The 15 best players in the transfer portal: Version 3.0

by:Aaron Torres04/08/21
Marcus Carr
<small>(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)</small>

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

College basketball season is officially over, and back in the old days, that’d mean you’d sit back, reflect on what your team did, maybe watch the McDonald’s All-American Game or Nike Hoops Summit, and otherwise turn the page to the next season.

Of course these aren’t the old days anymore, and as fun as the regular season is, we now have an all new season to worry about once the games end: Transfer season. Transfers are just a major part of college hoops at this point, as everyone recruits the portal, ranging from your new national champion (Baylor had four transfers on the floor Monday night) to the worst teams in the sport.

Still, keeping track of it all can be impossible, which is why we’re here to help with our “Transfer Big Board” a collection of the best players currently in the transfer portal.

We started Version I two weeks ago and then hit Version 2.0 last week, and even since then, there has been big shake-up. Two of our Top 10 prospects (Justin Powell and Fatts Russell) both committed and a third (Khristian Lander) decided to return to his original school at Indiana.

Yet in their place was a new wave of guys hitting the portal, including an All-Pac 12 guard (the second in as many weeks) and marquee players from Illinois, Memphis and Texas Tech.

So who are the players you need to know in the transfer portal? Here is our updated Big Board of guys – Version 3.0

1. Marcus Carr, G, Minnesota

Ranking Last Week: No. 1 

Carr has been at the top of this board for two weeks, and nothing changes this week. When you averaged 19 points and five assists per game in the Big Ten that tends to happen.

Looking ahead, there have been mixed reports on if he’ll commit to a college or not, and if so, it appears as though the lean is Kentucky. At the same time, he also appears intent on gauging professional interest this off-season as well.

Barring something shocking, until Carr makes a definitive college or pro choice, expect to him to remain No. 1 on this list.

Recruiting buzz: Will test his NBA options before making a college decision

2. Walker Kessler, F, North Carolina

Ranking Last Week: No. 2 

For a third straight week, Kessler remains at No. 2 on this list, and for the first time, he comes with a new title: “The guy that drove Roy Williams to retirement.” That’s probably not entirely fair, but there was speculation that Williams’ growing frustration with the transfer process is at least part of why Williams retired, with Kessler’s decision to leave Chapel Hill after one season, the most glaring and obvious example of how quickly the sport is changing.

If it’s true, there was a reason Williams was frustrated – and also a reason why some of the best schools in the country are lining up to try to sign him: Kessler is a really good player. Even though he averaged pedestrian numbers at UNC this season (4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds) he’s a 7-foot, former McDonald’s All-American that is big, fluid and athletic, who can play both near the rim and space the floor. 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.

Otherwise, there is nothing really “new” with his recruitment. Gonzaga and Auburn (who both recruited him aggressively out of high school) still appear to be in the lead, as reported by 247 Sports Andrew Slater. It’s also worth noting that new North Carolina coach Hubert Davis made it a point at his introductory press conference to say that he plans to at least attempt to re-recruit Kessler back to Chapel Hill.

Recruiting buzz: Gonzaga and Auburn in the lead, with UNC attempting to re-recruit him

3. Timmy Allen, G/F, Utah

Ranking Last Week: No. 4

With Justin Powell off the board to Tennessee, former Utah wing Timmy Allen moves up the list into the three-spot. And with good reason: He’s probably the most talented wing available this transfer season.

As mentioned last week, Allen was an All-Pac 12 first team wing, averaging 17 points per game – doing it all while every team game-planned to stop him. The fact that he did it in the Pac-12, which we now realize was wayyyyy better than any of us realized throughout the season, made it that much more impressive. His potential final game in a Utes’ uniform was one of his more impressive, dropping 20 points on one of the best defensive teams in college basketball – the USC Trojans, who ended up in the Elite Eight.

Since putting his name in the portal a little over a week ago, there are no real updates, other than that he did meet with new Utah coach Craig Smith.

Although Smith is a hell of a coach (he made three straight tournaments at Utah State), it appears as though there is a genuinely massive rebuild ahead in Salt Lake City. While this is pure speculation on my end, I’d expect Allen to look for a program that is more suited to win big in 2021-2022, after three straight years of struggle at Utah.

Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell, although the possibility of returning to Utah exists

4. Adam Miller, G, Illinois

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Of all the genuinely shocking transfer portal entries this off-season, Miller’s name has to be near the top of the list. Miller is from Illinois (he earned Mr. Basketball Honors in 2020) and played big minutes on the Illini’s Big Ten Tournament title winning team this year. He started every game for the Illini this season.

Put simply, it’s just shocking to see a young player, near home, who got playing time on a winning team choose to leave school. But that’s just the world we live, I supposed.

It also doesn’t change the fact that Miller is now one of the most coveted players in the portal. The former Top 35 recruit nationally is a solidly built combo guard, who again, was productive in his one year at Illinois, averaging 8.3 points per game. He also shot nearly 35 percent three-point land.

After entering the transfer portal on Friday, there are no real updates on Miller’s recruitment, or even what he might be looking for in another school. He originally chose the Illini over Arizona and Louisville coming out of high school.

Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell 

5. Matt Bradley, G, California

Ranking Last Week: N/A

While some transfer decisions are genuinely surprising (like Miller’s) there are others that make complete sense. Take Matt Bradley. He was originally recruited to Cal by the previous coaching staff (including former head coach Wyking Jones) and stuck it out for two years under new head coach Mark Fox. But two years later, it’s clear the Bears’ program is going in the wrong direction and now Bradley is looking for other options outside of Berkley.

While not as big, or athletic as the other All-Pac guard in the portal (Timmy Allen), Bradley is a powerfully built 6’4, equally adept at attacking the basket or hitting three’s (he shot over 36 percent this season). Like Allen, despite playing for a bad team – and being the focal point of his team’s offense – he still managed to tally 18 points per game on an efficient 46 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from three-point land. He also got to the foul line an average of five times per game.

Put simply, because he played on a bad team, in a conference few people watch, Bradley completely went under the radar last season. But he is a really talented guard, who can start and contribute major stats, at any program in America.

Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell 

6. Micah Peavy, F, Texas Tech

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Yet another new player in the portal, and yet another who has good reason, electing to consider other options after Chris Beard left Texas.

And if you need a scouting report on how good this kid can be, here is what Beard told me, verbatim last off-season: “With no disrespect to the kids who made the McDonald’s All-American team, if this kid isn’t a McDonald’s All-American, than I don’t what a McDonald’s All-American looks like.”

In other words, Chris Beard thought Peavy was one of the 24 best players in the high school class of 2020. And if Chris Beard believed it, I’ll take his word for it.

In terms of his game, well, Peavy is a fluid 6’7 wing with an NBA body and skill-set. He didn’t put it all together in Year 1 at Texas Tech (he averaged just 5.7 points per game), but that was in part, because he played at a position that the team was especially deep.

Peavy is a future NBA wing and the list of interested schools reflects that.

Among those who’ve reached out includes Beard and his new staff at Texas. It’s uncertain if Peavy would consider returning to Texas Tech under new coach Mark Adams, who was Beard’s former top assistant.

Recruiting buzz: A handful of schools, including Texas, where his former head coach Chris Beard is

7. Tre Mitchell, F/C, UMass

Ranking Last Week: No. 5

Mitchell has been in the portal for weeks now, with no real update on his transfer status.

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.

As for his recruitment, there is no real buzz to speak of. Adam Zagoria reported weeks ago that “over 75 schools” had reached out, there has been no real update  since then.

Recruiting buzz: No real updates of late to speak of

8. Boogie Ellis, G, Memphis

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Now, we’re starting to get to some interesting names on this list! Ellis was at one point a cornerstone of Penny Hardaway’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class, choosing to decommit from Duke to play for the Tigers with James Wiseman and others. We all know how last season worked out as Ellis struggled, be he emerged as a really solid player for the Tigers in the AAC this past season, averaging 10.2 points on 38 percent shooting from behind the arc. Most notably he dropped 27 points in the Tigers’ AAC tournament loss to Houston to end their regular season. Yes, the same Houston which ended up in the Final Four.

