Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Ben Margot / Associated Press
Orlin Wagner / Associated Press
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
After reaching the Final Four for the first time in 78 years, the celebration was relatively brief for the Oregon Ducks.
It has been less than two weeks since the culminating weekend of the college basketball season, and already the core has been scuttled from an Oregon group that posted consecutive regular-season titles in the Pac-12 Conference, won the league tournament in 2016, and advanced to at least the Elite Eight in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments.
Two of the stars of that run, 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, already have declared for the NBA draft with the intention of hiring an agent, ending their college eligibility. This week, senior guard Casey Benson announced his intention to move on as a graduate transfer to play immediately elsewhere next season.
During this past season Colorado head coach Tad Boyle described the ever-expanding transfer landscape in college basketball as “ubiquitous,” an unenviable wrinkle in the game that must be addressed, and even exploited, to improve a program. The Buffs will be looking to bolster their overall talent depth after last week’s announcement that sophomore guard Thomas Akyazili and freshman guard Bryce Peters will not return.
Between early entrants to the NBA draft and the now-normal glut of transfers, the Pac-12 will feature a wildly different look during the 2017-18 season. Less than two weeks after the title game, here is a glance at what players are planning to make early exits across the league.
Perhaps the biggest news for the Wildcats isn’t the lengthy list of those leaving, but the decision of sophomore guard Allonzo Trier to return to the desert. Trier’s return, coupled with another standout recruiting class as well as the return of big man Dusan Ristic, will keep the Wildcats among the nation’s elite despite the loss of 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons to the NBA draft. Arizona could also still lose Rawle Alkins and Chance Comanche, who will test their draft status without hiring an agent. Such players have until May 24 to make a final decision.
The Sun Devils’ most significant loss occurred early in the season when Sam Cunliffe opted to leave after just 10 games (he eventually landed at Kansas). Forward Jethro Tshisumpa announced his intention to transfer after an unremarkable freshman year that nonetheless included a significant impact on CU’s season. Late in the first half of the teams’ only meeting on Jan. 5, the 6-foot-10 Tshisumpa got involved in an altercation with CU senior Xavier Johnson, resulting in the ejection of both players. ASU traded the loss of a player who averaged one point per game and who eventually was suspended for the season’s final six games for the Buffs’ second-leading scorer who had gone 6-for-7 to that point. The Buffs suffered a one-point loss in the final seconds. ASU guard Maurice O’Field (24 games in two season) also intends to transfer.
The Bears’ most significant move was the hiring of Wyking Jones as head coach following Cuonzo Martin’s big-money “transfer” to Missouri. Big man Ivan Rabb saw his stock drop after a less-than dominant sophomore year but he isn’t making the same choice again, having declared for the draft. Cal also is losing intriguing freshman guard Charlie Moore, who expressed a desire to be closer to his hometown of Chicago in his decision to transfer.
Last year, Boyle was able to use the defections of Kenan Guzonjic and Tre’Shaun Fletcher to improve his team’s depth, adding Missouri transfer Namon Wright and 7-foot project Dallas Walton to the roster in place of two players that would have had a minimal impact in 2016-17. The goal is the same this year following the departures of Akyazili and Peters, with Boyle expressing a willingness to take advantage of the graduate transfer market for the first time.
Expect the Ducks to remain competitive, but it could be a transition season. Brooks and Dorsey are headed to the NBA. That destination could still be in the works for Jordan Bell, whose stock rose after a stellar NCAA Tournament. The Ducks lose a key leadership figure in Benson, though his minutes and production decreased this past season with the addition of freshman point guard Payton Pritchard. And that list doesn’t include Chris Boucher, who is trying to recover from a significant knee injury suffered during the Pac-12 tourney.
The return from an injury-marred season by Tres Tinkle will dull the ache of the Beavers’ potential losses. Guard Stephen Thompson Jr. and forward Drew Eubanks, easily the Beavers’ top two players this season with Tinkle sidelined, have declared for the draft without hiring agents. Guard Malcolm Duvivier, who did not play this season but averaged 6.6 points in 95 games at OSU, is leaving as a graduate transfer.
The Cardinal suffered only a minor loss, with guard Malcolm Allen announcing his intent to leave as a graduate transfer. Allen played sparingly in three seasons at Stanford.
Like Oregon, the Bruins could be looking at a complete makeover. However with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes on the way the impact may not be as jarring. Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf already are one-and-done. Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh, and 7-footer Ike Anigbogu are exploring the draft waters while keeping the door open to return.
Redshirt sophomore Shaqquan Aaron is the only potential early departure for the program. Aaron declared for the draft despite averaging just 7.6 points this year. He has not hired an agent, perhaps a shrewd decision for a player whose minutes were reduced drastically during USC’s three NCAA Tournament games.
Much like the Buffs’ Peters, whose departure was preceded by a tumultuous freshman year, Utah freshman Devon Daniels likewise is transferring after balancing troubles off the floor with a display of promise on the floor. Daniels, who averaged 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 29 games, and Jojo Zamora (6.9 points in 32 games) are transferring, while top player Kyle Kuzma studies his NBA prospects.
When Lorenzo Romar 15-season run as the Huskies’ leader ended last month, so too did UW’s pipeline to big-time recruits. Almost immediately Michael Porter Jr., considered by many as the top recruit in the nation, asked for a release from his letter of intent, later joining Martin at Missouri. Markelle Fultz, last year’s prized recruit, is headed to the NBA, perhaps as the top overall pick. The coaching fallout also included the transfer of Matthew Atewe and, more significantly, sophomore Noah Dickerson. Dickerson averaged 12.5 points and ranked 10th in the Pac-12 with 8.2 rebounds per game.
The only premature departure for the Cougars is junior guard Derrien King, who left WSU early this season after averaging 6.6 points in nine games.