per Synergy, despite a significant size advantage in the WAC. Additionally, he made just 61 percent of his shots around the basket in non-post settings. The worry here is that he may smoke a few too many lay-ups at the high-major level, while also getting hit away from the basket defensively because his foot-speed isn’t awesome. He’s a high-major starting center who will clean up the glass and probably average a double-double, but he’ll need to find the right situation in order to impact winning.

18. Emoni Bates | 6-9 wing | sophomore | Memphis

The highest-profile transfer in the country, Bates is one of the most hyped prospects to come through the college basketball system in a long time. He chose to attend Memphis a year early — he is not even draft eligible following his freshman season due to his age — in hopes of getting better development. Unfortunately, the season turned out disastrously and has ended in him departing. It is not unfair to say that Bates was just not ready for the collegiate level, and ended up being one of the most harmful players in the country to his team this past season. He was an inefficient scorer, didn’t make great reads in ball screens, and was completely out of his depth defensively in terms of making the right reads and rotations. Penny Hardaway played him at point guard at times, and the results were poor. Bates sat out games due to injury from late January until the NCAA Tournament started. In those games where Bates was out, Memphis was a clear top-10 team in the country by most metrics. In the games where Bates played prior to that, Memphis was ranked outside of the top-60, per Bart Torvik’s database.

You can’t put all of that at Bates’ feet, but he was a significant factor in the Tigers’ early struggles this year. Still, he’s an 18-year-old with some real shot-making prowess from distance and dexterity with the ball. The upside here is high if he’s willing to really come in, do the work, and improve upon some of the nuances of the game that he currently lacks right now. He needs to move without the ball well, lock in on his team defense and learn the right rotations, and become a team guy. If he’s willing to do that, he’s a top-five player in the portal. He could average over 17 points per game in the right spot with some development. He’s that skilled of a shot-maker. If teams find that this year didn’t necessarily work toward humbling him into understanding these factors, he’s probably not worth recruiting. This one is all about the terms Bates expects his transfer recruitment to be on. This is an incredibly important decision and offseason for Bates. He and those around him need to make the right decisions, or he runs the risk of setting himself up for a much more difficult professional pathway. Ranking him on something like this is going to be pretty foolhardy. Some coaches will likely just avoid the situation, whereas others will dive headfirst in and take a swing.

19. David Jones | 6-6 forward | junior | DePaul

Jones stuffs the stat sheet — 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game — and it’s fair to look at those numbers with a skeptical eye when a guy is on a bad team. But the on/off numbers for Jones suggest that he wasn’t the problem. The Blue Demons were plus eight per 100 possessions with him on the floor and got outscored by nine points per 100 possessions with him on the bench, per hooplens. There’s a lot to like about this lefty wing. The numbers suggest he’s just a so-so shooter — he made 35 3s at a 29.7 percent clip — but the shot looks better than the results. Jones is a well-rounded offensive player. He’s a really good passer with good vision when he puts the ball on the floor. He also has a good eye for cutters and makes timely passes. He’s not an explosive leaper, but he’s sturdy. You’re not going to knock him off his spots and he can finish through contact, either attacking off the bounce or with his back to the basket. Defensively he’s best when he can get his chest on his man and take away your legs. He’s also a good rebounder, his strength again helping him in that department. His ideal position at the college level might be as an undersized four. DePaul played him mostly at small forward, but he’s got all the tools to slide up a spot. He also has the skill set and intelligence to fit right in with a team that’s used to winning. There aren’t a lot of bad habits to eliminate. It’s not hard to envision him as a contributor on a winning team at the high-major level.

20. KC Ndefo | 6-7 forward | graduate | Saint Peter’s

The star of Saint Peter’s magical run to the Elite Eight as a 15-seed, Ndefo is one of the most dynamic defensive players in all of college basketball. He’s the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in the MAAC, and frankly should be a multi-time MAAC Player of the Year if defense was properly accounted for within awards like this. He’s an utterly outstanding player on that end, a twitchy, switchable perimeter defender as a 4 man. But more than that, he’s an elite rim protector despite being 6-foot-7. He’s unbelievable rotating over from the weak side and even swats some jumpers. Offensively, Ndefo does have some weaknesses. He’s not a great shooter. But he is a capable driver and he passes well as a secondary piece. He’s a no-brainer high-major starter, in my view — especially for a team that has a strong, floor-spacing 5 man. All you have to do is watch the way his game translated to playing against high-major players in the NCAA. It felt completely translatable. He should be among the more popular options in the portal for analytically-inclined teams that are willing to value the defensive end properly.

