Clemson Basketball 2018-19: Graduate transfers to watch

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 18: Aamir Simms
SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 18: Aamir Simms /

With a veteran team comprised of five transfers, Clemson basketball finished 25-10 and got back to the NCAA Tournament, specifically, the Sweet Sixteen, for the first time since 1997 and the transfers led the way. So after such a successful year, will the Tigers hit the transfers market for 2018-19?

Brownell built his team with junior transfers, Marcquise Reed(Robert Morris), Shelton Mitchell(Vanderbilt), Elijah Thomas(Texas A&M), David Skara(Valparaiso) and senior Mark Donnal(Michigan). Next season, he won’t have Donnal and now, he could be without Reed, the team’s leading scorer, and point guard Shelton Mitchell because both have decided to test the NBA waters.

If Reed and Mitchell leave the program, it could drastically change expectations for 2018-19. Right now, the Tigers are projected by ESPN to be a No. 7 seed March Madness team.

The news hasn’t all been bad this offseason. Brownell did get some good news when Elijah Thomas, the leading rebounder(8.1 rbg) and fourth leading scorer(10.1 ppg) announced his intention to come back to Clemson.

“I want to become a LittleJohn Legend! Therefore, I Ain’t Going No Where…. , We Have an Unsatisfied Team & Unfinished Business. Stay Tuned.”

Thomas shared the center position with Donnal. Donnal, a graduate transfer, averaged 3.7 ppg and 1.6 rbg in a backup role. So will Brownell look to add another graduate transfer or any transfers this offseason?

On March 29th, he talked with the Greenville News about his transfers and touched on the general impact of transfers in college basketball.

"…….Now with how many transfers there are, it just has gotten to be that there’s so many that you’re probably going to have one scholarship sitting around for somebody because that’s just the nature of how things are now. You’re probably going to end up with one, because to be honest you’re probably going to lose one."

Yesterday, sophomore guard Scott Spencer announced his intent to transfer, so Clemson has indeed lost one and is likely contacting graduate and regular transfers to fill at least two roster spots.

For now, let’s concentrate on players like Donnal, who will be able to play immediately, upon completion of their undergraduate degrees, especially since Reed and Mitchell’s final decisions are at least a month away. Here are a few players that the Clemson coaching staff could have on their graduate transfer prospects board.

Backcourt depth

Mitchell is the only true point guard on the roster and another point or combo guard could be needed to make a deep March Madness run for 2018-19.

Dion Wiley(6’4, 210), Maryland. According to The Washington Times, Wiley, a former four-star recruit, is considering Clemson and South Alabama as transfer destinations. His career has been marred by injury, so playing time is important to him. Based on playing time, Richie Riley, South Alabama coach and former Clemson assistant(2014-16), may have the edge on his former employer, because if backcourt starters Mitchell and Reed return, then only backup minutes will be available for Wiley.

Season statistics: 5.8 ppg and 37% on three-pointers in 16 starts. Wiley highlights(2013).

Mike Cunningham(6’1, 185), USC-Upstate. Cunningham’s distance-one hour and 15 minutes-from the Clemson campus could naturally make him a transfer option for the Tigers’ coaching staff. Cunningham, a D.C. native, is a steady lead guard who shoots well enough, 38% on threes, to play on the wing. In his last game, he scored 28 points against Florida Gulf Coast. Cunningham will visit Tulane on April 7th and Louisville and Florida State may get visits too.

Career statistics: 12.3 ppg, 2.9 apg. Game winner over UMKC.

Frontcourt help.

Elijah Thomas was much better at avoiding foul trouble this season and that was a key component to the team’s success. Next season, opponents will likely focus on getting him out of games and with freshman Trey Jemison as the only other center on the team-more size and experience-will be needed to compete in the ACC.

Trey Porter(6’11, 230), Old Dominion. The redshirt junior will have one year of eligibility and is currently receiving a lot of attention from coaches across the country. Porter is a Woodbridge, Virginia native, and he will visit Maryland later today. At Clemson, he would add some much needed size, another post threat and shot blocking. Porter also runs the floor well for a center.

2017-18 statistics: 13.2 ppg, 6.2 rbg, 1.3 bpg. Porter highlights. 

Wyatt Walker(6’9, 240), Samford. Wyatt only played two games this past season because of a knee injury. The junior has two years of eligibility left and would give the Tigers a post player who can pass, rebound, and make the occasional three pointer. His experience would also be valuable looking ahead to 2019, because he could start at center and allow Jemison to ease into a backup role instead of being the expected starter.

Career statistics: 11.7 ppg, 7.8 rbg. Walker highlights.

Femi Olujobi(6’8, 233), North Carolina A&T. Olujobi scored 20 against Clemson in a 87-63 loss on Nov. 12, 2017. He also scored 21 in Blacksburg versus Va.Tech and after six games, he led the country in scoring at 28.3 points per game. Olujobi is originally from New York, so I don’t know if distance will be a factor this time around, but he has been contacted by 50 other schools thus far. Olujobi will have a year of eligibility left after he graduates in June. It is worth noting that Marcquise Reed scored 21 points against Clemson and that performance was a factor in the recruiting process.

2017-18 statistics: 16.3 ppg, 7.7 rbg. Olujobi highlights.

Next: Two Trends Continue in Clemson's Spring Practice

Brownell doesn’t really know what he will have next year until Mitchell and Reed make their final decisions on the NBA, but so far, what he does know is that Thomas is back, guard Scott Spencer will transfer and incoming freshmen John Newman, Hunter Tyson and Jemison are coming to campus.