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College basketball is changing rapidly, and there might not be any place more evident of that than in the transfer portal. Three or four years ago, the transfer portal didn't even exist. Now, it is a crucial part of recruiting. In many ways, recruiting the transfer market is just as important - if not more important - than recruiting high school players.
Because of it, in the coming days, weeks and potentially months (until the transfer market slows down) we're going to give you updates on where things stand and who are the players you need to know - think of this as essentially a "national big board" for the best available players, and what news - if any - we have on their college recruitments.
Again, this will be an ongoing thing all spring long, until the transfer portal slows down. And what's wild is, how quickly things are changing.
We did our initial list last week
- and since then, two of our top 15 have come off the board with No. 4 Kellen Grady headed to Kentucky and No. 14 Al Durham off to Providence. What's even wilder though is how many good players have entered the portal since, a group that includes a combination of highly-touted players who didn't work out at their schools (think Michigan State's Rocket Watts) and others who have dominated but are still looking for a fresh start (like All-Pac 12 guard Timmy Allen from Utah).
Anyway, enough small talk because there is so much news to get to. Here is our updated "15 best players in the transfer portal" 2.0 list:
1. Marcus Carr, G, Minnesota
Ranking Last Week: No. 1
Carr was the No. 1 ranked player on our board last week, and barring something shocking we don't foresee moving him out of that spot any time soon. You simply just don't see too many All-Big Ten caliber players, guys who averaged 19 points and five assists per game enter the transfer portal. As I said last week, he can get a little shot happy at times, but a lot of that simply came from having to take on a big scoring loaded at Minnesota. It also doesn't change the fact that the dude dropped nearly 20 points per game in the Big Ten last season.
Which leads to the biggest problem with his recruitment (at least as it pertains to this article): Carr is so good, he may never see a college campus again. As we mentioned last week, Carr seems committed to pursuing his NBA Draft options before deciding on a new college home, and there's a chance he never plays another second of college hoops.
Should he end up on a college campus though, he would be a no-doubt instant impact star and a potential All-Conference player in any league he plays in.
Recruiting buzz: Will test his NBA options before making a college decision
2. Walker Kessler, F/C, North Carolina
Ranking Last Week: No. 2
There was no change in our No. 1 spot this week, and there will be no changes at No. 2 either. Walker Kessler is the guy here, and he is the best player in the portal - at least in my opinion - who will definitely play college hoops next season. There is no talk of him looking at pro options, but instead, he seems focused on finding a new college home.
And when he does, that school will be getting a truly dynamic, new-age big, a guy that played with his back to the basket plenty at North Carolina this year, but also one who can step out and stretch the floor. Part of the reason he left North Carolina was to prove he had a more dynamic skill-set than just sitting in the paint and waiting for the point guard to get him the ball and it seems as though he is looking for a place to show that skill-set at the next level.
So yeah, don't be fooled. Just because he "only" averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season doesn't mean he isn't talented. If anything, that was more of a byproduct of the depth of North Carolina's frontcourt and system they play. Not to mention, when his number was called he delivered, tallying 20 points and eight boards against Florida State. He also had a 16-point, 12 rebound effort against Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament.
As for his recruitment, there is no real "news" since last week.
Recruiting buzz: Reports have everyone from Gonzaga as the favorite, to Gonzaga, Kentucky and Auburn all in the mix
3. Justin Powell, G/F, Auburn
Ranking Last Week: No. 3
Powell was one of the first big names to enter the transfer portal a few weeks ago. But even when he did enter, the sentiment seemed to be that he would take his time finding a new college home. And a few weeks later, that once again appears to be the case. After being linked to Kentucky early, that buzz seems to have faded, maybe as we wait to see if the SEC will change a rule which forces any players who transfer in-conference to sit out for a season. Outside of Kentucky, everyone from local schools like Louisville, to national brands like Virginia and UCLA are in the mix.
Still, like everyone else on this list, there is a reason so many schools are eager to get him on campus next fall. Powell proved to be an elite playmaker as a freshman this season, averaging 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists, while shooting 44 percent from behind the three-point arc. He was limited to 10 games because of a concussion, but it doesn't alter the impact that he had last season, or the impact he will have somewhere next year.
