The transfer storyline is the game within the game of college basketball. A softer version of professional free agency. Each year the size of the transfer pool gets bigger and the talent seems greater.
Here's a look at 25 of the more notable transfers to watch during the 2021-22 college basketball season. Listed in alphabetical order.
There's no doubt Akinjo is a talented guard (career 14.3 points per game, 5.2 assists per game), but he's on his third different school since the 2018-19 season. Akinjo played two seasons at Georgetown, then scored a career-high 15.6 for Arizona in 2020-21. Now, he has the potential to be the leader of the reigning national champion's revamped backcourt. In terms of transfer experience, Akinjo has plenty.
Not to be confused with Barry's good friend from The Goldbergs. This Matt Bradley is a nice addition to the Aztecs after he averaged 15.2 points and shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range over three seasons at Cal. Bradley's best season with the Golden Bears came in 2020-21 when he averaged 18.0 points and 4.6 rebounds. SDSU has won at least 21 games in four consecutive seasons, and Bradley could be the key to extending that run.
Bulldogs coach Ben Howland is obviously getting a seasoned veteran in Brooks, who posted 1,276 points and 796 rebounds over 133 games in four seasons at North Carolina. His father George Brooks is an assistant at Mississippi State, so it made sense that the graduate transfer would land here. The Bulldogs have made the NCAA Tournament once since the 2008-09 season, but Brooks' presence could get them there in 2021-22.
The Longhorns are loaded with transfer talent (Kentucky's Devin Askew and Christian Bishop from Creighton just to mention a couple), Carr is leading the way. He started his career at Pittsburgh, then spent two seasons at Minnesota, where he averaged 19.4 points and 4.9 assists last season. The Longhorns have big plans for 2021-22, and Carr has the game to help them achieve those lofty goals that have been set.
The Trojans' run to the regional finals last season was one of the great stories of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. They return some key talent from that squad, and the addition of Ellis gives them an exciting player who might be ready to break out. Ellis started 42 of the 59 games he played in two seasons at Memphis. He averaged 10.2 points last season, but 13.5 while shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range over his final 10 contests.
The 6-foot-11 Garcia made quite the impact during his freshman year at Marquette in 2020-21, averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 35.6 percent from three-point range. Now, the former McDonald's All-American takes his act to Chapel Hill, where he'll be one of two prominent transfers looking to help the Tar Heels regain their spot as a perennial national power after going 32-30 over the past two seasons.
Grady might not be the steady, prolific scorer (career 17.4 points per game) he was during a stellar four-year career at Davidson, now that he's surrounded by elite talent with Kentucky. Still, Grady is expected to play a major role for the Wildcats, who again are filled with talent, but must find a way to bring it all together. Having an experienced floor presence like Grady could be the key to Kentucky's success this season.
The transfer route has been pretty good to the Ducks in recent years (LJ Figueroa, Elijah Brown), and Guerrier is certainly a serious get this season. The 6-8 Guerrier took a huge step in his progression as a sophomore at Syracuse last season when he averaged 137 points and 8.4 points. The versatile Guerrier is expected to be a part of the plan Oregon, which is poised to challenge UCLA for the Pac-12 title.
Following a strong four-year career at Toledo, Jackson is stepping up his competition level for a chance to help the Sun Devils make noise in the Pac-12. In 62 games over the past two seasons, Jackson averaged 19.0 points with 5.6 assists and 5.1 boards for the Rockets. Now, it will be interesting to see how his game translates to the major-college conference level, where Arizona State looks to rebound from a massively disappointing 11-14 effort in 2020-21.
This is somewhat a case of the rich getting richer. The No. 2 Bruins have already returned NCAA Tournament stars Jaime Jacquez Jr., Jules Bernard, Johnny Juzang, and Tyger Campbell. Add the 6-10 Johnson, from Rutgers, to provide some frontcourt depth, and UCLA is loaded with championship-caliber talent. Johnson won't be asked to be a game-changer, but his presence inside after averaging 8.0 points and 8.5 rebounds last season is obviously welcomed.
The Wolverines benefited from one-year Columbia transfer Mike Smith at point guard last season. Now, they are hoping Jones has similar success for a squad that begins the season ranked sixth in the country. Jones was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year last season at Coastal Carolina, when he averaged 19.3 points, and shot 48.7 percent, while also recording 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.8 steals. He might be the premier Big Ten newcomer for 2021-22.
With Carlik Jones and David Johnson gone, Louisville is obviously in need of a quality scoring option. Locke has the potential to be that guy after averaging 10.1 points the past three seasons at Florida. With Locke, however, inconsistency has been an issue. The Cardinals will have their work cut out for them when it comes to contending in the ACC, and it remains to be seen if Locke is capable of carrying a team.
