The next stage of college basketball free agency has begun with players picking their final (err, next) destinations.
We’ve already ranked the best players available, and now we’re ranking the best fits for the players who have announced their plans. Keep coming back to this, because we will update as more players pick their next schools.
1. Kendric Davis | 5-11 guard | graduate | Transferred from SMU to Memphis
The Scout: “What Remy Martin did for Kansas, KD could do that for somebody on steroids,” a coach in the American said of the AAC Player of the Year. If Davis ends up in the right spot, he could be the final piece to make someone a title contender. Davis is one of the best guards in the country when the ball is in his hands. He’s got a tight handle, quickness, ability to change speeds and score at all three levels. He’s crafty too. He’ll get defenders in the air and get to the foul line, where he shot 86.8 percent this year. He’s not just a high-volume scorer either; he can shoot it with efficiency. He averaged 19.4 points — shooting 37.2 percent from 3 and 50.5 percent inside the line — to go along 4.4 assists this season. When asked to be more of a facilitator, he can do that too. He averaged 7.6 assists and led the country in assist rate as a junior. The one knock: “Zero defensive instincts,” the coach said, “but when that ball’s in his hands, he is awesome.”
The Fit: Memphis had one very significant hole this season: the point guard position. Up until the later portion of the season, the Tigers really struggled to get in and out of efficient offensive sets in large part because they just didn’t have a player that could handle the responsibility. With Davis entering the fold, that will be absolutely no issue. This has been the expected outcome from college coaches from the moment that Davis hit the portal after Tim Jankovich’s departure from SMU. Coaches from significant basketball powers tried to get involved, but got very little traction. Davis brings his 19 points and six assists per game over the past two seasons to Memphis, where he’ll get to run the show and have the freedom in their uptempo offense to attack and make plays. It’s an enormous get for Memphis, the kind of move that could push them back into the NCAA Tournament in 2023.
2. Brandon Murray | 6-5 wing | sophomore | Transferred from LSU to Georgetown
The Scout: Murray is a terrific, ready-made two-way teenager at the wing position. With Will Wade and the Tigers’ coaching staff turning over following the season, Murray entered the portal. A former four-star, top-100 recruit out of IMG Academy, Murray had about as good a freshman season as could have been expected, averaging 10 points and saving his best for conference play, averaging 11 points and shooting 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3. On top of that, he was pretty good defensively this season switching within LSU’s scheme across the perimeter positions. He was rewarded for his play with All-Freshman SEC honors after the season. He is from the Baltimore area and was recruited by Kevin Nickelberry, who recently went to Georgetown as an assistant under Patrick Ewing. He’s a clear high-major wing, and potential NBA player down the road.
The Fit: Murray lands in a place with some familiarity because of the connection to Nickelberry. The Hoyas need an influx of real talent after going winless in the Big East, and Murray is that. An SEC coach described him as one of the best 3-and-D options in the portal. Murray’s defensive versatility should help what was by far the worst defense in the Big East. The Hoyas also need some scoring pop, and Murray is talented enough to emerge as a legitimate go-to guy.
3. Tristen Newton | 6-5 guard | junior | Transferred from East Carolina to Connecticut
The Scout: Unquestionably one of the best offensive creators this year in the American Athletic Conference, Newton departs East Carolina following the changeover in head coach from Joe Dooley to Mike Schwartz. He averaged 17.7 points, five rebounds and five assists last year, possessing the ability to play both on and off the ball as a lead or secondary offensive creator. He’s still really thin, but he reads the floor and will be significantly helped by playing with better players around him than he had at East Carolina. He sees skip passes and high-level pick-and-roll reads. He makes live dribble passes from creative angles and plays unselfishly. He’s conscientious on defense and knows where he needs to be rotationally and helps generally despite his thin frame. But more than that, he’s twitchy but plays with great pace off the bounce. He can attack the basket and finish. As a shooter, he’s got a good set shot and looks more comfortable off the catch, although there is some real ability to hit pull-ups if he has time behind ball-screens. He has more touch than his 33.3 percent mark from 3 would indicate, but he does need to clean up that shot off the bounce. This is a no-doubter high-major guard who should immediately step in as a starter at a good location next year. There is a real chance he develops into an NBA player if he gets the jumper mechanics down consistently as opposed to the twisting shot he has right now.
