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Transfer Success Stories
We look at last summer's transfers who our model labeled as underrated, as well as who the analytical transfer darlings are for 2023-24.
The transfer portal has become a significant part of roster construction in 2023. The ability for a coaching staff to identify roster needs and move quickly to secure them in the portal is now a mandatory skill. The problem is that identifying the “perfect fit” for a program in the transfer market is harder than ever due to how fast players make their decisions on new schools.
There are plenty of credible transfer ranking lists out there, compiled by people who really know their stuff, and there is still a lot of disagreement between them. Projecting how well a player will perform in a new environment is really challenging.
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At EvanMiya.com, we have a daily updated list of transfer ratings that evaluates every transfer prospect in an objective, unbiased way, forming a prediction of how impactful a player will be next season. We factor in player stats from previous seasons, how well their team performed while on the floor, the level of competition they played, and high school recruiting information to get the most accurate projection possible using only data. Each transfer gets a projected Bayesian Performance Rating on offense and defense for the following season, which predicts a player’s overall value on offense and defense, all while adjusting for the strength of all other players on the court. Based on a player’s projected BPR, he gets a rating out of 5 stars which is similar to how high school recruits get a star rating.
This article will look at how our transfer projections model fared last year in predicting transfer success and compare it to other credible transfer rankings (by humans). At the end, we will also look at this year’s transfers who we think are underrated compared to public opinion. It is worth noting that transfer portal experts have the benefit of having a lot more information at their disposal to make rankings lists, such as feedback from coaches, NBA draft potential, general public consensus, and data-driven advanced analytics such as ours. It is probably rare for a computer-derived set of player rankings to outperform a carefully crafted list put together by a human expert.
So instead of just blindly trusting our transfer rankings and disregarding all others, I would advise others to use ours as a reference point that can change an assessment of a player in the right direction. If our transfer projection for a player is way higher than public consensus, maybe that player is slightly better than people think and could be a steal. If the experts think a transfer is a stud while ours thinks he’s just okay, maybe he is a notch below the public consensus. If both the data-driven model and the experts agree, there can be more confidence in that evaluation because of the “wisdom of the crowd”.
Last Year’s Transfer Projections
There were a good number of transfers last year that our transfer projections model really favored compared to other experts who had big seasons. In this next section, we will specifically identify some of these players.
To do that, we are going to compare our transfer portal rankings that were published last year (on the Portal Rankings page at EvanMiya.com) to some of the most credible transfer rankings lists that came out last summer. In particular, we are using top 100 lists from Jeff Borzello (ESPN), Jeff Goodman (Stadium), and 247Sports. There are other great lists out there, but I picked these three because they ranked up to 100 players and are people that I trust. I calculated an average composite ranking across these three lists to give an indication of the public consensus assessment of each player.
There were plenty of transfers who we rated highly that were also in line with the consensus rankings and ended up being really good in 2023: Baylor Scheierman, Kendric Davis, Tyrese Hunter, Terrence Shannon, Courtney Ramey, and Norchad Omier to name a few. There were also players who our projections weren’t very fond of that turned out to actually be very good, such as Tristen Newton, Souley Boum, Ricky Council, and Antonio Reeves. There will always be some misses (see previous paragraph about not blindly trusting one set of data-driven rankings).
As for the players who are model was “right” on, we will dive into these in greater detail. We will group the transfer success stories into two categories:
The Brightest Stars - Players who our model predicted would be high-level transfers and exceeded public expectations.
The Hidden Gems - Players outside the high-major ranks who our model identified as being potential steals and ended up having a big impact.
The Brightest Stars
These players ranked as a 5 star transfer according to our projections and were rated significantly higher by us than the consensus expert rankings.
