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While the sheer volume of this season’s transfer class may not indicate that we have a transferring epidemic on our hands, based on my rigorously scientific opinions, there is an incredible number of impact transfers at nationally relevant programs.
Here are the 15 programs that will see the biggest impact from incoming transfers, which is precisely half of the list of 30 programs that will be using a player in a significant role that began their career at a different Division I program. Of the 30 programs listed, 13 of them have more than one relevant transfer. Two of them have four incoming transfers.
(* = eligible in December):
Mark Lyons, Arizona: The importance of Lyons to the Wildcats has been widely written about. The Xavier transfer, who is eligible immediately under the graduate transfer rule, fills a gaping void at the point guard spot left by Josiah Turner’s departure. But is Lyons the facilitator that a talented Arizona team needs?
Alex Oriakhi, Jabari Brown*, Earnest Ross and Keion Bell, Missouri: Half of Missouri’s rotation will be transfers. Bell and Brown, when he’s eligible, will provide perimeter scoring and Ross will be a versatile forward off the bench. Oriakhi’s defensive presence, if he returns to his 2011 form, will be the key addition, however.
Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays, Kentucky: Kentucky didn’t have a point guard in their 2012 recruiting class, which was planned. Coach Cal brought in Harrow, a former top 40 recruit that started at NC State as a freshman, to fill that role. Mays may not see much court time.
Trent Lockett, Marquette: Lockett was a big-time scorer in his three seasons at Arizona State, and he’ll be eligible immediately at Marquette due to an illness in the family. Lockett’s a perfect fit for a Buzz Williams coached team: a big, athletic wing that can score in multiple ways.
Rotnei Clarke, Butler: Butler was one of the best defensive teams in the country a season ago, and should be again this year. What they were missing last season was perimeter shooting. And Clarke is the best shooter in the country, no “arguably” needed. His role is even more important with Chrishawn Hopkins’ departure.
Luke Hancock, Louisville: Hancock, when healthy, is a talented playmaker on the wing. The problem is that Hancock has had a myriad of shoulder issues that may limit his health and his preparedness for the season. At 100%, he’s a valuable weapon for the Cardinals.
James Johnson*, JJ O’Brien and Dwayne Polee, San Diego State: The Aztecs are loaded on the perimeter, but what they were missing last season was an interior presence. O’Brien and Polee are both technically front court players, but are better suited for the wing than the paint. Johnson, however, will provide some interior size when he gets eligible.
Khem Birch* and Bryce Jones, UNLV: Jones is an important addition for the Runnin’ Rebels because of his ability on the wing. UNLV doesn’t have an overload of talent on the wing. They do up front, however, and Birch is as talented as anyone. The former top ten recruit gives Dave Rice as much talent up front as anyone in the country.
Larry Drew, UCLA: It’s been almost two years since Drew played in a game, but he’ll join UCLA as the starting point guard on a team many think can be a Final Four contender.
Aaric Murray, Matt Humphrey and Juwan Staten, West Virginia: There’s a very real chance that all three of these guys start for the Mountaineers. Staten and Humphrey will be impact additions, but Murray, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 boards at La Salle as a sophomore, is a difference maker if he stays focused.
Trey Zeigler, Pitt: The Panthers caught a break when Zeigler was given immediate eligibility by the NCAA, because he is a talented off-guard that will fit nicely alongside Tray Woodall in the back court. He was a top 75 recruit in high school.
Will Clyburn and Korie Lucious, Iowa State: The Cyclones are once again building their team around an influx of transfers. Lucious was a starter at Michigan State before getting into off-the-court trouble, while Clyburn once averaged 17.1 points and 7.8 boards for Utah.
Wally Judge, Rutgers: Judge has all kinds of potential — there’s a reason the athletic, 6-foot-10 forward was a McDonald’s all-american — but was never able to play his way into Frank Martin’s good graces.
Keala King*, Edgar Garibay*, Dan Jennings and Tony Freeland*, Long Beach State: Part of the reason that LBSU is once again considered one of the best mid-majors in the country despite their losses is who they added this year. Jennings began his career at West Virginia and should help immediately, but the mid-year additions of King (a former top 25 recruit) and Freeland (a DePaul transfer) should be significant.
Eric Wise and JT Terrell, USC: It’s tough to know the immediate impact of Wise and Terrell given how much USC gets back from injuries this year. But the bottom line is that both will play a lot of important minutes, and Terrell has a chance to be a breakout player on the wing.
And here are 15 more schools who will see a major role filled for them by transfers:
- Colton Iverson and Daniel Bejarano, Colorado State: The Rams bring back a lot of talent from last year’s tournament team, so while the impact may not be enormous, adding two players — from Minnesota and Arizona, respectively — of this caliber to a rotation can only be beneficial for Larry Eustachy.
- Desmar Jackson, Southern Illinois: Jackson is a 6-foot-5 wing that averaged 14.6 points and 2.0 steals as a sophomore at Wyoming.
- Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State: The Shockers graduate quite a bit of back court talent, but Armstead — who averaged more than four assists in two years at Oregon — will help offset that.
- Garrick Sherman, Notre Dame: The Michigan State transfer will help provide Notre Dame with front court depth behind Jack Cooley.
- Jared Swopshire and Nikola Cerina, Northwestern: Swopshire’s health is the key here. He was an important piece for Louisville has a sophomore before suffering a brutal groin injury.
- Amath M’Baye, Oklahoma: As a sophomore at Wyoming, M’Baye averaged 12.0 points. He’ll give Lon Kruger some front court depth.
- Brian Oliver, Gene Teague and Kyle Smith, Seton Hall: Oliver, who averaged double-figures at Georgia Tech, is the biggest name of this group, but Smith and Teague will play a role for the Pirates, who lost quite a bit to graduation.
- Taran Buie and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Hofstra: The Pride were expected to improve this year based on the play of these two, but an early-season suspension isn’t a good sign.
- Jerelle Benimon, Bilal Dixon and Mike Burwell, Towson: These three, and a talented incoming recruiting class, are the reason Towson is expected to be competitive after winning one game all of last season.
- Sidiki Johnson*, Providence: Johnson was a top 100 recruit when he went to Arizona, but didn’t even last a semester there. His size will be valuable for the Friars.
- RJ Evans, UConn: The Huskies will have quite a bit of perimeter talent next season, but Evans will have a role off the bench.
- Evan Gordon, Arizona State: The younger brother of Eric Gordon was a big-time scorer at Liberty, but can he have the same kind of impact in the Pac-12?
- Isaiah Philmore, Xavier: Philmore was a big-time producer at Towson, and he’ll be asked to play the same role for a depleted Xavier squad next season.
- Devonta Abron, TCU: Abron was an impact freshman at Arkansas last year, averaging 5.7 points and 4.2 boards in 22 starts.
- DeShawn Painter, Old Dominion: Painter was a key piece for NC State last year, but due to familial issues, he needed to transfer closer to home. He’s the perfect big man for Blaine Taylor’s club.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.