The Fit: The Huskies had a real need in the backcourt for a lead guard following R.J. Cole’s decision to start his professional career. In Newton, they get arguably the best one available in the portal. Whereas Cole was a smaller floor-general type following two high-scoring years at Howard, Newton is more of a creative combo guard who can really score off of pull-ups, make high-level passing reads, and attack in transition. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Connecticut speed things up a bit more next year, led by Newton as well as athletic wings Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins. With that trio and Adama Sanogo, the Huskies are now some transfer portal depth additions away from competing at the top of the Big East in 2023.
4. Trevon Brazile | 6-9 forward | sophomore | Transferred from Missouri to Arkansas
The Scout: Brazile is a high-upside forward who was a late-bloomer in the 2021 recruiting class. He started his junior season in high school as a 6-foot-1 guard, but he hit a growth spurt and spiked up to his current 6-9 size with long arms and twitchy athleticism. He’s still working through some skill-based adjustments to his new frame, but his upside is as high as any player’s in the portal currently. He averaged seven points and five rebounds last year while stepping away occasionally as a four man who can shoot from 3, but teams will be most intrigued by his 1.9 blocks per game that were third in the SEC. Essentially, he profiles extremely well as a shot-blocking floor-spacer at the forward position, a skill set that is exceptionally difficult to find at any level. A few NBA scouts have even told The Athletic that they have some interest in Brazile as a potential pre-draft two-way player they know isn’t quite ready for the league yet, but has a real ceiling if his development goes right.
The Fit: This partnership makes a lot of sense on paper. Arkansas center Jaylin Williams is one of the best charge-takers in the country, and now Eric Musselman has a pogo-stick shot blocker to run in behind Williams in Brazile. That sort of arrangement worked splendidly for Texas Tech a few years ago when Tariq Owens was roaming behind a bunch of charge-takers. But will Williams be back? Arkansas has recruited a lot of bigs in recent days, seemingly preparing for a potential departure from their all-around center. With or without Williams, Brazile is a high-upside big that has shown defensive success in the SEC already. Surrounded by elite talents such as Nick Smith, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh, he should get clean looks from 3 more often. He just needs to cash in on them regularly.
5. Will Richard | 6-5 wing | sophomore | Transferred from Belmont to Florida
The Scout: Richard was named to the OVC All-Newcomer team this year after averaging 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and over a steal per game. He’s a genuine long-term NBA Draft prospect who somehow slipped through the cracks and fell to Belmont, at 6-5 with something in the range of a plus-six wingspan that is really evident on the court. You can feel his length out there. He moves like an NBA player moves, with terrific footwork and polish as well as strong slashing and finishing ability. He plays well off the ball and is used to running high-level actions from playing in Belmont’s offense. He can shoot off the catch, direct off of dribble-handoffs, or whatever you need. He also has high-level defensive ability. Basically, as soon as the shot comes around — and it will, given his touch; he just needs to work on some slight tweaks such as finishing higher as opposed to farther out in front of his face — he’s going to be a high-level scorer.
The Fit: A great addition as Todd Golden’s first recruit. Richard will be a perfect test case to find out what this Florida staff is capable of early in its time in Gainesville. Richard has all of the tools to be a potential pro wing down the road. He’s the kind of player as a two-way wing that is really hard to find in the portal, and the kind of guy you can build just about any type of team around. He might not average 16 per game next season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a Day 1 starter averaging 13 points, four rebounds, a couple of assists and a couple of steals while providing a great impact as a winning player. Then as a third-year player, don’t be surprised to see him emerge into a first-team All-SEC player whom the NBA looks at as an interesting 3-and-D wing.