Keyontae Johnson (Kansas State, from Florida)
(Ranked 12th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022, consensus 61st elsewhere)
Even before Kansas State made an Elite Eight, Keyontae Johnson was THE transfer story of the season. Many have labeled him as the best transfer from 2022 after his remarkable season. However, when he made the decision to leave Florida after missing the 2021-22 season due to a scary heart condition, there were a lot of questions about what kind of player he would be. The skepticism wasn’t so much around his talent, as he was the SEC preseason player of the year in 2021, but rather about if he would be able to reach that level again. Among notable public transfer rankings at major sports media outlets, his consensus transfer ranking was 61st in the country.
Our transfer projection model found Johnson to be among the best available transfers in 2022, ranking 12th in the nation. Even when factoring in that he had missed a whole season of playing time, which added some uncertainty to his projected impact level, we still predicted that he would excel at his next destination.
He finished the year averaging 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from three. He was part of a formidable two-man attack alongside Markquis Nowell that led Kansas State just a hair away from a Final Four under first-year head coach Jerome Tang. He was awarded AP third-team All-American honors, along with being named first team Big 12 and Big 12 newcomer of the year. Many consider him now to be the best transfer of 2023.
Jake Stephens (Chattanooga, from VMI)
(Ranked 3rd in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022, consensus 46th elsewhere)
Stephens wasn’t one of the most coveted transfers last summer, but our models loved him. The 7-foot senior had just finished his 4th season averaging 19.6 points, 9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game at VMI while shooting a ridiculous 49% from three on 5 attempts per game. We ranked him as the 3rd best transfer in the portal last season based on his predicted impact according to projected BPR.
He pretty much delivered on that prediction, finishing 5th among all transfers in Bayesian Performance Rating in 2022-23 and boosting his per game numbers to 22.3 PPG / 9.8 RPG / 3.4 AST / 2.2 BLK for a Chattanooga team that finished the year inside the top 150 at EvanMiya.com. He finished the year ranked 4th in the nation in our Most Indispensable Players rating, which points to how critical he was to the Mocs’ success.
Erik Stevenson (West Virginia, from South Carolina)
(53rd in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022, consensus 99th elsewhere)
West Virginia has been doing some serious work in the transfer portal recently. This year’s incoming transfer class is headlined by Jesse Edwards and Kerr Kriisa, but last summer’s transfer business was a building block that helped put WVU in the tournament. Perhaps the most important piece they added last season was South Carolina transfer Erik Stevenson, a super-senior who was ranked 53rd in our transfer portal rankings, despite being considered a fringe top-100 transfer elsewhere. Though he wasn’t the biggest name in WVU’s haul at the time (Tre Mitchell, Joe Toussaint), Stevenson asserted himself as their most dominant player, raising his level and averaging 15.4 PPG (previously 11.6) while improving his shooting numbers dramatically. Our model identified that there was a higher level that Stevenson could reach after leaving South Carolina, and he did just that, finishing 15th in BPR among transfers last season and being named to the All Big 12 Third Team.
D’Moi Hodge (Missouri, from Cleveland State)
(42nd in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022, consensus 84th elsewhere)
In his first season at Missouri, Dennis Gates hit the transfer portal hard and it paid off big time, landing four transfers that helped propel the Tigers to a tournament berth. The best of these transfers was Cleveland State senior D’Moi Hodge, a former JUCO player who we considered to be an underrated top 50 transfer, ranked consensus 84th elsewhere. At Cleveland State, Hodge had shown an ability to be a dynamic scorer, averaging 15 PPG and 33.7% from distance on 5.8 attempts per game, while also showcasing defensive ability with more than 2 steals a game. At Missouri, he adapted to SEC play while improving his play, scoring at pretty much the same rate while shooting a ridiculous 40% from distance on 7 attempts per game, along with upping his steals count. He finished the season ranked 11th among transfers in Bayesian Performance Rating and in the top 80 among all players in the country.
The Hidden Gems
These players ranked as 4 star transfers or better and were not present in any of the expert top 100 lists.
