Welcome back to our continuing look at one key question in this transfer-focused era of ours. Just how important have transfers been — whether due to addition or subtraction — to each men’s college basketball program in Division I’s top seven conferences?
Last week, we considered the Big 12, and before that, it was the Big East. Now, it’s the American Athletic Conference’s turn.
Note that we define a “transfer in” as someone who actually played minutes previously at a different four-year program. Conversely, a “transfer out” is simply a player who saw time at the American program in question.
That’s all straightforward enough, right? Here are the most significant AAC transfers of the modern era.
Best transfer in: Kyle Washington, 2016-18
Washington was a two-year starter for Mick Cronin at Cincinnati, a run that included a Bearcats squad that entered the 2018 NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed at 30-4. As a senior, Washington averaged 11 points and ranked as the leading shot-blocker for a team that finished the season No. 2 in the nation for adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom. The 6-foor-9 native of Champlin, Minnesota, began his career with two seasons at NC State before finding his way to UC.
Most significant transfer out: Tari Eason, 2020-21
Eason actually started more games in a pandemic-shortened season for UC in 2020-21 (eight) than he did last season for LSU (four). As a Tiger coming off the bench, however, the 6-foot-8 power forward earned first-team all-conference honors as well as attracting a good deal of attention from the next level. Eason is currently projected to be picked in the middle of the first round in this summer’s draft.
Best transfer in: Maurice Kemp, 2011-13
Kemp was named first-team All-Conference USA in 2013 after a senior season in which he averaged 19 points and eight boards. The 6-foot-6 wing arrived in Greenville after playing one season at Alabama A&M. Kemp and the Pirates won that year’s CIT and finished at 23-12.
Most significant transfer out: Jayden Gardner, 2018-21
Gardner was ECU’s leading scorer for three straight seasons before he made the jump to Virginia. He promptly took on the same role for the Cavaliers and, in fact, accounted for 17 of just 43 points posted by UVA in a 20-point loss to North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals.
Best transfer in: Quentin Grimes, 2019-21
Grimes shared 2021 American player of the year honors with Tyson Etienne of Wichita State. As a junior, the onetime Kansas Jayhawk connected on 40% of his 3s for a Houston team that reached the Final Four before falling to eventual national champion Baylor. Grimes was selected with the 25th pick in the 2021 draft and averaged six points last season as a rookie for the Knicks.
Most significant transfer out: Joseph Young, 2011-13
Young methodically worked his way up the all-conference ranks over the course of his career. He was named third-team All-Conference USA as a sophomore at UH in 2013. The 6-foot-2 scoring guard then transferred to Oregon, where he earned second- and first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior, respectively. Young ended his career with 30 points against No. 1 seed Wisconsin in a seven-point loss to the Badgers in the 2015 NCAA tournament’s round of 32.
Best transfer in: Elliot Williams, 2009-10
Williams averaged 18 points for Memphis and its new head coach, then-32-year-old Josh Pastner. The former Duke Blue Devil and 2008 McDonald’s All American lost out on Conference USA player of the year honors to UTEP’s Randy Culpepper but was a first-team all-conference selection who also was named the league’s newcomer of the year.
Most significant transfer out: Dedric Lawson, 2015-17
Lawson came within just a few rebounds of averaging a 19-10 double-double for the season as a sophomore at Memphis. He then transferred to Kansas, where he earned a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2019. Lawson has played professionally in the G League as well as in Korea and most recently Turkey.
Best transfer in: Semi Ojeleye, 2016-17
Ojeleye was named the 2017 American player of the year in recognition of his one and only season as a Mustang. He logged a total of 143 minutes over the course of two seasons at Duke before starting all 35 games and averaging 19 per outing for Tim Jankovich in Dallas. In the NBA, Ojeleye saw occasional minutes off the bench in four seasons for the Celtics before playing intermittently last season for both the Bucks and the Clippers.
Most significant transfer out: Jalen Jones, 2011-13
Jones recorded the prototypical breakout sophomore season for the Mustangs in 2012-13 and promptly transferred to Texas A&M. As a senior, he was selected for the All-SEC first team alongside the likes of Tyler Ulis and Ben Simmons. Jones appeared in 32 NBA games over two seasons before playing professionally in Spain, Italy and France.
