College basketball: 9 transfers who will make an impact in 2017-18
College basketball season is still two and a half months away, but it's never too early for fans to get familiarized with the new faces suiting up for their programs.
Hundreds of student-athletes will have new homes come this fall after annual summer transfers. For many, they'll have to sit a year before contributing on the court. For others, they'll get significant minutes right away.
Here are nine eligible transfers who are expected to make immediate impacts for programs with NCAA tournament aspirations in 2017-18:
Mark Alstork | Illinois
Illinois was on the NCAA tournament bubble toward the end of 2016-17 season, but those hopes bursted with a regular season loss to last-place Rutgers and a blow out to Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Now Illinois enters 2017-18 with a new coach in Brad Underwood and aspirations to get back to the tournament for the first time since 2013.
Alstork, a graduate transfer from Wright State, should add some much-needed offense to a program that finished in Division I's bottom half of scoring average per game last season (71.7). Alstork averaged 19 points per game and shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range in his junior season with the Raiders.
The 6-5 guard can step right into the Illi's starting lineup or provide some quality bench minutes at either the 2 or 3 position. It'll be a stretch to project the same scoring clip from Alstork in his first season in Big Ten play, but Alstork's versatility is also an asset (4.7 rebounds 3.5 assists per game in 2016-17) that should spark Illinois.
Elijah Brown | Oregon
Oregon must reload after it lost five key contributors from last season's Final Four run. Brown, a graduate transfer from New Mexico, will be one of the new pieces relied on to prevent any setbacks.
Brown twice made the All-Mountain West Conference teams for the Lobos, including a unanimous first-team selection in 2015-16. He averaged just under 19 points per game last season. The shooting guard is a volume scorer — he attempted 14 shots per game each of the past two years — and he grabbed more than five rebounds per game in the past two years.
The new-look Ducks will look for more shooting efficiency from Brown, but his scoring will be a welcome sight.
James Daniel III | Tennessee
Daniel is yet another pure scorer looking to show what he's capable of doing in a power conference.
The 6-foot guard was the NCAA scoring champion two years ago when he averaged 27.1 points per game for Howard. Last season got derailed quickly when he only appeared in two games due to a nagging ankle injury. Now with Tennessee, Daniel is ready for his long-awaited follow-up to that 2015-16 campaign and a first shot at March Madness.
Like Alstork, Daniel likely won't be the same high-scoring No. 1 option like he was at his previous school. Instead, he'll be an important contributor with the chance to provide offensive sparks in spurts. Daniel and JUCO transfer Chris Darrington will lead a much-improved Vols backcourt that has tons of scoring potential this season.
Tennessee went 16-16 last season and last made the NCAA tournament in 2014.
Al Freeman | NC State
Perhaps overshadowed by Johnathan Motley's big time play and Ishmail Wainright's consistency at Baylor, Freeman will now get a major opportunity at NC State to contribute as a graduate transfer.
Freeman was a prolific shooter with the Bears, converting on 37.5 percent of his career 3-point attempts while shooting 42.5 percent overall from the field. Last season, he averaged 9.5 points and was a career-high 39.5 percent from deep.
Freeman is a decent shot creator and is deadly off the screen and in pick-and-roll opportunities. With freshman sensation Dennis Smith Jr. leaving for this year's NBA draft, Freeman gives the Wolfpack a steady and experienced option in the backcourt.
Cam Johnson | North Carolina
Johnson was the prize of this year's transfer list after a standout season at Pitt last year when he averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He'll now stay in the ACC with reigning national champ UNC, where he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Johnson is listed at guard, but at 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, he can easily slide into the small forward position left open by Justin Jackson. Like Jackson, Johnson is a dangerous shooter for his height, connecting on 41.7 percent of his 3-pointers last year.
Despite losing Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks to the NBA, the Tar Heels are still well-stocked to make another championship run. Johnson is just another piece to the puzzle.
Kaleb Joseph | Creighton
Creighton's lack of depth in the backcourt was put into the spotlight last season after starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. was sidelined for the season due to an ACL injury suffered in January. The Bluejays quickly went from a popular darkhorse contender to taking a first round exit in last year's NCAA tournament.
After sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, Joseph looks to return stability to the position in 2016-17. The former Syracuse point guard joins the backcourt alongside rising senior Marcus Foster to provide hope for the Bluejays, who lost to Rhode Island in the first round of last year's tournament. Joseph isn't a go-to scorer, averaging 3.4 points per game over two seasons with the Orange, but he notched 131 assists in 50 games.
Whether he steps into the starting lineup right away or splits time with sophomore Davion Mintz, Joseph's presence will be felt.
Egor Koulechov | Florida
The addition of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry worked out for the Gators last year as he was a key contributor to their Elite Eight run. Florida hopes to replicate that success with the arrivals of two more transfers in Egor Koulechov (Rice) and Jalen Hudson (Virginia Tech).
Koulechov comes off All-Conference USA honors last year when he put up 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He'll be an option in the starting lineup or off the bench and will be a dangerous sharpshooter within the Gators lineup.
Replacing Devin Robinson as a starter at small forward seems like a logical fit.
Malik Newman | Kansas
How do you start with replacing Frank Mason, a four-year standout and the 2017 Naismith Award winner? It's no easy task for the Jayhawks, but the addition of former Mississippi State guard Malik Newman eases the transition.
Rising senior Devonte' Graham will likely slide to main ball-handling duties with Newman either joining him in the backcourt or coming off the bench. Newman averaged 11.3 points and 2.2 assists in his lone season with the Bulldogs in 2015-16.
Newman is a dynamic talent but had his struggles as a freshman in SEC play. He was limited to single digits in seven of his final eight games at MSU. However, being around the Jayhawks offense for a full year while he sat out of 2016-17 should help him fit right in come November.
Geno Thorpe | Syracuse
Syracuse will have a new scoring weapon in Thorpe, who comes over from South Florida as a graduate transfer.
Thorpe posted career-highs in nearly every statistical category in 2016-17, his only season with the Bulls. He posted 15.1 points a game to go along with 4.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and a 39.5 shooting percentage. He also swiped more than a steal per game.
Syracuse lost three of their top four scorers from 2016-17 in Andrew White III, John Gillon and Tyler Lydon. Thorpe now joins a returning corps highlighted by rising sophomores Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson. As that pair looks to step up as underclassmen, Thorpe gives the Orange a seasoned offensive threat that's played in both the AAC and the Big Ten (Penn State; 2013-15).
Syracuse was one of the first teams left out of the 2017 NCAA tournament field. The last time the Orange failed to make consecutive tournaments was 2007-08.