6. Jalen Bridges | 6-7 wing | junior | Transferred from West Virginia to Baylor
The Scout: Bridges was essentially a two-year starter for West Virginia, a 6-foot-7 combo forward who could step out and shoot it, get out in transition, and switch a bit defensively. Unsurprisingly given those tools, NBA scouts had started to take notice of him coming into the year following an All-Freshman Big-12 campaign in 2021. Alas, he took a bit of a step back this season, averaging just eight points and five rebounds with a real reduction in efficiency despite a significant increase in minutes. He has kind of a high, boxed-off shot that displays some touch, but results in inconsistency as he made just 32 percent from 3 this season after making 40 percent as a freshman. Out in transition, if you give him some space he can attack and really leap into dunks. He’s not a shot creator, but a smart coach that runs a well-spaced high-ball-screen scheme on offense and a switching defensive scheme will get a quality high-major starter here that brings defensive energy and versatility as well as spot-up capabilities on offense to play off of those screen-and-roll guards.
The fit: Go back and read the final sentence of our assessment of Bridges. He’s going to the ideal system for his skill set. He fits a need for Baylor, which is losing freshmen wings Jeremy Sochan and Kendall Brown to the NBA. Bridges is more in the mold of a Brown. He’s not quite the athlete — no shame here, as not many are — but he has more upside as a shooter, spacing the floor from the corners as Baylor’s guards work out of ball screens. He should also benefit from Baylor’s ability to create turnovers and get out in transition. He’s also an excellent fit in Baylor’s no-middle, switching defense. The Bears love versatile defenders like him, and he’s going to an offensive system that should bring out his best traits. Also, after experiencing a bit of an off year, he’s going to a spot where they’ve thrived developing players similar to him.
7. Mark Sears | 6-1 guard | junior | Transferred from Ohio to Alabama
The Scout: Sears’ game is just very well-rounded across the board. After playing a backseat role to Jason Preston as a freshman, he blossomed into a terrific player this season who profiles well as a potential starting quality high-major guard. He made first-team All-MAC and was clearly among the best players in the league, averaging 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. He makes his presence felt defensively, makes solid (if unspectacular reads) as a passer, and consistently knocks down shots at a high level. He made 40.8 percent of his 3-point attempts, he rebounds well despite not having a lot of size, he operates well out of ball screens, particularly with a pick-and-pop big like Ben Vander Plas, who is also transferring.
The Fit: Sears is landing in a perfect spot to show off his ability to play in space and work out of ball screens. Alabama likely needs a replacement for Jahvon Quinerly at the lead guard spot, and Sears has the talent to play in the SEC. He’s also going from one program that shoots a ton of 3s to another that does the same. He’ll have free rein to handle the ball and create as long as he continues to prove his passing reads are on point. If he can handle the level, this seems like a perfect marriage of system and player.
8. Andre Curbelo | 6-1 guard | junior | Transferred from Illinois to St. John’s
The Scout: If it goes right, Curbelo could turn into an All-America-level engine of an NCAA Tournament team. It’s not an exaggeration to call him one of the most dynamic ballhandlers and passers in college basketball, skills he showcased at an incredibly high level back in his freshman 2020-21 season. That year, he won the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year award for a No. 1 seed Illinois team, and averaged nine points, four rebounds and four assists. There was an expectation that he would take an enormous step forward and become the catalyst for a top 15 team in the country, with a terrific pick-and-roll partner in Kofi Cockburn. Alas, that didn’t occur, and this is where the questions come in. Curbelo suffered a concussion early in the season and just never got right from there. He averaged seven points and three assists while shooting 32 percent from the field and 17 percent from 3. This is the conundrum: Can you get Curbelo back to his freshman-year level? The upside is high, but the floor here is that he’s a backup guard. All reports out of Illinois were absolutely terrific prior to him suffering his concussion.
The Fit: St. John’s is an interesting fit because the team already has something of a non-shooting lead guard in Posh Alexander. Offensively, Mike Anderson must find more shooting to complement those two; otherwise, the Red Storm are in some trouble. Having said that, the area where this fit really works is in terms of tempo. Curbelo will surely enjoy playing with more freedom out in transition, as St. John’s played at a faster pace and averaged more possessions per game than any other team in college basketball last year. The fit here is incomplete until we know who will be surrounding Curbelo, but on some level St. John’s should probably just always be taking chances on talent like this, even if it’s not an ideal match.
