Former 4 star recruit Zach Clemence was one of many Jayhawks to announce their presence in the transfer portal this spring. However, unlike his fellow transfer-outs, Clemence (and the Kansas coaching staff) has had a change of heart. It was announced Tuesday morning that Clemence is coming back to Lawrence.
There was no major outroar when Clemence announced his intention to transfer in the spring. Coming into last year's sophomore season, many expected him to step into the open starting role at center after playing spot minutes as a freshman. Instead, fans got a bit of a surprise when 6'7 sophomore KJ Adams grabbed that role, and that Clemence wasn't much more than an afterthought off the bench. Clemence ultimately played less than 10% of avaliable minutes for the team this year, playing a handful of minutes in each of the team's first 11 games, before a string of DNPs made it clear where we was in the pecking order as freshmen Ernest Udeh and Zuby Ejiofor started to earn time at the 5 off the bench.
Clemence's announcement that he was leaving was not met with much shock, and UC-Santa Barbara seemed like a decent landing space. What little we'd seen of the 6'10 sophomore did not suggest he was going to be a high end big man in the Big 12 anytime soon. Billed as a great shooter for a big out of high school, Clemence hit just 22% of 18 three point attempts last year. As a center, he made under 44% of his twos. His rebounding wasn't great given his height, and while his block rate showed promise, it came with the asterisk of very little playing time.
It has already been made clear in various reports that Clemence intends to redshirt this year, so don't expect to see him backing up Hunter Dickinson. That will likely be done by a combination of KJ Adams and Parker Braun, and potentially some minutes from freshman Marcus Adams, depending on his skill set and development. This move wasn't about bolstering the 2023-24 frontcourt. It seems much more likely to be a chance to use a suddenly-open scholarship (Chris Johnson's choice not to show up to Lawrence was at least a little bit of surprise, though rumors had been circulating) to take a chance on a kid who may have been pushed out a little early. I wouldn't say I think it's likely that Clemence will ever be a standout at Kansas, but if you have the room on the roster, and you think there's even a chance be turns into a 6'10 rim protector who can live up to his billing as a perimeter shooter, it's not a bad chance to take at all. We'll see what gains he can make in this redshirt year, and reassess his progress headed into next season, when both Dickinson and Braun will likely be gone from the roster at the center position.
Barring injury, this will just be a redshirt year where we won't see Clemence in uniform. In combination with the fact that he already spent two underwhelming years at Kansas means that means it's not the sexiest use of an open scholarship. But with that said, 6'10 shooters don't come around every day, especially at the college level. If you have a chance to give someone a second chance to become that, something he was supposed to be based on scouting reports, it makes sense to give him a second shot when some of your other offseason options fall through.