After a highly successful run at Charlotte, Jahmir Young could be heading the high-major route. (Brett Rojo / USA Today)

21. Jahmir Young | 6-1 guard | senior | Charlotte

Young has been an absolute killer, outstanding guard in Conference USA now for three years, a three-time all-league selection including back-to-back first team appearances. The smooth lefty can play both on or off ball, and generally makes good decisions while keeping control of the ball. He averaged a robust 19.6 points, six rebounds and four assists per game this year for Charlotte, and was the catalyst for everything they did. He’s versatile in that they’d run the occasional post-up for him, they’d back-cut him to get him open looks at the rim (where he has a terrific inside-hand finish), and they’d run him off of off-ball screening actions to get him loose for free — and that’s before we even get to the typical scoring guard arsenal that comes off of ball screens. He has great touch from the interior and from the line, but can get a bit wild on the move from behind the 3-point arc and needs to clean that up. There are also some defensive concerns here that he’ll have to work through at the point of attack. He’s a bit reminiscent of now-former Connecticut guard R.J. Cole. Cole made first-team All-Big East this past season as Connecticut’s lead, but did so shooting just 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3. He also plays better defense than Young. Basically, we’re projecting Young as a high-major starter, but maybe not quite an all-league guy.

22. Jermaine Couisnard | 6-4 wing | graduate | South Carolina

Essentially a three-year starter at South Carolina, Couisnard is an older, powerful 6-foot-4 wing who does a little bit of everything. He averaged 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. He’s a good driver and can make good reads, but was probably a bit overextended at South Carolina in terms of his responsibilities — sometimes initiating the offense. He takes 3-pointers at volume and has improved enough to where he’s passable and defenders should close out on him — a scheme that can actually generate open spot looks for him could see him spike up over 35 percent. He’s a physical defender. Basically, you can kind of sell yourself on Couisnard being a tough, do-it-all starting wing at the high-major level for good teams. Expect him to end up at a strong location.

23. Manny Bates | 6-11 center | senior | NC State

The best rim-protector in the portal has arrived. Bates is an enormous center with long arms who swats shots away from the rim with impunity. It’s not an accident that NC State’s defense fell off of an entire cliff this season, as Bates was the linchpin holding things together inside. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game over his first two years in college, earning all-defense honors in the ACC in 2021. However, Bates missed this entire season after injuring his shoulder in the first minute of NC State’s first game of the season, and without him, the Wolfpack plummetted towards being the worst high-major defense in college hoops this season. Offensively, Bates keeps things simple, screening, rolling, rim-running, and offensive rebounding. He can’t create on his own, but a good point guard can get him up around the 10-point mark per game. I’d expect Bates to end up at a different high-major looking for a defensive boost on the interior, as there is a case he’ll be among the best returning to college basketball next season.

24. Antonio Reeves | 6-5 wing | senior | Illinois State

If you’re looking for scoring, scoring, and more scoring, Reeves might be the perfect player for you. He averaged 20.1 points per game in the Missouri Valley this year on his way to winning second-team all-conference honors as well as the league’s Most Improved Player award. Above all, he’s a pull-up maestro, capable of getting his shot from wherever on the floor at just about any time. He finished second in the conference behind Isiaih Mosley from Missouri State in scoring, hitting pull-up jumpers at a 51.4 effective field goal percentage, a very high number given his volume of shots. Among the 227 players nationally to take at least 100 pull-up jumpers, Reeves finished 19th in his efficiency in terms of making them, per Synergy. And yet, there’s a reason he only made second-team all-league despite those numbers. The rest of his game is a real work in progress. He has a long way to go as a passer and playmaker for others, and his defense leaves something to be desired. There is some question how scalable his game is to high-major situations where he’s just a piece of the puzzle. Still, my bet is a good high-major takes a shot on him and sees if those parts of his game can improve. The scoring is lethal enough to take such an informed bet.