9. Terry Roberts | 6-3 guard | senior | Transferred from Bradley to Georgia
The Scout: Roberts was the Missouri Valley’s Newcomer of the Year last season, a first-team all-conference player for Bradley who is lightning in a bottle offensively. He’s electric with the ball, capable of creating something out of nothing on offense in a flash. His handle is terrific, and he’s an explosive athlete who can get where he needs to go out of isolations. He averaged nearly 15 points, five rebounds and four assists this year, and hit 34 percent from 3 on a steady diet of tough pull-up shots. He makes some really impressive live-dribble passing reads, but the critical part of his game that he’s going to have to clean up will be turning it over. His assist-to-turnover ratio was very close to the 1-to-1 mark, and he makes some choices both in terms of shot selection and distribution that will worry high-major coaches. But above all, this is a high-major athlete at the guard spot with enough size to not be a liability on defense and enough handle to genuinely break down opposing teams.
The Fit: Well, Georgia needs just about everything as it transitions from the Tom Crean era to the Mike White era. As a first-year building block, Roberts is a terrific lead guard option who will absolutely perform well in the SEC. That league tends to be among the most athletic leagues in the country every year, and Roberts’ quick first step and explosive change of pace ability will fit right in as a terrific option. We’ll see who White and company surround him with to get a better feel for how Georgia could compete this year.
10. Tanner Holden | 6-6 wing | junior | Transferred from Wright State to Ohio State
The Scout: Holden was among the most productive scorers to enter the portal, having averaged 20 points per game in the Horizon League this year on his way to his second-straight Horizon League first-team All-League honors. He carried Wright State to the NCAA Tournament, where he put up an awesome 37-point performance against Bryant that led Wright State to a First Four win. Holden is a foul magnet, a guy who constantly attacks, plays well off of two feet, absorbs contact, and either finishes or gets to the line. He also moves well off the ball and finds points off of cuts, scoring more points off of cuts — per Synergy — than any wing in the country, largely playing off of Grant Basile post-ups and motion offense back-cuts. Holden is a reluctant shooter who won’t have the ball as much at a high-major stop. But he should be a high-major starter next year due to his age, experience, basketball IQ, and well-rounded game.
The Fit: Under Chris Holtmann, the Buckeyes have tended to really feature their best players with a lot of usage. Will Holden be that, or more of just a starter? It probably depends on who else the staff can bring in. Holden moves really well off the ball and knows how to create shots that way, which is something Ohio State hasn’t really had over the last few years given how ball dominant players like E.J. Liddell, Malaki Branham, and Duane Washington were. But in order to take best advantage of that in the Big Ten, given the size and length that most teams have on the interior, Holden is going to have to work to consistently extend his range beyond the 3-point line. Being a driver and cutter toward the rim is a bit tougher when going against 7-foot giants in the Big Ten. Holden hit 41 percent of his catch-and-shoot jumpers last year, per Synergy, so hopefully for Ohio State he can up his volume on those to round out his offensive game.
11. Darin Green | 6-4 guard | senior | Transferred from UCF to Florida State
The Scout: Over the last three years, only 30 players in college basketball have made more 3s than the 208 Green has made in that time. He’s also made them at a 39 percent clip. But unlike many of the pure spacers in the portal, Green has some athleticism and can at least compete defensively at the high-major level. He won third-team All-AAC honors this past year while leading UCF to a .500 conference record as its top scorer. There are some limitations here, as he’s not really a ballhandler or creator in the halfcourt at all. He’s an average decision-maker (he doesn’t turn it over, but he’s not making the creative reads, either). But shooting travels just about anywhere. Pop Green into the starting lineup and trust that he’ll make a few 3s per game and give his team more room to operate offensively.
The Fit: The Seminoles are the team that everyone seems to be sleeping on heading into next year. They return an absolutely loaded sophomore class in Jalen Warley, Matthew Cleveland and John Butler — all of whom we could look up at in 2023 and see as legitimate early entrants to the NBA Draft. In Caleb Mills, they have a terrific, older point guard. And Malik Osborne still has eligibility to return if he chooses to as a rugged, upperclassman forward. Here, they add Green, a shooter that they were missing this past season to give the offensive handlers a bit of space. Coach Leonard Hamilton and his staff have a team that could absolutely compete at the top of the ACC again next year as long as the rising sophomores take the steps you’d expect. Florida State is one of the most undervalued teams heading into next season. They have a real case as a top-15 team in the country despite the fact that people seem not to be ranking them in their preseason top 25 lookaheads.
