With the July 1 deadline for players to enter the transfer portal and receive immediate eligibility upon us, it’s time to start putting a bow on the wild transfer cycle of the 2021 college basketball offseason. With NCAA rules changing to allow immediate eligibility for first-time transfers, there was more movement than an any other previous offseason.Meanwhile, the fact that all players were granted an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic only added to the list of players on the move.
But how many of those who landed at new spots in the Division I game will actually have a major impact on the sport next season? We’ve got a list ranking the top 85 transfers in college basketball at CBS Sports, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As of Wednesday, there were 1,802 Division I men’s basketball players listed in the portal. For this week’s edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are picking the one transfer we think will impact the sport most in the upcoming season
Walker Kessler was a five-star prospect in the Class of 2020 — someone who was ranked just ahead of one-and-done stars Sharife Cooper and Cameron Thomas, both of whom could be selected in the first round of next month’s NBA Draft. So he’s undeniably talented. But the 7-foot center made a mistake out of high school when he picked North Carolina and found himself in a crowded frontcourt with Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe, each of whom was either older (Brooks, Bacot) or more talented (Sharpe). Consequently, Kessler was limited to playing just 8.8 minutes per contest as a freshman.
But when he played real minutes, he produced.
Kessler only played at least 20 minutes twice last season — first in a 78-70 win over Florida State, then in a 101-59 victory over Notre Dame. Against FSU, he finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Against Notre Dame, he got 16 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks. And that’s why I’m confident he’ll have a big impact next season after transferring to Auburn, where Bruce Pearl will play him next to five-star freshman Jabari Smith to create one of the nation’s most talented starting frontcourts. — Gary Parrish
Who’s going to have the biggest impact — among transfers — in college hoops next season? I like the other nominees my colleagues have put forth here, but how do you not pick someone playing for a blue blood? Kentucky is coming off a 9-16 season, its worst in eons. If and when UK returns to NCAA Tournament form, there will be one or two players who carry most of that on their shoulders. So mark me down for Tshiebwe, who was a top-10 freshman two seasons ago at West Virginia.
Things went haywire in a hurry in his sophomore season under Bob Huggins, but Tshiebwe should return to form this season and thrive. His career numbers: 10.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 54.5 field goal percentage in 41 games. I think he turns into a 15-and-10 guy for UK. If Kentucky is a top-three team in the SEC, and I think it will, then Tshiebwe almost certainly will be a catalyst to a major turnaround. This won’t be like Olivier Sarr; Tshiebwe will be a focal point on both ends, provided he buys in entirely. — Matt Norlander
Kansas’ leading assist man in 2020-21, Marcus Garrett, is off to the NBA. Former five-star recruit Bryce Thompson is set to continue his career elsewhere in the Big 12 with Oklahoma State. And the status of both Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson remain up in the air as they test the draft process. That leaves Arizona State transfer Remy Martin locked in right now as the potential No. 1 option on this Kansas team.
Even if Agbaji and Wilson return, Martin should be in line to push for a starting role at the lead guard spot. After averaging 19.1 points per game each of the last two seasons with the Sun Devils, his shot-making and offensive firepower will be a welcome addition to a KU offense that finished as the worst of the Self era last season from an efficiency standpoint. — Kyle Boone
The idea of “positionless” basketball involving a roster full of versatile 6-7 athletes is great, but the practicality of it is questionable in the Big Ten, where talented traditional bigs have abounded in recent seasons. Maryland learned this last year when it lacked a serious interior presence during a 17-14 season that ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
That’s why the addition of former Georgetown center Qudus Wahab is a massive deal for the Terrapins. The 6-11 Wahab enters the program after averaging 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds during seven games in March that showcased his impressive development. Considering his trajectory and the fact he has three seasons of eligibility remaining, Wahab could grow into all-conference player for Maryland and immediately help the Terrapins climb back towards the top of the league.
Wahab’s lack of a perimeter shot make him a long-shot NBA prospect, and his former three-star prospect rating have kept him under the radar for his first two collegiate seasons. But if he continues playing like he did for Georgetown in March, we’ll look up a few months into this season and realize he is one of the most impactful transfers of the 2021 cycle. — David Cobb