The Hogs hope to again make noise in the SEC and on the national scene this season. If that's indeed in the case, the 5-foot-7 Lykes likely needs to continue playing bigger than his stature. He comes over from Miami, Fla., where he averaged 16.2 points in 2018-19 and 15.4 the next season. His 2020-21 campaign was essentially erased by an injury, but he gets a shot at a rebound with a squad hoping to take the next step after reaching the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament last season.
After averaging 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds over a four-season run at Oklahoma, Manek joins Hubert Davis' no-look Tar Heels as another high-profile transfer. There are more than a few college basketball pundits who feel the 6-9 Manek is the best shooting big man in the nation. Oh yeah, his new coach at North Carolina feels the same. Manek is a career 45.4-percent shooter, and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc. We got a feeling that Manek will be an instant favorite among the Tar Heel faithful.
Martin averaged 19.1 points and shot 43.3 percent in each of his last two seasons at Arizona State, but he was never able to lead the Sun Devils to any real team success. So, he'll see if he can help the perennial national-championship contender Kansas win it all. However, at least to start, it seems Martin's value might be providing an explosive scoring option off the bench. For a player that good, and the obligatory ego that usually comes with it, we'll see how Martin handles it all.
Mills was poised to be a star at Houston, but things didn't work out. His career as a Cougar lasted all of 35 games over the past two seasons, His first from 2019-20 was quite good, averaging 13.2 points and making 36.5-percent of his 3-pointers. But, now Mills has a chance to be one of the focal points at Florida State. The Seminoles are sort of an unknown commodity out of the gate, however, if Mills fits in well with talented returnees like Malik Osborne and RayQuan Evans, they could make noise in the ACC.
Marcus Carr is Texas' marquee transfer, but Mitchell is no slouch. In fact, he could end up being the most consistent of the Longhorns' newcomers if he plays near the way he did in two seasons at UMass. The 6-9 Mitchell averaged 18.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, two assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals for the Minutemen. Now, it might be a stretch to think he'll be as productive as he was against mostly Atlantic 10 competition, but when asked, there's a good chance Mitchell will deliver.
Obanor was already a mid-major stud before averaging 23.3 points and 11.0 rebounds during Oral Roberts' improbable run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season. The Red Raiders get in the 6-8 Obanor (career 15.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg), one of the nation's best outside-shooting big men, who ranked eighth in the country last season making 46.3 percent from 3-point range. It will be interesting to see how the senior fares while consistently facing major-conference competition.
It's fair to say the 6-10 Payne underachieved during his two seasons at Florida (3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Plus, there's the John Fulkerson incident . However, he'll get a second chance at Illinois, where the Illini open the season ranked 11th in the nation and can use another established inside presence to go along with All-American Kofi Cockburn. Payne is a wild card, but an intriguing one nonetheless. If he plays to his potential, Illinois could be a serious national title contender.
Pinson remains a Tiger, just in a different location. He spent three seasons at Missouri, averaging 13.6 points and 2.9 assists in 2020-21 -- both career highs. However, he was apparently ready to move on and found a landing spot at LSU. The versatile guard has an explosive nature, but he can be erratic. Sure, Pinson is an upgrade and welcomed addition to Will Wade's group, but he'll likely need to be reined in from time to time.
Volunteers fans should be excited to watch the potential lurking inside of Powell. The sophomore's first collegiate season at Auburn lasted just 10 games due to a concussion suffered in January. However, during that limited time, Powell averaged 11.7 points, while shooting 19-of-43 from beyond the arc, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Tennessee needs a steady performer, and Powell just might be the guy to fill that role.
Watching Russell play is a pure treat. In four seasons at Rhode Island, Russell totaled 1,594 points, 411 assists and is the school's all-time leader with 213 steals. The Terrapins should benefit from that experience and the instant on-court leadership Russell is likely to provide. He's already considered one of the Big Ten's best players, and just one reason Maryland opened the season as the No. 21 team in the country.
Another big get for the Wildcats. The 6-9 Tshiebwe averaged 10.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in 41 games over two seasons at West Virginia. However, he felt too confined in Bob Huggins' defense-into-offense system. One that might not be totally conducive to his style of play. Tshiebwe is hoping for more one-on-one chances within Kentucky's approach, which he believes will showcase his offensive talent.
Remy Martin wasn't the only big name from Arizona State to transfer prior to this season. Verge averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 boards, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals in two seasons with the Sun Devils. However, he felt his future was elsewhere. That turned out to be Nebraska, where Verge has the potential to be a key figure and provide Fred Hoiberg's program a needed offensive boost. The Cornhuskers averaged 69.9 points and shot 41.1 percent while going 14-45 over the past two seasons.
There's no doubt Walker is an exciting player and brings plenty of potential to the Spartans' program after he averaged 18.8 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals as a sophomore at Northeastern last season. But, this is the Big Ten, and Tom Izzo is a demanding coach. Walker averaged 3.3 turnovers last season, so his minutes and, ultimately, production could be determined by how disciplined and fundamentally sound he is for the Spartans.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.