25. Adam Miller | 6-3 guard | sophomore | LSU

A transfer last year from Illinois, Miller missed the entire season following an ACL tear in the preseason. It was a disastrous result for a very talented kid from the state of Illinois. He started for the Illini all year, but was essentially the team’s sixth-best player following the emergence of Andre Curbelo, another transfer this year who didn’t have an ideal season. Miller will be a wild card entering next season. In his first year at Illinois, we didn’t get to see the type of explosive scorer that he was in high school all that often by virtue of his being behind Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier in the pecking order. The idea for Miller is that he can be a pull-up artist, three-level scorer if he gets into the right situation and recovers from injury. His college career hasn’t gotten off to an ideal start, but he’ll still be highly sought after following a high four-star pedigree and a season of starting for a top-five team in the country during his first season. Miller would need a waiver to be eligible next season since he has already transferred, but the Wade situation and his injury give him a strong case for approval.

26. Emmanuel Akot | 6-8 point wing | senior | Boise State

It seems like this decision to hit the portal is more about keeping all of his options open. It was recently reported by Boise beat writer B.J. Rains that Akot will also declare for the draft, so it seems like this is entirely about seeing what the best option for him is next season across the board, be it professionally or in college. If he does decide to move on, teams will be getting a unique player. Akot’s numbers — 10 points, three rebounds, three assists with a below-average 51.1 true-shooting percentage — don’t blow you away, but he’s an extraordinarily versatile chess piece. He essentially ran the offense at the point this year for Boise State, allowing Marcus Shaver to stay off the ball and take advantage of his scoring abilities. There were times where Akot slid down to the 5 (and everywhere in between). He’s capable of defending all of these positions as well. Ultimately, Akot really struggles to elevate and finish, so his value offensively at a higher level than the Mountain West will be dependent upon him continuing to hit 39 percent from 3 this season. But any high-major looking for a versatile starter who can plug a lot of gaps, play on the ball occasionally, and defend at a high level could do worse than bringing in Akot essentially as a veteran, one-year plug-and-play starter. He could help a good team win some games as long as the jumper stays steady.

27. De’Vion Harmon | 6-2 guard | junior | Oregon

This will be the second time around in the transfer market for Harmon, a tough guard who started for two years at Oklahoma before deciding to move to the Pac-12. Playing next to Will Richardson and Jacob Young, he seemingly never got himself totally comfortable within the backcourt as the third member, and just didn’t have the kind of year that was anticipated. So he’ll now be subject to getting a waiver in order to play at his next stop immediately. But the team that gets Harmon will acquire a guy who can knock down shots off the catch, play reasonably well as a combo guard both on and off the ball, and defend both backcourt spots. He’s not going to kill you off the bounce and doesn’t put a ton of pressure on the rim, but Harmon is a genuine high-major starter that would fit best to a bigger point guard who can take on tougher assignments.

28. Landers Nolley | 6-7 wing | senior | Memphis

Nolley will be looking for success in his third stop, as he again hits the portal. Last season, Nolley played for Memphis and averaged about 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, but saved his best basketball for the latter part of the season when his role became a bit more clear with Emoni Bates out of the picture. Over a nine-game period after he got back from his knee injury in early February, he averaged 13 points while hitting more 3s and playing more efficient basketball. And of course, back in 2020, Nolley averaged 15.5 points for Virginia Tech on his way to All-Freshman honors in the ACC. Then last year, he was first-team All-AAC and won the NIT MVP award. So Nolley’s track record is much better than what this year indicated. He has enough of a past successful run to where it’s fully believable that he can be a difference-maker for someone out there, even if this year wasn’t his best.