Ultimately, standing just 5’11 Ellis is limited in what he can do – he will probably never be your best player and isn’t an elite defender. But at the same time, the thing he can do well – shoot the crap out of the ball – is a skill that every school could use.

There’s no real recruiting buzz with him other than that, originally from San Diego, he’ll likely end up on the West Coast. San Diego State and USC (the first power conference school to offer him a scholarship) are two logical spots

Recruiting buzz: No real updates, other than he’ll likely attend a West Coast school

9. Darryl Morsell, G, Maryland

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Another new name on this list Morsell, is similar to Boogie Ellis in one way: He really only brings one defined skill to a roster. That skill in his case, is “defense.” But it’s a skill that every single team in college basketball can use, and there might not have been a better perimeter defender (outside of Baylor’s Davion Mitchell) in college basketball last year. And that isn’t hyperbole – he was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year – as a guard.

So yeah, Morsell isn’t a guy that will get you 30 points per game (he averaged just nine points per game and shot just 25 percent from three) but will immediately bring toughness and defensive intensity to any school he plays for. Again, there isn’t a program in college hoops that couldn’t use that guy.

In terms of “what’s next” well, that’s where it’s pretty wide open. Like Carr, he has entered the NBA Draft and plans to pursue his pro options. He also has entered the portal to consider college options, and may consider coming back to Maryland as well. Basically, he’s wide open. And I don’t suspect we know where he’ll be playing college hoops next season for a while.

Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell, but consider a return to Maryland or professional options in addition to the NBA

10. Armaan Franklin, G, Indiana

Ranking Last Week: No. 8 

So I was the guy a few weeks ago crushing Indiana’s decision to hire Mike Woodson – but to his credit, he has done just about everything right so far. He convinced star Trayce Jackson-Davis to return to school for another year, hired a couple big-time assistants and has convinced three players, including Khristian Lander, who was on this list last week, to pull their names out of the portal.

Woodson’s last big move is now to get Franklin to pull his name out of the portal too.

Franklin put his name in following the firing of Archie Miller, and he is a key piece to the Hoosiers’ success next 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.

UPDATE: Franklin committed to Virginia late Thursday, after considering a return to Indiana

11. Noah Locke, G, Florida

Ranking Last Week: No. 11

Another player who was on this list last week, and another player – who like Ellis and Morsell – really only does one thing, but does it at an insanely high level: That is hit three-point shots. Locke shot over 40 percent from beyond the three-point line this past season, this after shooting over 43 percent in 2019-2020.

Locke has a loaded list of schools, but no real timetable on which he plans to make his decision.

Recruiting buzz: Appears to be wide open

12. Liam Robbins, C, Minnesota

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Like Carr, Robbins entered the portal this week following the departure of Richard Pitino at Minnesota. Unlike Carr however, it seems way too early to even begin to speculate where he’ll end up.

Robbins played just one season at Minnesota after transferring from Drake, but proved more than capable of handling himself in the rugged Big Ten, averaging 11.7 points and a Big Ten-leading 2.7 blocks per game.

Whoever signs Robbins will get themselves a skilled and athletic big man, who is a legit seven-feet and has already proven he can succeed at the highest-level of the sport.

13. DJ Jeffries, F, Memphis

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Another player from the vaunted 2019 Memphis recruiting class that never quite did figure it out under Penny Hardaway – although in Jeffries’ case it was neither his fault or Hardaway’s. Jeffries was on his way to a breakout freshman season, averaging nearly 11 points per game last year, before a season ending injury. This year he came back, but didn’t seem to have the same level of athleticism or fluidity of a year ago, but still managed to averaged 9.9 per game.

Still, some team is going to buy low on a big, athletic wing, with an NBA body and skill-set, that just hasn’t quite figured things out at the college level yet.

There are no real updates on Jeffries’ recruitment, although there is some speculation he will return to his home state of Mississippi and play for Ben Howland’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Recruiting Buzz: Too early to tell

14. Xavier Pinson, G, Missouri

Ranking Last Week: No. 9

Pinson has been in the portal for weeks, so you’d expect a decision to come soon for the 6’4 guard who finished second in scoring at Missouri last year with a 13-point per game average.

