As transferring mid-career becomes more of the norm across the college basketball landscape, coaches have had to adjust their recruiting and overall roster makeup. The typical wooing of high school recruits has become only one piece of the equation. The transfer portal has become the college version of free agency. Just last year, 694 student-athletes entered their names into the portal. Only 58 of the 347 teams in Division 1 did not have a player transfer out of the program in 2019.
Because of this apparent free agency frenzy, let’s take a look at what potential addition each fan base should be excited about.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Brandon Johnson, PF (Western Michigan)
The Illini have been mentioned as one of the teams in contact with Johnson, a springy PF that broke out this season for WMU. Johnson had to sit out his would-be junior season in 2018-19 to injury before his all-conference campaign this past year. Truth be told, I have probably fallen in love with Johnson’s game more than anyone else on this list. If you watch his sophomore year highlights, it’s easy to see why. He’s strong enough to finish through contact and come down with rebounds in traffic. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands in space. And he’s super athletic which enables him to run the floor as well as go up and get loose balls that other guys simply cannot.
The Illini going after Johnson probably depends on what Kofi Cockburn decides to do as far as the NBA Draft. Johnson’s ideal position would be playing the five in a small-ball lineup that gets up and down. It would be hard to convince him to spend his final year of eligibility backing up Cockburn.
Iowa Hawkeyes: N/A
It does not appear as if Iowa is in the transfer market this offseason as they are at the scholarship limit. The Hawkeyes have a pretty loaded roster returning, including Jordan Bohannon who hopes that sitting out this past season will help him get back to 100%. Luka Garza was the best player in the Big Ten this year and looks to build upon that in 2020-21.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Morris Udeze, C (Wichita State)
Udeze is one of the many Shockers that is on his way out of Wichita. He’s a bit of an undersized center at only 6’8” but he has a powerful build that helps him get where he wants in the low-post. Udeze is a bit of an unproven commodity, averaging only 4.3 ppg and 2.8 rpg in 10 minutes per contest this past season. But the limited sample size does show signs of potential. He does a lot of his work around the rim, connecting on 61% of his field goal attempts. He’ll also need to work on his proneness to fouling after averaging 9.0 fouls per 40 minutes. After sitting out a year because of transfer rules and refining his game, Udeze could become an underrated force in the Big Ten. He’s been in contact with Richard Pitino as Minnesota looks at how they’re going to move forward without Daniel Oturu as he will most likely enter the NBA Draft.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Kobe King, SG (Wisconsin)
This is a little bit of a cop out just because King has already committed to join the Nebraska program next season but it’s highly doubtful there is any other player that will make quite as big an impact. King started 19 games for Wisconsin this season before deciding to transfer mid-season. In those 19 games, he averaged 10 points per contest and was one of the Badgers top two or three players.
King’s situation is unique in that it’s not very common for players to transfer within the same conference. He’s proven that he can be a valuable contributor at this level. King is not a great outside shooter but makes enough that the defense must respect it. Where King does the majority of his work is inside 15 feet. While he doesn’t do a ton of posting up, he has great footwork and body control which allows him to either get to the basket or pull up and hit a mid-range jumper. Not to get Nebraska fans’ hopes up, but his game can be somewhat reminiscent of former Iowa State star, Royce White, who was a first-round pick after playing under Fred Hoiberg. While White is four inches taller, their muscular builds and sneaky athleticism helped them get to the basket and finish through contact.
Northwestern Wildcats: Darius Banks, CG (James Madison)
Chris Collins is no stranger to the transfer portal, including bringing in Pat Spencer who is one of the best college lacrosse players of all time. Now Collins is looking for Spencer’s replacement at point guard. The biggest weakness for the Wildcats this past season was lack of shot creation. Banks may be able to answer some of those questions if he decides to spend his final collegiate season in Evanston.
One thing that makes Banks’s recruitment a little interesting is that he is a sit-one-to-play-one transfer. He reportedly has not graduated from James Madison right now, which means he would not have the advantage of playing right away as a grad transfer. Regardless, the Wildcats need a stabilizing force at point guard that can help the offense look less putrid than it did at times in 2019-20.
Purdue Boilermakers: N/A
The Boilermakers are at the scholarship limit for next season so they are not active in the transfer market this offseason. Among scholarship players, their biggest loss is Evan Boudreaux. However, Painter brings in three freshmen this summer Ethan Morton, Jaden Ivey, and Zach Edey.
Wisconsin Badgers: N/A
Greg Gard has his roster in place for the 2020-21 season already as he’s welcoming five freshmen onto campus this offseason. The Badgers’ scholarship allocation is unconventional as they will have five freshmen, two sophomores, zero juniors, and six seniors. Tai Strickland and Kobe King comprised the class that would have been juniors had they not transferred out. It may have benefitted Gard to have an open scholarship to balance out the classes a little bit. However, it’s hard to question the coach who just won a share of the Big Ten title on the back of Micah Potter, who transferred in last year.