Could Kentucky add a basketball transfer who’s not even in the NCAA portal yet?

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Ben Roberts
·7 min read
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The flood of college basketball players putting their names in the NCAA transfer portal has finally slowed to a relative trickle in recent days.

As of 8:30 a.m. ET Monday, the list of transfers for next season stood at 1,293 names, with only 113 players jumping into the portal over the previous week, according to recruiting analyst Travis Branham, who has been tracking the transfer numbers for 247Sports. This time last year, that number had just surpassed 700 names.

While the rush of players into the portal is indeed slowing down, there could be another spike or two in the near future. And Kentucky remains active in its search for more college-proven players for next season.

The Cats have already added Davidson star Kellan Grady — a 2,000-point college scorer and one of the top players in the NCAA portal so far — and John Calipari’s program has been linked to several other transfer possibilities, some who have since committed to other schools and some who remain UK options.

It has become pretty clear that Calipari will add at least one more transfer this season. But could such an addition come from a player that hasn’t even put his name in the portal yet?

“Absolutely,” Branham told the Herald-Leader late last week. “Kids make this decision to transfer anytime between, obviously, the end of the season — as soon as their season ends, players start going into the portal. And it drags out all the way through the end of summer. Obviously, at those points it’s very sprinkled in here and there.”

Kentucky’s main objective this offseason appears to be trying to find a veteran, college-proven point guard that could share the backcourt with incoming recruit Nolan Hickman, who is a young player the UK coaching staff has high expectations for but could also likely benefit from having an experienced presence next season.

Minnesota star Marcus Carr is the name at the top of the point guard transfer list, though he’s still exploring his NBA Draft options. It sounds likely that other talented players fitting UK’s needs could enter the portal over the next few weeks.

It’s widely expected that the NCAA will formally announce sometime soon that all transfers this offseason that meet minimum academic requirements will be permitted to play for their new schools right away, without having to sit out a season. When that announcement comes — and as other transfers pick their schools and the coaching carousel continues — additional spikes in the number of players in the transfer portal could follow.

“When this NCAA rule becomes finalized, I think we’re going to see another bit of a jump in that portal,” Branham said. “So I do think there’s potential that there are some other big names out there that might jump in there in the next few weeks that we don’t even know about yet. And when that happens, I do think there’s going to be a chance that Kentucky could jump on somebody that we haven’t even thought of.”

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More Kentucky transfer options?

It seems like a new transfer popping up on the list of Kentucky possibilities is becoming a daily occurrence.

The past few days have brought several such cases.

The most intriguing might be Illinois freshman Adam Miller, a star recruit in the 2020 class who put up 28 points in his college debut this past season before settling into more of a supporting role for the Illini, averaging 8.3 points and shooting 34.0 percent from three-point range while starting 29 of 31 games for a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Miller — a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Peoria, Ill. — was fun to watch as a high school recruit. He was particularly impressive in the always competitive USA Basketball camps and was named to the Nike Hoop Summit team and Jordan Brand Classic game last year. Miller is a good shooter with athleticism and can score off the catch or by creating for himself. He also projects as a high-level defender moving forward. He wouldn’t solve UK’s likely need for another point guard, but he does seem like a great fit for Calipari’s style and could be a high-upside addition to Kentucky’s backcourt, especially if Davion Mintz chooses not to return for one more season.

Miller has also been working out with incoming UK freshman Bryce Hopkins, and the Cats are thought to be one of his top options for next season. Miller was the No. 33 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class.

UNLV junior guard Bryce Hamilton has also been tied to Kentucky. Hamilton averaged 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the Runnin’ Rebels last season, and ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported over the weekend that UK had reached out to Hamilton.

Michigan State guard Rocket Watts entered the transfer portal a couple of weeks ago, and Kentucky was linked to his recruitment Monday, but it sounds doubtful that anything will come of that. Watts — a 6-2 guard — averaged 7.7 points per game last season and has shot below 30 percent from three-point range in each of his two college seasons.

Not long after 247Sports’ Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader that he wouldn’t be surprised if a player not yet in the portal eventually transferred to Kentucky, it was announced that North Carolina veteran big man Garrison Brooks would add his name to the transfer list.

Brooks — a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward — was the ACC preseason player of the year and started 108 games over his UNC career. He ended up averaging 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a senior, and he’s now looking for another spot to use his bonus year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to all players due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though he just entered the portal a few days ago, Brooks’ name has actually been out there in recruiting circles as a transfer possibility for weeks, and Kentucky was often mentioned as a possible landing spot. The Cats are seemingly already loaded in the frontcourt for next season, but it wouldn’t be unlike Calipari to add one more proven big man, if he can.

Sports Illustrated’s Quierra Luck reported over the weekend that UK, Arizona State, Auburn, Georgetown, Georgia and Tennessee are all possibilities for Brooks. It’s worth noting that Brooks’ father, George Brooks, has been an assistant coach at Mississippi State for the past 10 years.

Walker Kessler commits

Walker Kessler — the 7-foot-1 center who left North Carolina after one season — committed to Auburn on Monday night. He was the No. 1 player on 247Sports’ most recent list of available transfers for this offseason.

Kessler, a former five-star recruit, was strongly linked to UK after it was revealed that he planned to leave North Carolina, but that buzz had died down over the past week or two, and the Herald-Leader was told over the weekend that the Wildcats never really had much of a shot at Kessler’s commitment.

Former Missouri player Xavier Pinson, another transfer who had been linked to UK earlier this spring, committed to Louisiana State on Monday.

Efton Reid’s decision

Kentucky was first linked to five-star prospect Efton Reid more than a year ago, and while the Wildcats were involved in his recruitment for quite some time, he’s expected to end up elsewhere when he finally announces his college decision later this week.

Reid — a near 7-footer from Richmond, Va. — will reveal his college choice Thursday. He hasn’t yet named a list of finalists, but his former high school coach told the Columbus Dispatch last week that Reid is down to three schools, and Ohio State is one of those programs He did not name the other two schools, but Pittsburgh has also been strongly linked to Reid’s recruitment.

Reid is the No. 23 overall recruit in the 2021 class, and he has said very little about his recruitment throughout the process. There are still no predictions on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page.