Connor Vanover (Oral Roberts, from Arkansas)
(4-star transfer, ranked 151st in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
After two disappointing seasons at Arkansas, there weren’t that many teams willing to take a chance on the 7’3” junior. In his final season in Fayetteville, Vanover only played 15 games, averaging less than 4 points per game. Despite that, our model identified a lot of value in the tall center in limited minutes. His per minute block numbers at Arkansas pointed to his ability to defend the rim, and he showed signs of being able to stretch the floor by shooting from deep. His On-Off numbers on offense indicated that he wouldn’t be a liability on that end either. Our projections ranked him as a 4-star transfer, the best incoming transfer in the Summit League. He had a preseason ranking of 8th among all Summit players, only behind Max Abmas on ORU’s roster.
Connor Vanover was vital for Oral Roberts, becoming the defensive anchor for them by averaging 3.2 blocks and 7.2 rebounds per game en route to winning Summit Defensive Player of the Year. He was a significant piece on offense as well, averaging 12.7 PPG while shooting 51.7% from the floor, including 32% from the arc on over 4 attempts a game. Vanover was about as good of a mid-major transfer portal snag as you can get, finishing 6th in BPR among all transfers.
Sir’Jabari Rice (Texas, from New Mexico State)
(4-star transfer, ranked 129th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
Texas signed Rice after four solid years at New Mexico State with the hope that he could bring some of that experience to an already loaded backcourt featuring Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter, also transfers. Though there was not an expectation that Rice would maintain the same production level in the Big 12 that he had in the WAC (around 12 PPG, with just okay shooting efficiency his final season), our transfer model still thought highly of his impact level, a 4-star transfer and inside the top 130 transfers nationally.
Rice fulfilled his 6th man role to perfection, increasing his points per game from the previous season while shooting 46% from the field and 37% from three, clinching the Big 12 conference 6th man of the year award. He finished the season ranked 14th among all transfers in BPR, inside the top 100 players nationally. Oh, and let’s not forget about the best aspect of his game: the greatest pump fake of all time.
Jalen Gaffney (Florida Atlantic, from UConn)
(4-star transfer, ranked 141st in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
Here’s an interesting one. Nothing about Jalen Gaffney’s box score stats jumps off the page in any year that he has played. In his first three seasons, he struggled to stay in UConn’s rotation, dropping from 19 minutes per game his first two seasons to just 12 his junior season before he entered the portal. Despite his struggle to produce, his on-court impact for the Huskies indicated that he could still be a big contributor through his presence on the floor, giving him a top 150 transfer ranking in our database last summer. Dusty May took a chance on him, bringing him to Florida Atlantic and sticking him in the starting lineup towards the beginning of the season.
Gaffney’s stats for FAU don’t tell the full picture, as he as a major difference maker for the Owls on their way to a Final Four, averaging over 20 minutes per game, 5th on the team. He wasn’t on the court to score or rebound (just 3.9 points and 1.2 rebounds per game), but his value to the team was apparent both through his playing time and his overall impact measured through Bayesian Performance Rating, finishing in the top 20 in the C-USA.
Adrian Nelson (Youngstown State, from Northern Kentucky)
(4-star transfer, ranked 136th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
For four seasons at Northern Kentucky, Adrian Nelson wasn’t a big scorer, but boy was he efficient. The 6’7” guard shot 63% from the field in his junior and senior seasons and finished one year ranked 3rd in the nation in effective field goal percentage. His per-possession rebounding was also immense, as he was inside the top 40 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate in both of his final two years at NKU, all as a guard. Figuring that he was underutilized at Northern Kentucky, our transfer model placed him as a 4-star transfer when he entered the portal.
Youngstown State scooped Nelson up and instantly benefitted, as he increased his shooting volume from 5 attempts per game to 10 and scored 13.5 PPG while still maintaining an efficient clip. He finished the season as the 28th best transfer according to BPR and the most impactful transfer in the Horizon League.
