Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
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Report: Former FIU guard Eric Lockett headed to NC State

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One week after guard Lavar Batts Jr. announced his intention to transfer, NC State has reportedly filled that available scholarship. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, former FIU guard Eric Lockett has committed to NC State.

As a grad transfer Lockett will be eligible to compete immediately for the Wolfpack, and he is the second such player to join the program this offseason with former Samford forward Wyatt Walker being the first.

Lockett, who began his collegiate career at George Mason before transferring to FIU, appeared in 32 games (31 starts) for the Panthers last season and averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 37.0 minutes per game. The 6-foot-5 Lockett shot 46.6 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from three and 71.7 percent from the foul line.

Lockett’s second season at FIU was a significant improvement on his first, as he started 13 of the 31 games he appeared in during the 2016-17 season and averaged 5.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest.

The addition of Lockett gives NC State additional depth on the perimeter, which will be key with the loss of leading scorer Allerik Freeman (16.1 ppg). In total NC State has to replace three of the top six scorers from a team that reached the NCAA tournament in Kevin Keatts’ first season at the helm, with Freeman and Lennard Freeman having exhausted their eligibility and Omer Yurtseven having transferred to Georgetown.

In total NC State will have eight newcomers on the roster next season, a number that does not include transfers Devon Daniels (Utah) and C.J. Bryce (UNCW). Both players will be eligible to play after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.

Matt Mooney’s commitment is a big deal for Texas Tech

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With five of the top six scorers from last season’s team that won 27 games and reached the Elite Eight having moved on, Texas Tech was in need of additions who can have an immediate impact on the offensive end of the floor. Monday afternoon Chris Beard’s program received a much-needed boost, as former South Dakota guard Matt Mooney announced that he will join the Red Raiders as a graduate transfer.

Mooney, who played his freshman season at Air Force before transferring to South Dakota after the 2014-15 season, was one of the top guards in the Summit League last season. A first team all-conference selection, Mooney averaged 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in leading the Coyotes to 26 wins and second-place finish in the Summit League.

Mooney shot 44.5 percent from the field, 35.2 percent from three and 82.9 percent from the foul line, finishing the season with an effective field goal percentage of 51.8 percent.

South Dakota participated in a postseason tournament in each of Mooney’s two seasons on the court, playing in the Postseason NIT in 2017 and the CBI this past season.

As noted above Mooney will join a Texas Tech lineup that lost a lot from last season, beginning with one of the nation’s best guards in Keenan Evans. Evans and Niem Stevenson both exhausted their eligibility, and the Red Raiders took another hit when projected first-round pick Zhaire Smith announced that he would forego his final three seasons of eligibility and remain in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Add in the losses of Zach Smith, Justin Gray and Tommy Hamilton IV, and Texas Tech will need additions such as Mooney to hit the ground running next season.

Mooney is the second grad transfer to have committed to Texas Tech this spring, the first being former St. John’s power forward Tariq Owens. In total the Red Raiders will have six new additions to the rotation, with junior college transfer Deshawn Corprew, freshmen Khavon Moore and Kyler Edwards and Missouri transfer C.J. Roberts being the others. Roberts, who joined the program in January, will be eligible at the end of the fall semester.

Texas Tech’s quest to build on a highly-successful 2017-18 won’t be easy, but returnees such as Jarrett Culver and Brandone Francis will help as will the newcomers.

The focus will likely be on who Texas Tech lost when forecasting 2018-19, which is fair given the contributions of players such as Evans. But as last year’s group showed, it’s a risky proposition to underestimate Chris Beard’s team.

USC lands key commit in 2019 5-star Onyeka Okongwu

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With one of the Pac-12’s top 2018 recruiting classes — even with the loss of Taeshon Cherry — set to enroll this summer, USC has moved on to filling the spots in its 2019 class. On Monday the USC program picked up its first verbal commitment in the class, with 6-foot-9 power forward Onyeka Okongwu announcing that he will don the cardinal and gold when the time comes.

Okongwu attends Chino Hills HS, where he led the team to the CIF-SS Division I title this season, and he plays his grassroots basketball for the Compton Magic program. While there are still some strides for Okongwu to make offensively, should he be able to transition to being a power forward who can step away from the basket, he’s an elite talent on the defensive end of the floor.

Okongwu’s commitment is a big first step for USC with regards to the 2019 recruiting class, especially when considering everything the program had to deal with in the fall.

