Ten Underrated Graduate Transfers for the 2018-19 Season

Nehls, Austin
After three years at Central Connecticut State, point guard Austin Nehls will take his talents to the MAC as a member of the Ball State Cardinals for the 2018-19 season. (Source: Mid-Major Madness) (Header: The Virginian-Pilot)

SARNIA, Ont. — It’s easy to be overlooked in today’s college basketball world.

According to Verbal Commits, over 700 players have transferred this season, and the list continues to grow with each passing day. Last season, a total of 885 players transferred to different schools across North America. Many fans and members of the media focus on the higher profile players, thus overlooking several players who will have significant impacts at smaller programs across the NCAA.

This off-season has been no different. All eyes tend to focus on the power conference schools, overlooking the vast majority of programs until the NCAA Tournament rolls around. However, there is a ton of talent on the move this season that will have a big impact on how the 2018-19 season plays out.

Several of this year’s transfers qualify as graduate transfers, meaning they’re eligible to play immediately for their new programs. The graduate transfer market has grown with each passing season, and the likes of the Nevada Wolf Pack and Xavier Musketeers have loaded up on talent by way of the graduate transfer market in recent years.

With such an extensive list of transfers out there, it’s tough to narrow lists down. Instead of listing the top graduate transfers for next season, we took a different approach. Here are 10 graduate transfers who have been overlooked this off-season, but will have a strong impact with their new programs throughout the 2018-19 season.

Rayshawn Miller – Albany Great Danes

2017-18 Program: Massachusetts Minutemen
2017-18 Stats: 5.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.9 apg; 36.1% FG

It’s no secret that the Albany Great Danes have lost a ton this off-season, whether it be through transfers or graduation. Head coach Will Brown and company will be without their top four scorers from a season ago, as Joe Cremo and David Nichols transferred, while Greig Stire and Travis Charles graduated from the program. Fortunately for Brown, they have two transfers coming in who are immediately eligible, including Massachusetts transfer Rayshawn Miller.

Miller’s numbers won’t blow you away by any means. Last season, he averaged 5.0 points and 1.9 assists per game in just over 24 minutes of court time per night out. It was his first season averaging more than 4.0 minutes per game. Miller did put together an assist-to-turnover ratio of close to 2:1, dishing out 64 assists to just 35 turnovers. Adding a veteran presence for the Great Danes will go a long way for the team that will have its fair share of new faces and inexperienced players in 2018-19. Miller will be looked upon to be a leader for the program this season, and should put together a career year to close out his collegiate career.

Byron Hawkins – Bryant Bulldogs

2017-18 Program: Murray State Racers
2017-18 Stats: 7.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.0 apg; 44.3% FG

New Bryant head coach Jared Grasso wasted little time in securing talent for the 2018-19 season. Grasso was announced as the next head coach of the Bulldogs on April 2nd, and just over a month later, he landed his first major commitment for the program by way of a graduate transfer. After helping guide Murray State to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, guard Byron Hawkins is off to the Northeast Conference.

Hawkins, Byron
Byron Hawkins hasn’t grabbed the headlines as a top graduate transfer this off-season, but he will be a big piece to the puzzle for Bryant in Jared Grasso’s first season as head coach of the Bulldogs in 2018-19.

After two seasons with the Towson Tigers, Hawkins transferred to the Racers, where he played one season. The 6’1” native of Aalborg, Denmark averaged 7.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 44.3% from the field and 39.8% from beyond the arc. His numbers won’t blow you away, but his veteran presence will do wonders for a younger Bulldogs’ squad. The new back court duo of Hawkins and Adam Grant should be among the best in the conference this season.

Lew Stallworth – The Citadel Bulldogs

2017-18 Program: UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros
2017-18 Stats: 5.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.2 apg; 39.4% FG

In each of the last three seasons, The Citadel Bulldogs have had one of the nation’s top scoring offenses. They have ranked inside the top 20 in all three seasons, and they led the nation in scoring back in 2016-17. This off-season, they have lost four players by way of transfer, leaving holes that they needed to fill across their roster. They have added a pair of players as graduate transfers, including Lew Stallworth, who will be joining his third team in his collegiate career.