12. Dawson Garcia | 6-11 forward | junior | Transferred from North Carolina to Minnesota
The Scout: It’s a little troubling that both programs he’s played for got better after he left. In the games he played this season, North Carolina was 21 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the bench, per hooplens.com. The Heels put up better efficiency numbers on both ends without him. But Garcia is a career 36.2 percent 3-point shooter who is 6-11, moves well, can handle it, can post up and can rebound. Garcia may have to sit out a year unless given a waiver (he wanted to be closer to home in Minnesota for family reasons), because he’s already transferred once. He can play either big man spot and might be better off moving back to center, where he played at Marquette. That kind of skill at the center position is almost impossible to find at the college level.
The Fit: It was a bit surprising that Garcia didn’t end up at home in Minnesota during at least one of his first two recruitments, so maybe it’s good that he’s ending up there now. He had dreams of being a one-and-done during his first season at Marquette, but those fell by the wayside as he struggled with his defensive assignments regularly — particularly when faced with bigger, hulking centers. In the Big Ten, he’s going to be faced with a number of high-quality options in that regard. He needs to focus in on the details and be willing to battle on the interior with those guys when he can. He needs to be a big, not a wing. Still, at the center position, he could give Minnesota a really fun five-out lineup that can attack multiple different ways. He’s a good get, and he’ll be popular at home with the Minnesota fanbase.
13. Noah Carter | 6-6 forward | junior | Transferred from Northern Iowa to Missouri
The Scout: Carter is a high-IQ, big-bodied, 6-7, undersized forward who makes it work with pure feel for the game. He averaged 15 points and four rebounds in a slow Northern Iowa system, doing a little bit of everything. But above all, Carter just never really stops moving. He’s constantly searching for little creases and openings in the defense, hunting for ways to leverage his opponent to use his strength at 230 pounds to seal his man away from the rim. He was second-team All-Missouri Valley this year and moves people around at his position pretty easily. The worry with Carter at the high-major level is his footspeed and ability to defend against the most athletic guards. On top of that, Carter did only hit 29 percent from 3 this season, but his touch is excellent around the rim and from the foul line and he gives reason to believe that he has room for growth there.
The Fit: Carter’s best position is a small-ball four, and that’s the one spot where Missouri is actually in decent shape with Kobe Brown. But the Tigers really, really, really need skill and scoring, and so Carter is a great fit there. He immediately becomes Mizzou’s most skilled player. The one worry in the SEC is whether he can hang defensively, especially if he’s guarding perimeter players. “It’ll be interesting to see how he fares defensively,” an SEC coach said. “It looked like (on film) he wasn’t the most explosive athlete laterally or vertically. So what his identity on the floor is defensively should be interesting to see. But he’s definitely a really skilled offensive player.”
14. Alex Fudge | 6-8 forward | sophomore | Transferred from LSU to Florida
The Scout: Look, the numbers don’t tell the full story here on Fudge, who is considered one of the highest upside transfers by coaches due to some of his athletic tools. Still just 18, he averaged only three points and three rebounds in 14 minutes per game. But some of his good tape moments are among the best you’ll find of any available player. Particularly, his defensive numbers and help moments are strong. He posted nearly a 6 percent block rate and a 4 percent steal rate. The track record is strong for players at the high-major level who have played at least 10 minutes per game as a freshman and notched his numbers. It’s Fudge, Zion Williamson, Nerlens Noel, OG Anunoby, Tari Eason last year at Cincinnati, and Chris McCullough at Syracuse. That’s five first-round picks and no one else until Fudge just did it, which goes to showcase how high-level his defensive tools have potential to be if he’s allowed to be aggressive, read the play, and react to what’s happening around him. Offensively, things are absolutely still a work in progress. I don’t really trust him to make decisions on the move, his jumper is viable but still hitchy, and he largely operated from corner to corner last year, waiting for cuts or dunker spot opportunities. Fudge is a project, but it’s hard to find players with this kind of upside. Again, he’s only 18. If things go right for him developmentally over the next two years, he has a chance to be a first-round pick. The downside here, though, is a bit lower than for most of the players listed here, given how raw his game is.
