With Silvio de Sousa reinstated, Udoka Azubuike expected back from injury, and Devon Dotson hopefully returning from the NBA Draft, Kansas missing out an an impactful transfer has suddenly become much less worrisome, although a quick look around the internets makes it seem like Quentin Grimes is not likely to return to Lawrence.
It appears as if the Jayhawks are still in the mix for RJ Hampton and Jalen Wilson. Hampton will announce his college choice on Tuesday morning, May 28, choosing between KU, Texas Tech, and Memphis. Wilson is on a recruiting visit to KU starting May 30th, with a final list of KU, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, and Florida. Hampton and Wilson are reportedly close friends and have talked about playing together in college.
The grad transfer market in college basketball has exploded in recent years, with players playing 2 or 3 years at one school, graduating, and then being able to transfer without sitting out a year so long as a couple conditions are met.
It’s worked out well for Kansas, who had Tarik Black play 33 games for the 2014 team, and it has worked out well for the players, who get to either prove themselves at a higher level to try and catch the eye of NBA scouts (or try to play in the NCAA tournament), or to drop down a level and get some more playing time with their final year.
With Kansas having a couple scholarships open, and with the 2019 recruits not biting, it stands to reason the Jayhawks will probably take a couple grad transfers. Who, then, would be the best fit? Let’s find out.
(Note: this list is NOT a list of the best grad transfers available. Rather, it is a ranking of the ones who would best fit on the 2019-20 team).
1. Rayjon Tucker, 6-5 guard, Arkansas Little Rock Tucker is probably the best one on the market as well, and it just so happens he ticks a lot of boxes for what Kansas is looking for. First off, he can handle the ball and would be a great complementary ball handler in the backcourt. He’s also a career 42 percent shooter from three on 259 attempts. He’s also athletic as hell, and no doubt would be able to help out on the perimeter defensively. Tucker will be visiting Lawrence in early May. 2. Admon Gilder, 6-4 guard, Texas A&M (New entry as of 4/26) Gilder was recently cleared to play another year of college basketball, and almost immediately put his name in the transfer portal. He was the 88th ranked player in his class out of high school, and was recruited by a handful of Big 12 schools. He also had 7 points and 3 assists in A&M’s loss to Kansas in the 2017-18 season. Gilder shot 39.5 percent from three last season and is at 37 percent for his career, and would be a capable Quentin Grimes replacement. 3. Matt Milon, 6-5 wing, William and Mary Milon isn’t the defender Tucker is, but as a 3 man he is probably a perfect fit for Bill Self’s offense. He is a career 42 percent shooter from three on 464 attempts over the first three years of his career. He doesn’t do much else, but one thing that was really missing from KU’s offense last year was a low usage, low mistake catch and shoot guy who can really help spacing on the perimeter. That is Milon to a t. 4. Matej Kavas, 6-8 forward, Seattle Kavas has played for Slovenia at both the U-16 and U-18 European Championships. He’s a career 45 percent 3-point shooter on 370 career attempts, and is a capable rebounder as well. I’m not sure if he can get out on the wing and defend, and with Azubuike, McCormack, and Lightfoot (not to mention maybe Silvio de Sousa), Kansas is looking for wings and guards moreso than big men. 4. Jake Toolson, 6-5 wing, Utah Valley You probably get the gist of what I am going for at this point. Toolson is a career 42 percent shooter from three, but only on 259 attempts. He played well at BYU in his first year and a half before transferring to Utah Valley where either he or Kavas was the best shooter in the WAC. He seems like he will head back to BYU or at least stay out west, but is worth trying to get to Lawrence. Also of note: he is the nephew of Celtics GM Danny Ainge.
(Note: Toolson has committed to BYU, so we have a new entry to the list)
3. Kerry Blackshear Jr, 6-10 forward, Virginia Tech
Blackshear is probably the 2nd best grad transfer available in terms of talent, but he’s a big man who isn’t a great shooter, so it is tough to see where he fits in with Kansas’s somewhat crowded front line. I can’t believe I have a guy who had two double doubles against Duke last season all the way down at 5, but Kansas needs perimeter players, and more specifically shooting, and I would sacrifice some talent to do so.