29. Michael Jones | 6-5 wing | senior | Davidson

Jones is about as pure a floor-spacer as you’ll find in the portal, a sniper from distance who has a track record as strong as a shooter as anyone else available. A redshirt junior with two years of eligibility left, he’ll likely be looking for a new home because Davidson doesn’t have graduate programs at its school. He hit 42 percent from 3 this past season on five attempts per game, with many of those coming off of tough movement opportunities within Davidson’s offense. Overall, he posted 12 points, four rebounds and two assists for an NCAA Tournament team. He’s also not a bad passer and knows how to read the defense. He can attack a closeout occasionally and back-cut for wide-open looks at the rim, but mostly we’re talking about a 3-point gunner here who profiles well for any team looking for an influx of shooting. He’s originally from Minnesota, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him end up in the Big Ten.

30. Al-Amir Dawes | 6-2 combo guard | senior | Clemson

Everyone needs more shooting, and Dawes can provide it. He averaged 11.3 points and made 84 3s this season at a 39.8 percent clip. He’s at 37.2 percent from 3 for his career. He can play point guard but fits better as a secondary ball-handler, where his focus can be spotting up for 3. He’s a solid defender who guards without fouling — committing only 1.6 per 40 minutes. Whether he’s in the sixth man role or starting, you could plug-and-play him on just about any team.

31. Dexter Dennis | 6-5 wing | senior | Wichita State

Dennis could be a nice piece if put in the right spot. He’s athletic and a plus defender who can guard multiple spots. He’s had a weird career at Wichita State, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in four seasons. He regressed every year as a shooter, making 40 percent of his 3s as a freshman and just 29.7 percent this year. He’s at 34.3 percent for his career. So there’s some hope a shot doctor could maybe get him back to a respectable percentage. He’s never been a guy who can get his off the bounce, but he has slightly improved in his ability to put the ball on the floor and get in the paint. He needs to be on a team where he can focus on being a lockdown defender and then offensively be utilized as a cutter and getting out in transition, where his athleticism will play.

32. Eric Hunter Jr. | 6-4 guard | graduate | Purdue

Hunter can play either guard spot and has turned himself into a pretty good shooter. He’s only a 33.4 percent career 3-point shooter but he made 43.6 percent this season and bumped that up to 53.5 percent in Big Ten play. If he ends up somewhere where he’s looked upon to score more, he’s probably best suited in a more ball-screen friendly system. He doesn’t have blow-by-speed but he’s slithery and did a good job making ball screen reads in limited opportunities. Purdue scored 1.279 points per possession off his passes out of ball screens, per Synergy. He wasn’t as good at scoring himself in those situations, but with more usage, that might come. Hunter comes with a ton of experience playing on winning teams. He averaged 6.6 points in four years at Purdue. It’s not often a player with that much experience in a winning high-major program becomes available.

33. Isaac Likekele | 6-5 guard | graduate | Oklahoma State

Likekele can fit a need for a team in need of some defense, experience and a ball mover. He’s not a good shooter, so he’s best if there’s shooting around him. He can play multiple positions, from point guard all the way up to power forward in smaller lineups. The dude is a tank, so he can handle bigger players. His intelligence and toughness is what he has always kept him on the floor. He started 110 of 114 games in four years at Oklahoma State, averaging 8.9 points, 3.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Offensively, he can get his feet into the paint because he’ll bulldoze his way there. He plays under the rim and is effective when he’s able to get his shoulders into anyone contesting him at the rim. When he isn’t able to get his body into the defender, he can struggle finishing over length. Most of his baskets come within 15 feet. He’s a good passer and has a good understanding for his abilities and where he fits. He’s not going to try to do too much.

Franck Kepnang’s size and rim-protecting ability makes him a worthy project for somebody to take on. ( Soobum Im / USA Today)

34. Franck Kepnang | 6-11 center | junior | Oregon

Kepnang is massive and a project worth taking the chance on for a program that values rim protection. He still has three years of eligibility left, and his back-to-the-basket game could continue to develop. His strength is definitely blocking shots. He tries to swat everything in his vicinity and averaged 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes in two seasons at Oregon. He can be a liability in pick-and-roll coverage. Dana Altman simply put him in drop coverage and then hoped whoever he was guarding couldn’t make pick-and-pop 3s. Offensively, he’s raw but has a decent right-handed jump hook. He runs the floor hard and can get up and down pretty well for someone his size.