Ryan Larson (College of Charleston, from Wofford)
(4-star transfer, ranked 129th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
Larson entered the transfer portal after four respectable seasons at Wofford but probably wanting to have a bigger role. The sharpshooter was a starter his final season for Wofford, but only averaged 8.8 points per game. When he transferred to play for the College of Charleston #OurCity’s, our transfer model identified that he still had more to give and ranked inside the top 130 transfers.
Pat Kelsey’s team had an incredible season, in large part because of Larson, who led the team in minutes played and became a double digit scorer en route to a 12 seed in the tournament. Larson finished the season 42nd in BPR among transfers and rated as Charleston’s most impactful player on a per-possession basis.
Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (UMass-Lowell, from St. Bonaventure)
(4-star transfer, ranked 140th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings in 2022)
I love this one. Coulibaly spent his first two seasons at Pitt, but it didn’t quite pan out. He only averaged 5 points per game his sophomore season. He transferred to St. Bonaventure and it seemed to get worse, as he played less than 10 minutes per game and his scoring decreased. Despite that, our transfer model still liked what he brought to the table on a per-possession basis and ranked him inside the top 140 transfers available. He had the potential to make a bigger impact at the right place.
That right place for Coulibaly was UMass-Lowell where he played the best ball of his career, starting every game and scoring 11.4 PPG at an efficient clip, 57.6% from the field. He also brought in 7.6 rebounds per game. His overall impact was significant, finishing the season ranked 3rd in the America East in Bayesian Performance Rating.
This Year’s Analytical Transfer Darlings
Finally, we turn to this year’s transfers. We will identify players who our transfer model is much more bullish on than most other transfer rankings out there. We will compare the transfer rankings at EvanMiya.com to a consensus expert ranking, averaging Jeff Borzello (ESPN), On3, and 247Sports, since those three have at least 100 players ranked in each.
Kadin Shedrick (Virginia, committed to Texas)
(4th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 34th elsewhere)
Shedrick was arguably underutilized at Virginia, playing just 17 minutes per game his junior season while boasting some really impressive metrics. He shot 64.7% from the field last season and ranked 70th nationally in Bayesian Performance Rating, second behind Reece Beekman for Virginia. Both his box score stats and his on-court impact point to huge potential if given a larger role. He was 3rd in the ACC in Defensive Box BPR, meaning that his defensive stats were really good. He was also 4th in the conference in Adjusted Team Efficiency Margin, at +24.3 points per 100 possessions while on the floor. The fact that he was a 4-star recruit out of high school is further evidence of his high ceiling.
Jaylon Tyson (Texas Tech, committed to California)
(7th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 41st elsewhere)
Tyson will be joining his 3rd team in as many seasons, spending his freshman year at Texas and last season at Texas Tech. Though the Red Raiders had a disappointing season in 2023, the 6’7” guard was a big bright spot, averaging 10.7 PPG along with 6 rebounds while shooting 48% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. His defensive stats were impressive too, getting 1.4 steals and 4.5 defensive boards per game. Between all of those efficient marks and the fact that he was highly regarded out of high school (a 4-star prospect), he’s likely to succeed at Cal.
Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga, committed to Wake Forest)
(18th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 103rd elsewhere)
Sometimes the players who haven’t met lofty expectations in the past are the ones who can be the biggest future steals in the transfer portal. Hunter Sallis was an elite prospect coming out of high school, but the former 5-star prospect didn’t meet those expectations in his first two seasons at Gonzaga, only managing to carve out 16 minutes per game for himself in 2023. Despite that, there are still signs that he can be a big time player. He has shot just over 50% from the field in his career so far. He has also been a part of some very talented Gonzaga rosters and the team has performed just as well with him on the court compared to off of it. Our transfer model still thinks that he can be a really good college basketball player, especially considering his high potential based on his high school recruiting status.