The Fit: Defensively, he fits just about anywhere. The fit offensively could be dependent on what the roster eventually looks like. “He needs to be surrounded by shooting to open up scoring cuts at the rim. That would be huge for him,” an SEC coach said. “It wasn’t necessarily an ideal fit for him offensively last year at LSU just because they had a lot of guys like him, guys that were great athletes that couldn’t space the floor.” In addition to waiting to see how the roster develops, the fit here could also depend how he pairs with Colin Castleton. If they develop chemistry where Castleton learns to find him in the dunker spot when his man goes to help on Castleton post-ups, maybe it works out. But if those two log a lot of minutes together. Todd Golden is going to need to surround them with shooting.
15. Devin Carter | 6-3 guard | sophomore | Transferred from South Carolina to Providence
The Scout: Carter, the son of former NBA guard Anthony Carter, was an SEC All-Freshman player this past season. Don’t let the pedestrian nine points, four rebounds and two assists fool you, though; he played just 18 minutes per game in a relatively crowded South Carolina backcourt that never really seemed to figure out its roles over the course of the season. I thought by the end, Carter was the most impressive of the bunch, creating shots and effectively attacking SEC defenses on a per-minute basis. A former four-star recruit from Miami, Carter is talented enough to play at the high-major level. He just needs to clean up the jumper.
The Fit: Carter will head back to New England, where he played a prep year at Brewster Academy, to head to Providence. The Friars have a loaded graduating class and needed to do a lot of work in the portal to account for it. Among the Friars’ top six rotation players, only point guard Jared Bynum will return. He’ll be an effective player for the Friars for multiple seasons. Ed Cooley is terrific at getting offense out of these combo guards, and Carter fits the billing to a T.
16. D’maurian Williams | 6-5 wing | junior | Transferred from Gardner Webb to Texas Tech
The Scout: Williams is a terrific two-way wing that not enough people got to see this season because he played for a merely solid Gardner Webb team that finished 18-13 overall and 11-5 in the Big South. Offensively, Williams is a reliable shooter who can knock down high-volume looks from 3 from a variety of different situations. He hit nearly three 3-pointers per game at a 39 percent clip as the centerpiece of the offense, and generally makes good decisions as a passer. On top of that, he’s a switchable defender who can take on a variety of tough assignments and confidently take on his man on the ball. He averaged 15 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists, and I felt he should have been on the first-team All-Big South team instead of making the second team.
The Fit: Man, Mark Adams just knows what he’s looking for, doesn’t he? Last year, he raided low-major leagues for Adonis Arms out of Winthrop and Davion Warren out of Hampton as 6-5 wings who could create offense and switch defensively. This year, it’s Williams. It’s tough to find a better fit of scheme and talent than Williams at Texas Tech, given the way he plays. He’ll fit like a glove with Texas Tech’s fungible no-middle defense and will provide a degree of 3-point shot-making that they could desperately use.
17. Ali Ali | 6-8 forward | senior | Transferred from Akron to Butler
The Scout: The best player on Akron’s NCAA Tournament team this year, Ali is kind of a fascinating talent. He was a second-team All-MAC performer, in large part because of how versatile his game is offensively, averaging 14 points and almost three assists while hitting 41 percent of his 3s. It’s hard to find guys who can handle the ball at this size like he can. He attacks off the bounce, particularly out in semi-transition, with real ease. He can hit crossovers and create shots. But the problem is that once he does that, he has kind of a maddening tendency to throw up wild, hideous-looking attempts that just won’t even come close to flying at the high-major level. Part of that was likely role, and Ali does provide real length at 6-8 to be a piece of a positive defensive situation. Although, you’d probably have to play him next to a killer rebounder at the five, because he’s pretty poor on the glass for someone this big. It’s a unique mix of talents. I’d be a bit worried about him consistently at the high-major level in a slow-it-down, drag-it-out type game consistently, even with the shooting spike this year.