Best transfer in: Geno Thorpe, 2016-17
Thorpe was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy 7-23 year for the Bulls. In his only season in Tampa, the former Penn State Nittany Lion averaged 15 points and nearly five assists for coach Orlando Antigua. That was sufficient for Syracuse to take a shot with Thorpe as a graduate transfer, but he left the Orange after just six games due to a “slow to heal” right ankle injury.
Most significant transfer out: Jahmal McMurray, 2015-17
McMurray started 26 games for the Bulls in his first season before electing to transfer out of the program early in his sophomore year. His destination of choice was SMU, where he averaged 18 points as a senior and served as the Mustangs’ leading scorer.
Best transfer in: Dalton Pepper, 2012-14
Pepper arrived in Philadelphia by way of West Virginia, where he struggled to earn playing time in a rotation populated by wings Da’Sean Butler, Wellington Smith and John Flowers. As a senior with the Owls in 2013-14, however, Pepper averaged 18 points in an efficient manner despite playing for an overmatched 9-22 team.
Most significant transfer out: Aaron Brown, 2010-12
Brown showed unmistakable flashes coming off the bench as a Temple sophomore who connected on 41% of his 3s. He would deliver on that promise first for Southern Miss and ultimately for Boston College. At BC in 2014-15, Brown averaged 15 points and was the Eagles’ second-leading scorer, behind Olivier Hanlan.
Best transfer in: Jalen Cook, 2021-22
Cook wins this “best incoming Tulane transfer” contest in a photo finish over teammate Kevin Cross. Both players had outstanding seasons for the Green Wave in 2021-22. Cook hit his 3s, handled the ball and averaged 18 a game in his Tulane debut after transferring from LSU. Cross scored in the paint, dominated the defensive glass and recorded a high number of assists after arriving from Nebraska.
Most significant transfer out: Jonathan Stark, 2013-15
Stark started 65 games and scored more than 800 points in two seasons with Tulane. Nevertheless, he elected to transfer to Murray State, where as a senior he started in the backcourt alongside a lightly recruited first-year player named Ja Morant. At MSU, Stark averaged 3.4 made 3s per game on 41% shooting from beyond the arc.
Best transfer in: Jeriah Horne, 2018-20 and 2021-22
Horne is one of the few players who can qualify for either “best transfer in” or “most significant transfer out” honors at the same school. He began his career under Tim Miles at Nebraska, transferred to Tulsa for two seasons, jumped to Colorado for one season and then returned to the Golden Hurricane for 2021-22. In his most recent stint with Tulsa, Horne drained 41% of his 3s and topped all Golden Hurricane scorers with 16 points a game.
Most significant transfer out: Jordan Clarkson, 2010-12
Clarkson converted just 28% of his 3-point attempts in 2013-14 at Missouri after transferring from Tulsa, but improved accuracy inside the arc and at the line yielded an excellent overall true shooting percentage. For the record, Clarkson was selected here by a nose over Tulsa teammate Eric McClellan, who started alongside Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer on the Gonzaga team that reached the 2016 Sweet 16.
Best transfer in: Aubrey Dawkins, 2018-19
Dawkins made 22 starts over two seasons at Michigan but saw a big increase in both minutes and workload after transferring to UCF to play for his father, Johnny. Aubrey personally pushed Zion Williamson and Duke to the brink of elimination with 32 points in the 2019 round of 32, only to see the Blue Devils eke out a one-point victory.
Most significant transfer out: Brandon Goodwin, 2013-15
Goodwin started his career with two seasons at UCF. He ended it by being named 2018 Atlantic Sun player of the year after averaging almost 19 points and five assists for Florida Gulf Coast. In addition to Goodwin, Knights fans with long memories will recall that Joey Graham helped lead Oklahoma State to the 2004 Final Four after he transferred out of UCF.
Best transfer in: Malcolm Armstead, 2012-13
Armstead started at point guard for the WSU team that stunned top seed Gonzaga and then reached the 2013 Final Four before falling to eventual champion Louisville. Prior to starring for the Shockers, Armstead started 49 games over two years at Oregon.
Most significant transfer out: Austin Reaves, 2016-18
Reaves was a secondary option on offense at Wichita State behind the likes of Landry Shamet and Shaquille Morris. That all changed by the time he was a senior at Oklahoma in 2020-21. At 18 points, Reaves ranked as the leading scorer on Lon Kruger’s last team in 35 seasons as a Division I head coach.