4. Isaiah Moss, 6-5 wing, Iowa (added 5/3) Moss just announced his transfer from Iowa, and the career 39 percent 3-point shooter from three should be a hot item on the transfer market. He’s a decent passer, but also a high turnover player, and doesn’t rebound too well. Still, his size and shooting ability make him a good fit for the wing in KU’s offense. 4. Justin Pierce, 6-7 guard, William and Mary At this point, I am going to pull the trigger on a couple potential backup point guards/secondary ball handler types. I think Marcus Garrett, who played point guard in high school, can also function as a point guard, but the Jayhawks certainly need another ball handler with the departures of Charlie Moore and Quentin Grimes. Pierce won’t be coming, as he’s already named a final three , but it would be nice to pair him with his former teammate Milon. 5. TJ Holyfield, 6-8 forward, Stephen F Austin Holyfield is good across the board, shooting 57 percent for his career from two and 39 percent from three (although on just 150 attempts), and is also a capable defender. He’s ranked in the top 10 in the Sun Belt in block percentage in each of his first three years. I think he’s a better player than some of the guys above him, but Kansas already has Mitch Lightfoot, so they don’t need to add Mitch Lightfoot who can shoot.
6. Jaylen Shead, 6-1 guard, Texas State
Shead isn’t a shooter at all, but is one of the best passers in the country, with an assist rate over 30 percent last season. He shouldn’t be a starting point guard, but can be a suitable backup to Devon Dotson and a guy who can get Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack some easy baskets.
8. Jahaad Proctor, 6-3 guard, High Point Proctor has a pretty decent career assist rate, and doesn’t turn it over much, so he would be a nice addition as a secondary ball handler. The worry, however, is he has played in the MAAC and Big South for his whole career, and was the point guard for one of the weaker offenses in the Big South last season.
7. Jaevin Cumberland, 6-3 guard, Oakland
Cumberland suddenly learned how to shoot last season, going 105-263 from three (39.9 percent) after attempting a total of 49 over the first three seasons of his career. Cumberland is more of a scoring guard, taking roughly 400 field goal attempts and attempting 128 free throws last year, but isn’t very turnover prone and could provide Devon Dotson with a breather or two over the course of a game.
8. Donnell Gresham, Jr, 6-2 guard, Northeastern Gresham probably should have been on the original list, but I think there are some reasonable questions regarding whether he’s athletic enough to play power 5 basketball, especially at Kansas. Still, he is a career 41 percent shooter from three on 343 attempts. 10. Christian Keeling, 6-4 guard, Charleston Southern (new as of April 26) Keeling went from OK shooter, to bad shooter, to good shooter over the course of his first three years, but he shot almost 40 percent from three while being a very good defensive rebounder and decent passer, while also having block and steal rates each over 2 percent. Statistically speaking he is somewhat of a poor man’s Dedric Lawson, just in a much smaller frame. 8. Lindsey Drew, 6-4 guard, Nevada (Added 4/27) Drew is under 35 percent for his career from three, but improved markedly from deep after his freshman season in which he was just 18-72 behind the arc. He’s also a capable passer and good defender. 9. Jonathan Laurent, 6-6 wing, UMass (Added 5/1) Laurent shot almost 47 percent on 75 attempts from deep last season, as well as 59 percent from two. He was pretty streaky last year, with as many games of 20+ points (4) as zero points. 10. Chris Clarke, 6-6 wing, Virginia Tech (Added 5/2) Clarke becomes the latest wing addition on my wish list, having shot 42 percent last year from three, although on just over 30 attempts. He’s a good rebounder and capable passer from the wing as well, but Self doesn’t really use his wings that way, so those talents might go to waste a bit, unless he can play some 4.
11. Thomas Bruce, 6-9 forward, Binghamton (Added 5/2)
Bruce doesn’t fit Kansas much in terms of needs, but he’s an impactful shotblocker and rebounder who shot 58 percent from the field. He would mostly be insurance in case Silvio didn’t get cleared and Azubuike suffered another major injury.