Stallworth began his career with the UTEP Miners, where he averaged 1.7 points per game as a freshman in 2014-15. He then transferred to UT Rio Grande Valley, where he played the last two seasons. He posted a career-high 8.6 points and 3.6 assists per game in 2016-17, his sophomore season, before seeing his minutes and numbers dip slightly this past year. In the free-flowing offense for the Bulldogs, Stallworth should see his fair share of opportunities on the offensive end of the floor, and should put up career numbers in his final season.

Robert Cartwright
The addition of Robert Cartwright will bring more depth to the roster for UC Irvine, who have been one of the Big West’s most consistent teams over the past few years. (Source: The Stanford Daily)

Robert Cartwright – UC Irvine Anteaters

2017-18 Program: Stanford Cardinal
2017-18 Stats: 4.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.3 apg; 36.8% FG

Any time you can land a player with power conference experience, you count that as a positive. When that player has two NIT appearances, and one NIT Championship, on their resume, it’s a big bonus to the program moving forwards. That’s the situation the UC Irvine Anteaters find themselves in, as they added Stanford transfer Robert Cartwright to the mix this off-season, adding more depth to an already talented roster for 2018-19.

Cartwright was primarily a backup guard during his time with the Cardinal, but he made the most of his minutes more often than not. In non-conference play last season, he recorded double-digit points on five occasions, including a 19-point performance against the Portland State Vikings at the PK80 Invitational. The Anteaters bring back their key pieces from last season, and adding Cartwright to the mix makes them even more dangerous. UC Irvine has been the most consistent team in the Big West in recent years, and they will look to make it back to the Big Dance this season with Cartwright in the mix.

Novak Topalovic – Utah Utes

2017-18 Program: Idaho State Bengals
2017-18 Stats: 10.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 bpg; 52.8% FG

The Utah Utes had themselves an impressive 2017-18 season. They went 23-12 overall, and they finished in a tie for third place in the Pac-12 regular season standings with a record of 11-7. The Utes were awarded with a spot in the 2018 NIT, and they made the most of their opportunity, advancing to the finals before falling to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Utah will be hoping for more post-season success in 2018-19, but will do so without several key contributors from last year’s team.

Utah added graduate transfer Novak Topalovic this off-season to add more talent and depth to the front court rotation. Over his three seasons at Idaho State, the 7’0” native of Nis, Serbia emerged as a formidable inside presence on both ends of the floor. He had a career year in 2017-18, posting 10.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. He has shot better than 50% from the floor in each of his past two seasons, where he shot 62.2% from the field in 2016-17. Several key personnel losses will open up opportunities for Topalovic from the start of the season.

Austin Nehls – Ball State Cardinals

2017-18 Program: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
2017-18 Stats: 9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 apg; 38.5% FG

After finishing third in the MAC – West Division last season, the Ball State Cardinals return the bulk of their production from a season ago. Guard Jontrell Walker transferred to the Jackson State Tigers after playing just 14 games with the team, but the rest of the core remains intact. When you add a player like Austin Nehls to the mix, who committed to the team as a graduate transfer, and the Cardinals have the look of a top contender in the MAC this season.

Nehls comes to the Cardinals after having played three seasons in the Northeast Conference at Central Connecticut State. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, averaging 11.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Nehls would average 13.4 points per game as a sophomore, and while his numbers would dip as a junior, he has the capabilities to be a leading man on the offensive end. In each of his three seasons, Nehls has shot at least 37.4% from the floor and 34.4% from three-point range. Add him to a group that includes Tayler Persons, Tahjai Teague, and Kyle Mallers, and the Cardinals are a legitimate threat to win the conference title this season.

