College basketball notebook: Ranking the impact of second semester eligible players
With the first month of the college basketball season coming to a close, we embark upon the most confusing time of the year… second semester eligibility season. This is the time of year when you scroll through KenPom box scores and see a player in all black font post a 20/10 line. I’m here to help with a list of the top 20 second semester impact transfers to hopefully prepare you before that happens. (Of course, there are always a few players who don’t make grades in the first semester, and lose their eligibility for the second half of the season.)
TOP 20 IMPACT PLAYERS
1. Esa Ahmad, West Virginia
Expected return: Mid-January?
You can argue that Ahmad was Bob Huggins’ MVP last year. He can stretch out defenses in the halfcourt (while still drawing contact at a high rate), and his length and versatility is essential to their press. Ahmad had the highest usage rate of any Mountaineer last year. His fresh legs down the stretch for WVU will be evident.
2. Kristian Doolittle, Oklahoma
Expected return: Debuted Dec 19 vs Northwestern State
Doolittle, an athletic tweener in Lon Kruger’s transition-heavy offense, really started to put everything together at the end of his freshman season. He’ll be fun to watch running alongside Trae Young.
3. Michael Gilmore, FGCU
Expected return: Debuted vs Dec 16 vs ORU
Gilmore, an athletic stretch 4 at 6-foot-10, can add some much needed versatility to the FGCU frontcourt, as Ricky Doyle, Brady Ernst and Antravious Simmons have had trouble getting out of the paint against mobile bigs. Gilmore should fly down the court in transition with guards Zach Johnson and Brandon Goodwin, potentially helping Dunk City resurrect a season that has been going a bit sideways in OOC play.
4. Wes Clark, Buffalo
Expected return: Debuted vs Syracuse, and immediately started at the point
Clark, a former Missouri point guard, can immediately slot into the hyper athletic Buffalo backcourt to run Nate Oats’ transition offense, especially with Dontay Caruthers currently on the shelf. The addition of Clark sets the Bulls apart from the MAC pack, and makes them a dangerous 13/14 seed come March, should they get back to the dance for the third time in four years.
5. Harry Froling, Marquette
Expected return: Debuted Dec 18 vs NIU
Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski will take whatever help he can get in the frontcourt. Froling isn’t a world beater at the rim on either end, as he’s more of a pick-and-pop threat, but for a defense allowing teams to shoot 67.4 percent at the rim (30th worst mark in the country per Hoop-math.com), his 6-foot-11 frame can only help.
6. Mickey Mitchell, Arizona State
Expected return: made debut Sunday at Kansas
Mitchell, who provides some much-needed frontcourt depth for Bobby Hurley’s short bench, can guard 2-4 defensively, and since slimming down, is arguably the most athletic Sun Devil. Mitchell is having an immediate effect on the defensive end with his versatility.
7. Cole Gentry, Wright State
Expected return: Debuted Dec 16 vs Toledo
Gentry, well familiar with coach Scott Nagy’s system, as Nagy recruited him at South Dakota State, will immediately take over on the ball, allowing leading scorer Justin Mitchell to finally move into an off guard role, where he should thrive. Nagy has said the Raiders will push the tempo with Gentry at the helm, which should make WSU a Horizon dark horse.
8. Rondale Watson, Marshall
Expected return: Debuted Dec 19 vs Xavier
Watson, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from Wake Forest, could potentially light it up in Dan D’Antoni’s spread pick-and-roll transition offense. The Herd is one of the fastest teams in the country, with an outstanding floor general in Jon Elmore, who will find Watson on the wing routinely.
9. Sandy Cohen, Green Bay
Expected return: Dec. 21 vs Bowling Green
Linc Darner has one of the youngest teams in the country, so Cohen, a former Marquette wing, should have a big role in Darner’s RP40 full-court pressure system. Cohen averaged 11 and 6 in the team’s summer trip to Puerto Rico.
10. Yankuba Sima, Oklahoma State
Expected return: Debuted Dec 16 vs FSU
Sima, a former St. John’s rim protector, was already being relied on by Mike Boynton to stabilize the OSU frontcourt, but his role becomes even more vital, as the dismissal of Davon Dillard and Zack Dawson really hurt the Pokes’ depth.
11. Dwayne Morgan, Southern Utah
Expected return: Hopefully the start of Big Sky play on Dec 28
Todd Simon was able to utilize his UNLV connections to land the extremely athletic 6-foot-8 power forward. Morgan has the potential to put up huge numbers in SUU’s transition-reliant system.