If you need further proof on how good Powell can be, he is already being labeled a potential 2022 first round NBA Draft pick.
Recruiting buzz: A potential Kentucky lean, with interest from all sorts of other schools ranging from Gonzaga, Virginia, UCLA, Louisville and more.
4. Timmy Allen, G/F, Utah
Ranking Last Week: N/A
The first player to be added to this list since our original ranking last week, Allen decided to enter the transfer portal late Friday night after the firing of former Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. And as a player who earned All-Pac 12 first team honors this season, expect him to be one of the most most in-demand players in the portal this off-season.
Allen isn't necessarily a great shooter (27 percent this year), but he is an effortless scorer, who put up some of his best performances against some of the best teams in college hoops this season. He averaged 17 per game this season, which included 23 points against eventual Elite Eight team Oregon State late in the season, and 20 in the Pac-12 Tournament against USC, one of the best defensive teams in college basketball. He did it all on an offensively challenged Utes' squad that really only had one other big-time scorer (Alfonso Plummer, who is also pursuing transfer options).
Since entering the portal on Friday, there have been no real updates on Allen's recruitment, but it is worth noting a few things. One, with Utah officially hiring a new head coach over the weekend (Utah State's Craig Smith) there seems to be a possibility that he could return there. He also might not, and if he has a true "open" recruitment could legitimately play for any program in the country.
Speaking of which, there is something else worth noting here: Just because he was the focal-point of Utah's offense last season, it doesn't necessarily mean he will be looking to go to a place where everything revolves around him. Allen spent most of his youth career playing in the famed "Compton Magic" AAU program, which produced a number of stars in this year's NCAA Tournament (UCLA's Johnny Juzang, USC's Evan and Isaiah Mobley) and is comfortable playing around other good players.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is, assuming he leaves Utah, it feels like just about any big-time program in college hoops could be in play.
Recruiting Buzz: Too early to tell
5. Tre Mitchell, F/C, UMass
Ranking Last Week: No. 5
Another player who was ranked in the same spot last week, and another player who has no, real updates to speak of.
As a quick refresher, Mitchell is a 6'9 former Top 100 prospect who followed his high school coach to UMass and once there, tore things up. He averaged 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season before electing to hit the portal. Since he left, his former high school coach left too - so again, do with that information as you please.
Last week Adam Zagoria said that Mitchell has heard from "over 75 schools
" including dozens of power conference schools, but there has been no real update since then. Whoever does get Mitchell though will be getting a difference-maker down low on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell
6. Fatts Russell, G, Rhode Island
Ranking Last Week: No. 7
After some consideration I decided to move Russell up a spot on this list. I really believe, as a multi-time All-A10 point guard, who played his best with other talented players around him in previous seasons, he will be a complete x-factor and game-changer at whatever school he ends up at next.
Yes, I know Russell's numbers weren't great this past season, when he averaged "only" 14.7 points per game, to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 29 percent three-point shooting. But that also came on a depleted roster following the departures of Tyrese Martin (who transferred to UConn) as well as Jacob Toppin (Kentucky transfer) left the program.
Instead, what I am betting on is that the lightning quick, playmaking point guard will thrive once he gets to a major program, with more talent around him. Again, his numbers across the board were better in 2019 when he had a better roster around him (18.8 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting close to 36 percent from the three-point arc) than they were a season ago.
In terms of his recruitment, Russell released an updated Top 12 late last week that included Auburn, Penn State, Nebraska, Gonzaga, Maryland, Oregon, Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Texas, UCLA and Texas Tech on his list.
There is no timetable for when he plans to make a decision.
Recruiting buzz: The 12 schools listed above
7. Khristian Lander, G, Indiana
Ranking Last Week: N/A
Late last week (since our initial ranking) Lander became the fourth Hoosier to enter the portal. And once he did, he instantaneously became one of the most important pieces in this transfer cycle. Admittedly, I'm higher on him than some other lists I've seen. But when you take a player of Lander's talent, let him mature a bit physically and put him in the right system, with the right coach, I think we could have ourselves one of the best guards in college hoops in a few years from now.