35. Morris Udeze | 6-8 center | senior | Wichita State

Udeze is a good defender who has always been a good charge-taker. He doesn’t block a lot of shots, but he’s strong and can hold his ground. He held opponents to 0.565 points per possession this year on post-ups, per Synergy. He averaged 10.2 points on 50.5 percent shooting for the Shockers to go along with 6.1 rebounds. He needs angles to score. He doesn’t have the size to score over the defense, but he works to create those angles. It was a bad year for Wichita State, but he showed his first three years he could be an effective rotational big man on a good team.

36. Efton Reid | 6-11 center | sophomore | LSU

Full disclosure: we’ve never been wildly high on Reid despite his status as a top-50 recruit last season. We had him ranked relatively lower compared to consensus on last year’s available college basketball free agency ranking. The idea behind Reid has always been that he can be a physical presence on the interior with some perimeter skills and potential to shoot it. Indeed, Reid does have solid touch inside, but his jumper is a real work in progress and his decision-making can be very questionable at times. Moreover, the concern has always been with footspeed on defense. Can Reid consistently defend in space? Can he find a scheme that minimizes that concern at all? He started every game for LSU this season, but wasn’t all that impactful on the stat sheet while being relatively inefficient due to his shot selection and turnover rate. On top of that, he led the SEC in fouls this past season. Reid is a pretty real project, and the team that recruits him needs to be ready to work with him on these fronts.

37. Jaren Holmes | 6-4 wing | graduate | St. Bonaventure

A juco transfer after a year to the Bonnies, Holmes has been a three-year starter for a strong stretch of teams. He’s averaged double-figures each of those years, although this past season was by far his worst in terms of efficiency as he struggled with his jumper. Still, Holmes will be exceedingly popular because he’s a versatile player capable of filling a number of roles as long as the jumper falls, which it did at a 39 percent clip from 3 in his first two seasons at Bonnies. He rebounds and plays physically. He passes at a solid level. There is just a lot of skill and toughness he brings to the table. On top of that, Holmes is also a terrific student who has been all-academic in the Atlantic-10 for three straight years. I would anticipate him to be seen as a terrific role player option for a number of teams.

38. Dre Davis | 6-5 wing | junior | Louisville

Davis is a hard-playing bulldog who can slot in at either forward spot. He is a little undersized at the 4, but that’s where his skill set fits best. He’s not a great shooter (22.8 percent from 3 for his career), but he gets things done in the paint. He’s best posting up, through traditional post-ups or dribble-downs. He can both score or facilitate with his back to the basket. He has the tools to be a good defender and rebounder. If he were to drop down a level — think Atlantic 10 — he could become a really effective player. He averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game over two seasons at Louisville.

39. Jarod Lucas | 6-3 guard | senior | Oregon State

Lucas is another tried and proven high-major floor-spacer, an absolute sniper from distance who was essentially one of the few bright spots in a disastrous Oregon State season. He averaged 13.5 points while shooting 39 percent from 3 on over six attempts per game and making 87 percent of his free throws. He’s the kind of player who makes life easier for everyone else that is out there. He’s also a pretty underrated flop artist nationally who isn’t afraid to put his body in there and take charges. He looked pretty frustrated by the end of his time in Corvallis, so this shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. But any team looking for a legit shooter — and there are 100s of teams across the country looking for real shooters — should come calling. He’s from the southern California area, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him end up back on the West Coast.

40. Xavier Pinson | 6-1 guard | graduate | LSU

Pinson has been a two-year starter in the SEC, and you know what you’re getting with him at this point. He’s a proven lead guard who just provides constant pressure and energy with his quickness. And yet, there has always been something that is just a bit missing here. Even though LSU’s record seemed to get worse when he’s on the court, the team’s on-off numbers were drastically better when he wasn’t out there, per Pivot Analysis. When he played, LSU averaged 105.3 points on offense and 97.9 points on defense. When he was off the court, LSU scored 109.1 points and gave up just 91.6. This comes in spite of the fact that Pinson actually missed six SEC games and played all of LSU’s non-conference games, meaning the numbers should actually be skewed the other way. He averaged 10 points and five assists per game, but shot just 36 percent from the field and 24 percent from 3. LSU went 20-8 with him versus 2-4 without him, but we think that’s more a function of not having anyone else as opposed to Pinson being outstanding. He’s a proven high-major player, but we might rather take a shot on some guys with higher upsides.