The Fit: Under new coach Thad Matta, Ali should be the team’s starting four man, and he’ll bring a degree of length and skill with some athleticism that the team hasn’t really gotten from that spot in the last few years. Bryce Nze was a three-year starter who was more of a tough, rugged rebounder who could occasionally step out and shoot. Ali will bring a level of dynamism to the wing spots with Simas Lukosius as someone who can grab and go on the break, attack off the bounce and hit shots. He needs to clean up some of the shot selection, but this is a core now that has a real chance to be an NCAA Tournament team with just one more solid frontcourt addition to replace the departed Bryce Golden.
18. Jarkel Joiner | 6-1 guard | graduate | Transferred from Ole Miss to NC State
The Scout: Joiner is a combo guard who can provide some scoring pop. He led a bad Ole Miss team in scoring (13.2 points per game). He’s got some burst, and when he gets hot, he can be dangerous from the mid-range because he has a lot of lift in his jumper. It’s sometimes hard for guys with his type of shot to shoot with much range, but he did make 35 3s in 22 games this year at a 34 percent clip. On a better team, those efficiency numbers might go up. He is an 81.6 percent free-throw shooter for his career. Joiner also has the athleticism to be disruptive on the defensive end. He’s only 6-1 but looks and plays bigger than his height. With one year left to play, he’ll likely get some looks from high-majors looking for quickness and scoring on the perimeter.
The Fit: Kevin Keatts has always liked to pressure and create turnovers, and his most recent team was his worst yet in those areas. In Joiner, he lands a guard capable of helping in those areas and who can also bolster the offense. Joiner is going from one bottom-of-the-pack high-major to another, so we’ll see if he’s able to elevate NC State at all. He was a key contributor on a decent Ole Miss squad his first year in Oxford when the Rebels went 10-8 in the SEC and made the NIT in 2021.
19. Dashawn Davis | 6-2 guard | senior | Transferred from Oregon State to Mississippi State
The Scout: With Davis, you’re getting a terrific pick-and-roll distributor who consistently makes the right read out of ball screens and sets his teammates up for success. Unfortunately, success was pretty tough to come by this season with the Beavers, who were the worst high-major team I saw. But that was not Davis’ fault. The only part of Oregon State that really ever worked was the offense, and it was in large part because Davis put pressure on the defense as an attack-oriented guard who can get downhill and make live-dribble passes. He averaged about 11 points and nearly six assists per game with over a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, leading the Pac-12 in assists per game. A juco recruit out of Trinity Valley in Texas, he was a first-team All-NJCAA All-American in 2021 before he attended Oregon State. He’ll have two years left to play.
The Fit: New coach Chris Jans has long been a proponent of recruiting from the juco ranks, so it’s not surprising that he was familiar with Davis and his game. Expect Davis to step in immediately as the team’s starting point guard, even if the team gets starting guard Iverson Molinar back after he declared for the draft while maintaining his eligibility. Molinar fits well as a terrific scoring combo guard, meaning Davis could really work well to put him into even more advantageous positions.
20. Jake Stephens | 7-0 center | senior | Transferred from VMI to Chattanooga
The Scout: Stephens is a big, lumbering center who is strangely one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. He made 74 3s this season at a 49 percent clip. The shooting is real. He’s also a career 80.1 percent free-throw shooter who averaged 19.6 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game as a senior. VMI used him in the top middle third, where he’d hit backdoor cutters. He can score in the low post, but everything is methodical. He struggles when you run a double team at him because he’s slow to react. He’s a good fit for teams that run a lot of pick-and-pop actions or use their bigs in the pinch post. Defensively against teams with good guards, he could be a liability in pick-and-roll coverage. His skill is impressive, but he’s probably been playing at the right level in a good mid-major league.
The Fit: Stephens is an analytics darling, and he’ll follow his coach at VMI, Dan Earl, to Chattanooga. He’ll give the Mocs the presence on the interior that their NCAA Tournament team lacked, in addition to being an elite shooter from the perimeter, allowing them to play a similarly well-spaced offensive scheme. If Chattanooga gets Malachi Smith to return, the team will have the two best players in the SoCon next season and could even sniff votes for the Top 25 at some point in the year. That would be an exceptionally dangerous team, and one that has a genuine chance at an at-large bid.