Arkansas and Auburn were perceived to be the early leaders for Pinson, but with Arkansas taking multiple guards this week (Miami’s Chris Lykes and Pitt’s Au’Diese Toney) you’d think that they might be out of the picture.

Nothing is official, but it seems like Auburn is a logical choice here.

Recruiting buzz: Seemed to be an early Arkansas or Auburn lean, but Arkansas may be out of spots for him

15. Earl Timberlake, G/F, Miami

Ranking Last Week: No. 10

Timberlake has been in the portal now for several weeks, with no real updates to speak of, so I’ll keep this section brief.

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.

UPDATE: Since putting this list out Thursday morning, Timberlake has committed to Memphis

16. Rocket Watts, G, Michigan State

Ranking Last Week: No. 12

I said it last week and I’ll say it again: I’m a believer in Rocket Watts. As a freshman he played alongside Cassius Winston and thrived, averaging nearly 10 points per game, but saw his numbers dip as he was forced into a point guard role as a sophomore. If he is put in a position to play off the ball next year, I expect him to thrive wherever he ends up.

An early list of schools for Watts included LSU, Louisville, Florida, Florida State, Xavier, Baylor, UConn, Maryland, and it’s worth noting that Florida State and Louisville were finalists in his original recruitment before he picked Michigan State.

Florida State has been getting the most buzz lately

Recruiting buzz: No real updates, although Florida State seems like the team to beat

17. Nimari Burnett, G, Texas Tech

Ranking Last Week: No. 13

Burnett has been in the portal for months now – he left Texas Tech in January has been on the market since – but will finally make his decision on Thursday. He is down to six schools: Illinois, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Oregon.

UPDATE: Burnett committed to Alabama on Thursday afternoon

18. Christian Bishop, F, Creighton

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Another transfer portal entry that was truly shocking last week, Bishop was the starting center on a Creighton team that made the Sweet 16 this past season. He averaged 11 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and as a non-shooter, it appeared to be the perfect role for him.

There are a handful of schools that reached out to Bishop early, but no real updates since the start of his recruitment.

19. Stanley Umude, F, South Dakota

Ranking Last Week: N/A

Umude makes his debut on this list, just about as it appears as though his recruitment is coming to an end. There are is strong buzz for days, that the 6’6 forward will commit to Arkansas.

Either way, he was one of the best mid-major players in college hoops this past season, averaging 21.5 points and seven rebounds per game, while shooting 36 percent from the field. If you need any indication of how good Umude is, he actually entered the portal two off-seasons ago (2018-2019) and received interest from Arizona and several other Pac-12 schools, before deciding to come back to South Dakota.

UPDATE: Umude committed to Arkansas on Friday morning

20. Jaemyn Brakefield, F, Duke

Ranking Last Week: No. 19

Brakefield is a former Top 50 recruit who got buried behind both Jalen Johnson and Matt Hurt this year, but when Johnson quit the team saw his minutes increase. And he delivered, including a memorable 11-point performance against Virginia. Unfortunately it wasn’t sustainable down the stretch.

Still, as an athletic, 6’8 left, Brakefield will find a home somewhere and thrive. He is a really good 3-4 college player at the high-major level.

Originally from Mississippi, early recruiting buzz was that Ole Miss had the edge.

Recruiting buzz: Too early to tell, but Ole Miss seemingly has an edge

Previous Players on this who’ve Committed:

Justin Powell, G, Auburn (committed to Tennessee)

Kellan Grady, G, Davidson (committed to Kentucky)

Fatts Russell, G, Rhode Island (committed to Maryland)

Khristian Lander, G, Indiana (returning to Indiana)

Kadary Richmond, G, Syracuse (committed to Seton Hall)

Qudus Wahab, C, Georgetown (committed to Maryland)

Chris Lykes, G, Miami (committed to Arkansas)

Au’Diese Toney, G, Pitt (committed to Arkansas)

Xavier Johnson, G, Pitt (committed to Indiana)

Al Durham, G, Indiana (committed to Providence)

Also, if you want more insight on some of these players, I discussed the transfer portal list on today’s Aaron Torres Podcast. Transfer talk starts around the 48-minute mark. Download here or listen below:

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