Zaynah Robinson – Northern Kentucky Norse

2017-18 Program: Norfolk State Spartans
2016-17 Stats: 13.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.6 spg; 37.9% FG (DNP in 2017-18)

Zaynah Robinson didn’t suit up for Norfolk State this past season, but he was one of the top guards in the country in 2016-17 that nobody talked about. Robinson enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17, finishing second on the Spartans in scoring behind Jonathan Wade. Now, Robinson has transferred from the perennial powerhouse in the MEAC, and is off to the Horizon League as a member of the Northern Kentucky Norse.

Robinson averaged 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game in 2016-17, all of which were career high marks for the 5’11” guard from Atlanta. With all that the Norse have lost from last season, Robinson should be the feature guard on offense, and he will form a nice one-two punch with returning forward Drew McDonald. The Horizon League is home to some of the nation’s most underrated guards, and Robinson is one of them. Robinson will look to build off his 2016-17 numbers and close out his collegiate career with another impressive campaign.

Nick Norton – Drake Bulldogs

2017-18 Program: UAB Blazers
2017-18 Stats: 7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 spg; 37.6% FG

Thanks to transfers and graduation, the UAB Blazers will look considerably different in 2018-19 than they did a season ago. In total, four players left the program by way of transfer, while the likes of William Lee and Chris Cokley graduated. Point guard Nick Norton was one of those players who decided to transfer from the program, committing to the Drake Bulldogs when all was said and done.

Norton played just 11 minutes in 2016-17 before sustaining a season-ending injury, but he bounced back with a strong junior season in 2017-18. He posted an average of 7.5 points and 4.9 assists per game for the year. Norton dished out 156 assists while committing just 52 turnovers, an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3:1. In Norton, the Bulldogs get a point guard who takes good care of the ball and gets his teammates involved, which is good news for forward Nick McGlynn. Norton will be joined by fellow graduate transfer Brady Ellingson at Drake this season.

Norton, Nick
The addition of Nick Norton gives the Drake Bulldogs a solid point guard who can run their offense in 2018-19. (Source: AL.com)

Armani Branch – Norfolk State Spartans

2017-18 Program: VMI Keydets
2016-17 Stats: 7.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.9 bpg; 45.5% FG

Year after year, coach Robert Jones has the Norfolk State Spartans near the top of the MEAC standings when the post-season rolls around. Last season was no different, as they finished at 11-5 in conference play, just one game out of first place. This season, the Spartans should be near the top once again, as they have a talented group of returnees leading the way, plus they add a pair of graduate transfers who will add depth to the mix.

Armani Branch is a name that most casual fans won’t recognize, but he’s a player who could have himself a career year as a graduate transfer for the Spartans. Coming from the VMI Keydets, the 6’6” forward will add depth to a front court that had just three players last season. Back in 2016-17, Branch averaged 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in just over 17 minutes of court time per night. He hasn’t put up the best numbers over his collegiate career in limited action, but a potentially expanded role at Norfolk State could lead to big things for the native of Hampton, VA.

Kory Holden – South Alabama Jaguars

2017-18 Program: South Carolina Gamecocks
2017-18 Stats: 3.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.5 apg; 32.7% FG (14 GP)

Kory Holden caught all the headlines when he was a breakout star during his time with the Delaware Blue Hens during his first two seasons in the NCAA. After averaging 17.7 points and 4.2 assists per game as a sophomore in 2015-16, Holden opted to transfer from the program. He was one of the hottest commodities on the market, and opted to play for Frank Martin and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Holden, Kory (2)
Kory Holden never found his groove at South Carolina. Now at South Alabama, head coach Richie Riley is hoping that a change of scenery will help Holden regain his form that saw him excel at Delaware. (Source: Post and Courier)

Holden played in just 14 games this past season, averaging 3.4 points and 1.5 assists per game in the process. Once again, he hit the transfer market, and new South Alabama head coach Richie Riley brought him to the Sun Belt Conference. Given his down year in the SEC, the addition of Holden to the mix for the Jaguars has flown under the radar. If Holden can regain the form he had at Delaware, this could be one of the biggest steals of the off-season. Holden has all the tools to be an impact player on both ends of the court, and that could spell success for Riley and South Alabama this season.

– T. Bennett