Former assistant Tony Bland was one of ten indicted in the FBI’s probe into corruption and bribes in college basketball/recruiting, and that led to some wondering that the effects would be on USC’s recruiting both in the short and long-term. But Andy Enfield and his staff managed to put together a good 2018 class, featuring guard Kevin Porter Jr., and to land a player of Okongwu’s talent is certainly a good start to the program’s 2019 class.

Add in the fact that the Trojans are also in the running for highly-regarded southern California based talents such as 2019 guard Cassius Stanley, 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley, 2020 forward Evan Mobley (Isaiah’s brother) and 2020 guard Johnny Juzang, and USC is well-positioned to continue to be a factor within the Pac-12 moving forward.

Creighton guard Khyri Thomas to remain in 2018 NBA Draft

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With leading scorer Marcus Foster out of eligibility, the biggest question for the Creighton Bluejays at the end of the 2017-18 season was what would junior guard Khyri Thomas do. Not only did Thomas establish himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country during his three seasons at Creighton, but he also made significant strides offensively.

Sunday afternoon Thomas, who originally entered his name into the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, announced that he has decided to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Thomas, who averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game last season, has a good chance of being Creighton’s second first-round draft pick in as many years (Justin Patton in 2017). Making improvements offensively in each of his three seasons under Greg McDermott and his staff, Thomas shot 53.8 percent from the field, 41.1 percent from three and 78.8 percent from the foul line in 2017-18.

Being able to point to the development of Thomas and Patton, who redshirted before playing his way into the 2017 NBA Draft lottery, certainly won’t hurt Creighton’s efforts on the recruiting trail moving forward.

As for next year’s team, losing Thomas is a big deal given his impact on both ends of the court. Returnees such as Mitchell Ballock, Davion Mintz and Ty-Shon Alexander will have even more responsibility on their shoulders, and it should also be noted that the team’s leading returning scorer (forward Martin Krampelj) is working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in mid-January.

Losing three starters (Foster, Thomas and Toby Hegner) and a solid reserve in Ronnie Harrell Jr. (transferred to Denver) will be tough to absorb. But it gives the remaining Bluejays the opportunity to step forward, and if the last two seasons are any indication someone may be ready to make a major jump for Greg McDermott’s team.

UT-Martin lands former Pitt guard Parker Stewart

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In the aftermath of Kevin Stallings’ dismissal at Pittsburgh, many players on the roster took the opportunity to evaluate their options. One of those players was 6-foot-5 guard Parker Stewart, who as a freshman was one of the lone bright spots in what was a dismal season for the Panthers.

Stewart, who averaged 9.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season, announced on Friday that he has decided to transfer to UT-Martin. With the move Stewart will play for his father, with Anthony Stewart having been the head coach at UT-Martin since 2016.

Stewart will have to sit out the 2018-19 season per NCAA transfer rules, after which he will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Parker Stewart started 20 of the 32 games he played in as a freshman at Pitt, shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from three and 80.0 percent from the foul line. As noted above the 2017-18 season was an especially rough one for Pittsburgh, which finished the season with an 8-24 overall record and went winless against ACC competiion (0-18 regular season and a loss to Notre Dame in the conference tournament).

Stewart joins a UTM perimeter rotation that will have just one senior in 2018-19, DelFincko Bogan. Bogan averaged 9.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, making him the Skyhawks’ leading returning scorer.

Former West Virginia forward transfers to Wichita State

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Less than a week after announcing that he was leaving West Virginia after one season at the school, 6-foot-5 forward Teddy Allen revealed his next destination Tuesday night. Via Twitter, Allen announced that he has committed to Wichita State, where he’ll have three seasons of eligibility after sitting out the 2018-19 campaign per NCAA transfer rules.

Allen played 12.1 minutes per game last season for the Mountaineers, averaging 7.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest. Allen shot 46.7 percent from the field and 73.8 percent from the foul line in 2017-18, scoring in double figures in 11 of his 35 games played. With Esa Ahman, Wesley Harris and Lamont Harris all returning for the Mountaineers next season, Allen likely would have been in a similar spot with regards to minutes had he remained part of the WVU program.

The addition of Allen is an important development for Wichita State, even though he won’t be able to play in games this upcoming season. Landry Shamet and Austin Reaves, perimeter contributors who would have been juniors in 2018-19, have both moved on with the former entering the NBA draft and the latter transferring.

Forward Markis McDuffie is also testing the NBA draft waters but has not hired an agent.

Wichita State is due to welcome eight newcomers to the program this summer, and prior to Allen’s commitment the program had one 2019 verbal pledge in forward DeAntoni Gordon.