For those who don't remember Lander's backstory, he was actually the No. 1 ranked point guard in the high school class of 2021 before he decided to reclassify last summer and enroll at Indiana a year early. And to me, that's why I'm not all that concerned that he "only" averaged 2.1 points per game at Indiana last year. Put simply, he got to campus late in the summer, during a pandemic, when he couldn't go through normal workouts and acclimate himself with his teammates and the college game in general. He also did it at 17-years-old, at a school that already had an established point guard (Rob Phinisee) and in a system that umm, wasn't all that all the conducive to playmaking guards of Lander's skill-set. I like Archie Miller. But no one will confuse him with early 2010's John Calipari in terms of the freedom he gives his guards.
So basically when you add it all up, this was almost a "perfect storm" for Lander to kind of have the disappointing freshman season that he did. And why I'm still buying high on him, based on the guy I saw in high school. There, he was a cool, confident, dare I say "swaggy" point guard, who could get to his spots on the floor and get others involved too.
If you're still not sold, let me put it a different way: Say Lander hadn't reclassified. If he were still in high school, he'd probably be the single most coveted available guard right now, high school or transfer portal. Give him another year in a college weight program and with the right coach and I'd love to see who he becomes.
Re-recruiting Lander should be priority No. 1 for new head coach Mike Woodson.
Prior to Woodson's hire, Lander did say that he would consider returning to Indiana, depending on who the new head coach ended up being.
Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell, with the possibility of returning to Indiana
8. Armaan Franklin, G, Indiana
Ranking Last Week: No. 8
If re-recruiting Khristian Lander is priority No. 1 for new Indiana head coach Mike Woodson, then getting Franklin back should be No. 2.
While Lander's standing on this list is mostly based on untapped potential, Franklin is a player who actually delivered for the Hoosiers last season. He finished second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game and was basically the only three-point threat on the roster, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. It's worth noting that a Franklin injury directly coincided with the Hoosiers' free fall late in the season.
Late last week, Franklin gave a list of schools who've reached out to Jake Weingarten
. But like Lander, has left the possibility of returning to Indiana next season.
Time to get to work Mike Woodson!
Recruiting buzz: Hasn't yet cut down a list and has left open the possibility of returning to Indiana
9. Xavier Pinson, G, Missouri
Ranking Last Week: No. 6
After thinking about this list a bit last week, I decided to move Pinson down just a little bit. It isn't that I'm "low" on him, just that I'm a bit higher on most. And coming off a season where he averaged 13 points in the SEC at Missouri, he is going to be a really, really dynamic player for someone in college hoops next year.
As far as what's next, well late last week, Pinson's AAU program "Mac Irvin Fire" released a list of schools potentially interested in Pinson. It included: Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, San Diego State, Saint Louis and Nebraska.
Multiple sources tell me that the early leaders appear to be Auburn and Arkansas, but - like Powell - much will depend on whether or not the SEC alters an inter-conference transfer rule.
Recruiting buzz: Auburn or Arkansas lean, may depend on if the SEC alters transfer rules or not
10. Earl Timberlake, G/F, Miami
Ranking Last Week: No. 12
Another player that I decided to move up a bit after reviewing last week's list, Timberlake is a big, powerful wing who entered college hoops as a legit "one and done" type prospect last season before injuries limited him. Following the year, in which he played just seven games, he elected to transfer.
With such a small sample size of games played at the college level, it really is hard to project out too much of who Timberlake is or how good he will be.
But this is another guy who we will bet on the potential with. If he reaches his high school form, he could be a first round NBA Draft pick.
Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell
11. Noah Locke, G, Florida
Ranking Last Week: N/A
This list is getting long here so we'll be quick, but Locke is the latest player with a weird exit out of Gainesville under Mike White. Last year it was Andrew Nembhard. This year several more players have left via the transfer portal, with Locke being the most notable.
Put simply, the upside isn't as high with Locke as it is with some players on this list. But at the same time, he has already proven an ability to do one thing at an elite level: Hit three-pointers. He hit nearly 41 percent this year, while scoring 10 points a game for the Gators.