41. Keyshawn Bryant | 6-6 forward | graduate | South Carolina

Bryant is an experienced high-major player who started 72 games in four seasons at South Carolina and averaged 8.6 points per game. He’s an athletic lefty who can play and guard either forward spot. He’s a below-average shooter and has always put up low-efficiency numbers with a fairly high usage rate. He’d be better suited playing a role as a low-usage energy guy, because his length and quickness are usable tools, especially at 6-6.

42. Tristan Enaruna | 6-8 forward | senior | Iowa State

Enaruna was a project whose motor didn’t run consistently enough to get regular minutes in two seasons at Kansas. He got his chance at Iowa State, starting 26 of 33 games, but his minutes took a nosedive late in the year. He ended up averaging 4.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. There’s some intriguing parts of his game that leave you wanting more. He’s a smooth operator at his size. He glides with the ball and is a pretty good finisher. He shot 57 percent from 2-point range this year. His best college position is the four but he’s capable of playing a small-ball 5 as well. His jumper has never really come around — he’s a career 25.4 percent shooter from deep — but he can still be a mismatch problem for bigs. He’s also switchable on the defensive end and has been coached well on that end after spending two years with Bill Self and then one with T.J. Otzelberger. Since he’s already used his one-time transfer card, he’ll need to sit a year unless he gets a waiver.

Players previously ranked

(Ranking at time of commitment)

No. 1 Yohan Traore (HS to Auburn)

No. 2 Nijel Pack (Kansas State to Miami)

No. 3 Kendric Davis (SMU to Memphis)

No. 4. Malik Reneau (HS to Indiana)

No. 5 Brandon Murray (LSU to Georgetown)

No. 6 Skyy Clark (HS to Illinois)

No. 7 Tristen Newton (East Carolina to Connecticut)

No. 7 Norchad Omier (Arkansas State to Miami)

No. 8 Trevon Brazile (Missouri to Arkansas)

No. 8 Andre Curbelo (Illinois to St. John’s)

No. 11 Will Richard (Belmont to Florida)

No. 13 Mark Sears (Ohio to Alabama)

No. 14 Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (Tennessee to Louisville)

No. 17 Tanner Holden (Wright State to Ohio State)

No. 19 Yuri Collins (Staying at Saint Louis)

No. 20 Jalen Bridges (West Virginia to Baylor)

No. 21 Terry Roberts (Bradley to Georgia)

No. 21 Bryce Hopkins (Kentucky to Providence)

No. 22 Noah Carter (Northern Iowa to Missouri)

No. 23 Jalen Graham (Arizona State to Arkansas)

No. 23 Kario Oquendo (staying at Georgia)

No. 23 Darin Green (UCF to Florida State)

No. 24 Alex Fudge (Florida to LSU)

No. 25 Payton Sparks (staying at Ball State)

No. 26 Ben Vander Plas (Ohio to Indiana)

No. 28 Tyreke Key (Indiana State to Tennessee)

No. 29 Devin Carter (South Carolina to Providence)

No. 29 Jarkel Joiner (Ole Miss to NC State)

No. 29 Sean McNeil (West Virginia to Ohio State)

No. 33 Jake Stephens (VMI to Chattanooga)

No. 35 Dawson Garcia (North Carolina to Minnesota)

No. 36 Elijah Harkless (Oklahoma to UNLV)

No. 37 Ali Ali (Akron to Butler)

No. 42 Cam Spencer (Loyola Maryland to Rutgers)

No. 43 Eric Gaines (LSU to UAB)

No. 47 D’Moi Hodge (Cleveland State to Missouri)

(Top photo of Emoni Bates: Jamie Schwaberow / NCAA Photos via Getty Images))


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