21. Jalen Graham | 6-9 forward | senior | Transferred from Arizona State to Arkansas
The Scout: Graham really improved throughout the course of last season. The numbers look a bit pedestrian at 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, but look at his trajectory and you’ll see why there is some enthusiasm for him. In the final 17 games of Arizona State’s season, Graham averaged 13.5 points, six rebounds and 2.5 assists. He was the team’s focal point during its strongest run this year, which is why he was rewarded second-team All-Pac-12 honors by the coaches. But there are some worries here about how scalable he is to a winning situation given his game. He’s not a particularly efficient finisher at the rim and he doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter. He gets most of his offense on post-ups and out of weird little push-shots, floaters and turnaround mini-hooks with either hand. He’s a tough shot specialist, almost who can get you a reasonable efficiency look on the block pretty regularly. He’ll need to improve his all-around game in order to make an impact on a winning team.
The Fit: Graham is headed to Arkansas along with Makhel and Makhi Mitchell and the aforementioned Brazile, an overhaul of the team’s frontcourt. Honestly, this one doesn’t make a ton of sense on paper. Graham is a mid-post scorer joining an offense that doesn’t really love to post. They like ball screens and use their bigs more to short-roll and pass or drive. With Nick Smith and Anthony Black coming in this season, I don’t see the offense going away from them in ball-screen situations to go more toward mid-post play. I see Graham more as the team’s sixth man, a change of pace offensively against backup bigs when the team doesn’t have its bigs in. But yeah, both for team and for player, this probably would not have been my first choice.
22. Eric Gaines | 6-2 guard | junior | Transferred from LSU to UAB
The Scout: This one is all about defense. Gaines is aggressive and disruptive at the point of attack. His hands are lightning quick, and he flies around passing lanes looking for ways to deflect balls and get steals. He averaged 2.1 steals per game this year, which was third in the SEC. The advanced numbers liked him a bit more than the rest of LSU’s guards, as LSU’s performance was a bit better with him on the court despite his real offensive concerns. Gaines is basically a non-shooter, but his ability to pressure the rim and create transition opportunities is at least somewhat helpful. Gaines is a good high-major role player, and if the shooting comes around at some point (he’s consistently made free throws throughout his career), he might be a legit Power 6 starting guard next to a shot-maker.
The Fit: Gaines thrived in a system where he was able to take chances, and he’s found a place where that will be rewarded. He’ll likely replace UAB guard Quan Jackson, who finished fifth in steals rate this past season. Gaines nearly had an identical steal rate, and he might be able to bump that number up playing against lower competition. Some of his offensive limitations at the SEC might also not be as big a deal playing at a lower level. Andy Kennedy lets his guards attack, and Gaines is the type of player who could thrive in his system.
23. Elijah Harkless | 6-3 guard | Graduate | Transferred from Oklahoma to UNLV
The Scout: Harkless is a defensive stopper who was one of the better perimeter defenders in the Big 12 the last two years. Oklahoma’s defense was six points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, per hooplens.com. He has no problem guarding up against bigger wings or checking guards his size. You know he’s going to battle. He’s a high-motor player who is a streaky scorer. He’s capable of slashing and making the occasional 3. He made a career-best 32 3s this season and shoots 33.2 percent from deep for his career. After transferring from Cal State Northridge in 2020, he proved can be a starter on a good team at the high-major level, averaging 9.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, two assists and 1.6 steals in two seasons with the Sooners. He is coming off a knee injury that ended his season in late February.
The Fit: He joins Kevin Kruger at UNLV after playing at Oklahoma in 2020-21 under Kruger’s father, Lon. He’ll immediately be one of the best perimeter defenders in the Mountain West, and he should step into an increased offensive role in a league a bit more commensurate with his skillset on that end at this stage. If he can add continued improvement to the jumper, his ceiling is absolutely that of an All-MWC player this season.
(Top photo of Brandon Murray: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)