12. Willie Jackson, Toledo
Expected return: Debuted Dec 16 vs Wright State
The Rockets are a MAC contender, but they’re in desperate need of defensive help, and the 6-foot-6 wing can immediately become Tod Kowalczyk’s best defender. With Jackson coming over from Missouri, the Rockets have two high-major wings, as Colorado transfer Tre’Shaun Fletcher has already established himself as one of the MAC’s premier talents.
13. Sam Cunliffe, Kansas
Expected return: Debuted Dec 16 vs Kansas
The 6-foot-6 Cunliffe comes over from Arizona State in the Carlton Bragg trade, and he can fill the box score in a variety of ways. He’ll mostly be relied upon for depth, as he’s not an elite defender by any stretch.
14. Terry Winn, UTRGV
Expected return: Hopefully by the start of WAC play on Jan 6 at the latest
Winn, whose athleticism pops on the screen, will be a massive addition to Lew Hill’s breakneck fast break system at UTRGV. The 6-foot-6 stat stuffer will face an immediate test against UTA’s Kevin Hervey.
15. New Williams, Fresno State
Expected return: Between Dec 27 vs Nevada and Jan. 3 at Utah State
Williams, a former four-star Auburn recruit, was going to be used mostly for depth, but he could see a bigger role with the injury to Jaron Hopkins if Rodney Terry goes with a smaller lineup. Williams is an electric ball handler, but you have to defend in Terry’s extended man-to-man pressure system, and that’s not Williams’ strong suit.
16. Jared Pearre and Lamine Diane, CSUN
Expected return: Between Dec. 17 at EWU and Dec. 23 vs. Idaho State
Reggie Theus always seems to have a slew of players caught in the NCAA’s red tape, and the two athletic partial qualifiers are this year’s examples. Both are long, athletic wings, with famed Findlay Prep product Diane being the most exciting as a borderline four-star recruit this past cycle.
17. Jahmal McMurray, SMU
Expected return: Debuted Dec 18 vs Boise State
McMurray probably would have landed several spots higher on this list if his status was known. Tim Jankovich is debating whether to redshirt the high-scoring combo guard out of South Florida, as he’s blocked by Shake Milton and Jimmy Whitt on the depth chart. [UPDATE: McMurray did not redshirt, and has had an immediate impact on the perimeter for the SMU offense]
18. Malique Trent, Hampton
Expected return: Debuted Dec 17 vs Gardner Webb
Trent, a talented former TCU point guard, will immediately take some heat off Jermaine Marrow, who currently leads the nation in usage rate (and fourth in shot rate). That makes the Pirates easy to game plan against, but the addition of Trent could make them the favorites once again in the MEAC.
19. Hunter Seacat, Appalachian State
Expected return: Debuted Dec 16 vs Ohio State
Seacat never fit in with Tony Shaver’s four-out motion offense at William & Mary, where mobility is generally required from the bigs. He could, however, provide much needed frontcourt depth and rim protection for an ASU defense that allows a LOT of dribble penetration.
20. Jerrelle DeBerry, Utah Valley
Expected return: Jan 6 vs CSUB
DeBerry can be a useful spot shooter as a 6-foot-5 wing in Mark Pope’s pro-style offense. UVU has also been using a short bench, so he should see immediate minutes, possibly as early as tonight against Bethesda.
Josh Anderson/Tapha Diagne, Western Kentucky
Expected return: ????
Your guess is as good as mine on the eligibility of these two, but both are former four-star recruits lured to Bowling Green by Rick Stansbury.
Adonys Henriquez/Jermaine Bishop/Ty Graves, St. Louis
Expected return: Potentially Dec. 16 vs. Oregon State? [UPDATE: Still no word from the investigation, and SLU is rapidly approaching the deadline on whether or not to redshirt the involved players at this point]
SLU was expected to see one of the biggest win total turnarounds in the country, but a sexual assault investigation has kept these three off the floor. If you want to read the social media tea leaves, it appears they made the trip to Portland, which would be quite a development. If eligible, Bishop can move Jordan Goodwin off the ball, Graves can provide much-needed perimeter shooting, and Henriquez is an all-around talent with length on the wing.
De’Anthony Melton, USC
Expected return: ?????
It’s impossible to know when, or even if, Melton will return, as he’s allegedly involved in the Adidas scandal. One thing is certain, though: Andy Enfield could use him defensively, as the Trojans have been a mess defending in ball screens.