Sahvir Wheeler (Kentucky, committed to Washington)
(20th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 104th elsewhere)
Wheeler is an experience, veteran point guard who has unfortunately been on the wrong end of some conversations around Kentucky’s disappointing season in 2023. Still, according to Bayesian Performance Rating, he was the 3rd best point guard in the SEC in 2021-22, and the 7th best this past season. He has shown previously that he can shoulder a larger load, averaging 14 points, 7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game at Georgia as a sophomore. The floor is really high with Wheeler. He should do well with a change of scenery out in Washington.
Aly Khalifa (Charlotte, committed to BYU)
(24th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 152nd elsewhere)
Khalifa is a really nice piece for BYU, with at least two more seasons of eligibility remaining. As a sophomore, the 6’10” forward showed that he can score the ball at an efficient clip, including some great numbers from three (38% on 3.7 attempts per game). His overall impact for Charlotte was really good, as he finished 10th in the C-USA in BPR, the best mark in the conference outside the big three of FAU, UAB, and North Texas. He had the 4th best Box Offensive BPR in the conference as well, indicating that his offensive stats are high level.
Cobe Williams (Louisiana Tech, committed to Tulsa)
(27th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 128th elsewhere)
Louisiana Tech was not great in 2023, but Cobe Williams prevented the team’s season from being a lot worse. His on-court impact was way better than the rest of his teammates, ranking 414th in the country in BPR. Only two other La-Tech players were ranked inside the top 1500 in the country. His On-Off splits point to his value, as the team scored 15.3 more points per 100 possessions when he was in the game, compared to sitting.
Dame Adelekun (Dartmouth, committed to Loyola-Chicago)
(31st in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings, consensus 191st elsewhere)
Adelekun was one of the first 5-star transfers to enter the portal this season, and Loyola moved quickly to secure him for next season. His value for Dartmouth was way better than the rest of his teammates. Adelekun’s efficient stat line (13.8 PPG, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 0.9 steals, to go with 56% shooting) led him to have by far the best Box BPR on his team. His value went beyond the box score, as Dartmouth was 23.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. When you put all of those ingredients together, he was in the top 400 in the country in Bayesian Performance Rating. To put that into perspective, all but two of his teammates were outside the top 2500 nationally in BPR.
Other Shots In The Dark
These players aren’t considered by others to be a top 150 transfer, but are 4-star transfers at EvanMiya.com and could play big roles next season.
Abou Ousmane (North Texas, committed to Xavier)
(5-star transfer, ranked 44th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
The North Texas big man averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game, ranking 6th in the C-USA in Box Bayesian Performance Rating.
EJ Jarvis (Yale, committed to Florida)
(5-star transfer, ranked 49th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Jarvis showed tons of potential in his junior season, averaging 11 PPG in 22 minutes per game. He was 4th in the Ivy League in Bayesian Performance Rating.
Ques Glover (Samford, committed to BYU)
(4-star transfer, ranked 79th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Glover shot 37% from three last season while averaging 14 points per game. He averaged 19 PPG the season before.
Davonte Gaines (George Mason, committed to Providence)
(4-star transfer, ranked 87th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Gaines was ranked 11th in the Atlantic 10 in BPR last season, by far the best rating of any George Mason player.
Messiah Jones (Wofford, committed to Towson)
(4-star transfer, ranked 99th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Jones is a very efficient scorer inside, averaging 63% from the field over 4 years at Wofford.
Sean Bairstow (Utah State, committed to VCU)
(4-star transfer, ranked 93rd in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Bairstow scored 10.3 PPG for Utah State in 2023, shooting 50% from two and 38.6% from three, on 32 minutes per game.
Elijah Hawkins (Howard, committed to Minnesota)
(4-star transfer, ranked 125th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Hawkins was a very efficient scorer from deep in his sophomore season, making 46.6% of his attempts from downtown, while averaging almost 13 points per game.
Harlond Beverley (Miami, committed to Wichita State)
(4-star transfer, ranked 135th in EvanMiya.com transfer rankings)
Beverley was 6th in BPR on a Final Four team last year. His Defensive BPR was 2nd on the team, only behind Norchad Omier. He was also a 4-star prospect out of high school.
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