Not surprisingly, he has a loaded list of suitors, all looking to add him to the fold.
Recruiting buzz: A dozen-plus Power 6 schools listed above
12. Rocket Watts, G, Michigan State
Last Week: N/A
Another new name to the list, Watts decided to enter the transfer portal on Monday. It had been speculated for weeks behind the scenes and became official just a few short days ago.
In terms of "why" he left, well it became pretty clear in a statement released by Tom Izzo. Essentially, Michigan State tried to turn him into a point guard this year, and he feels more comfortable playing off the ball. After the experiment didn't work, mid-pandemic, both sides decided it might be better to move on.
In Watts' defense, the numbers bear out that he is, in fact, better playing off the ball. Two years ago, as a freshman, the former Top 40 prospect averaged nearly nine points per game as the "Robin" to Cassius Winston's Batman. This year on the ball, both his points and shooting percentage went down, and he never did look comfortable in that role.
While it was up-and-down in East Lansing, Watts is again, a former Top 40 recruit who I am still buying stock on. Early on his recruitment has been linked to Louisville and Florida State, two schools he nearly selected coming out of high school. There are also rumors than he could stay local in Michigan and transfer down a level to a MAC or Horizon type school (think Oakland in the Horizon).
Recruiting buzz: Louisville and Florida State or potentially a low major like Oakland
13. Nimari Burnett, G, Texas Tech
Last Week: No. 9
With so many guard options on this list, Burnett was bumped down a spot or two. But it doesn't take away from what he will bring to some program next year, as a playmaking combo guard and former McDonald's All-American.
Last week we told you that he would be choosing between Alabama, Oregon, USC, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Auburn and LSU with Alabama (the school who finished to Texas Tech in his first recruitment) and LSU being seen as the favorites.
He will announce his decision in early April.
14. Kadary Richmond, G, Syracuse
Last Week: N/A
Yet another new name to this list, and yet another player with crazy talent who shouldn't be judged solely based on his college stats. The 6'5 guard out of New York averaged "only" 6.3 points, but did so in only 21 minutes of play as a freshman with the Orange last season. He also ranked fourth in the ACC in steals per game with 1.4 per contest.
Extrapolate those stats out to 30 or 35 minutes, and you have a hell of an impressive player. Especially as a freshman in the ACC.
It's early, but the early schools linked to Richmond are Florida State and Kentucky.
Recruiting buzz: Too early, but Kentucky and Florida State are seen as early leaders
15. Au'Diese Toney, G/F, Pittsburgh
Last Week: No. 15
Another power wing, who has already proven he can do it at the high-major level, Toney averaged 14.4 points and just under six rebounds at Pitt this year. While an explosive athlete, the lefty is a good, but not elite, three-point shooter, who hit 34 percent this season. The rest of his game screams "NBA" if he can just knock down shots more consistently.
Toney is a player who has actually been in the portal longer than most, electing to enter with a few weeks left in the regular season. He has a long list of suitors, but early reports I've heard have Arkansas being the favorite.
Recruiting buzz: Arkansas is considered the favorite, commitment could be coming soon
Five others to watch:
16. Xavier Johnson, PG, Pitt
17. Chris Lykes, PG, Miami
18. Jaylen Gardner, F, East Carolina
19. Jaemyn Brakefield, F, Duke
20. Myles Johnson, F/C, Rutgers
Players who came off the board this week:
Kellen Grady, G, Davidson (committed to Kentucky)
Last Week: No. 4
Grady has been one of the elite scorers in college hoops the last few seasons, averaging at least 17 points per game in all four seasons in college hoops. More importantly, as a 37 percent three-point shooter, he is also the exact player Kentucky needs for 2021-2022.
You cannot express enough just how big this is for the Wildcats.
Al Durham, G, Indiana (committed to Providence)
Last Week: No. 14
Durham was the Hoosiers' second leading scorer this past season, and was yet another player who elected to enter the portal after former coach Archie Miller was fired.
Unlike others on this list he won't be returning to Bloomington, but instead will head to the Big East, where he should provide immediate scoring pop for a Providence club that desperately needs it.