Where Key Remaining College Basketball Transfers Could Be Heading

On the men's side, all eyes are on Kofi Cockburn, Marcus Carr, Jaden Shackelford and Kevin Obanor as they contemplate their next destination.

The July 7 deadline for college players to withdraw from the NBA draft and retain their eligibility has provided plenty of clarity about what rosters look like for the 2021–22 season. That said, four elite players who tested the NBA waters before entering the transfer portal have the talent to significantly shift the national landscape. Here’s everything you need to know about where these impact names could land.

Kofi Cockburn

There’s a legitimate case to be made for Cockburn being the best men’s player to transfer since transfers became a major part of the sport. A 2020–21 consensus All-America, Cockburn helped the Illinois program go from its worst season since 1975 the year before his arrival to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in his sophomore campaign. After testing the NBA waters, Cockburn elected to withdraw his name from consideration and enter the transfer portal while also considering a return to Illinois.

The program believed to be in pole position for much of the Jamaican big man's recruitment was Kentucky, thanks to his relationship with new Wildcats assistant Orlando Antigua. Cockburn called Antigua “the reason I went to Illinois” in an interview with ESPN. However, a Wednesday report from The Athletic states that Cockburn “is not coming to Lexington after all” and that the 7-footer’s decision will come down to a return to Illinois or Florida State. Kentucky is expected to focus its efforts on top-ranked recruit Jalen Duren, who has taken an official visit to Lexington and is considering reclassifying into the 2021 class. 

At Illinois, Kofi Cockburn shoots a free throw

Illinois continues to work on convincing Cockburn to return for a third year in Champaign, and is now considered his most likely destination. Fellow All-America Ayo Dosunmu’s departure for the NBA will make replicating what the Illini did in 2020–21 a tall task. However, a promising backcourt nucleus headlined by crafty PG Andre Curbelo and veteran shooter Trent Frazier would make Brad Underwood’s team a clear top-25 team and a Big Ten contender if Cockburn does return. 

Meanwhile, a surprise commitment to Florida State no longer appears out of the question. Cockburn would immediately provide a significant upgrade for Leonard Hamilton’s club at the center position and move the Seminoles near the top of the ACC in the preseason. He’d join an incredibly talented incoming group that also features highly-touted high school products Matthew Cleveland and Jalen Warley, plus a pair of high-profile transfers in Caleb Mills (Houston) and Cam’Ron Fletcher (Kentucky).

Marcus Carr

Carr entered the transfer portal early in the offseason after a coaching change at Minnesota, but he only recently began focusing on college options for 2021–22 after going through the NBA draft process. While Carr struggled with efficiency late in the season for the Golden Gophers, he’s one of just three returning players in the country who averaged at least 19 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, and will have a massive impact wherever he lands.

The four schools currently in the mix for Carr’s services are Texas, Louisville, Kentucky and Kansas. Carr began a visit to Texas Tuesday, and the Longhorns have been considered the favorite by many around the sport to land the Canadian point guard. Chris Beard’s team presents the clearest combination of need and top-end surrounding talent, and adding a dynamic shot creator like Carr would make Texas a potential top-five team in Beard’s first season in Austin. Meanwhile, Louisville could desperately use a high-end shotmaking guard after losing backcourt duo Carlik Jones and David Johnson to the NBA this spring. Jones’s success as a grad transfer from Radford for the Cardinals this past season provides a clear blueprint for Chris Mack to sell to Carr.

Kentucky (Wheeler) and Kansas (Arizona State’s Remy Martin) have each added highly touted point guards from the transfer portal this spring, making Carr a less natural fit at either destination.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Carr will choose between Texas and turning pro overseas, per ESPN.

Jaden Shackelford

After leading SEC champion Alabama in scoring in 2020–21, Shackelford is exploring his options in the transfer portal after withdrawing from the NBA draft before last week’s deadline. The talented wing from California has narrowed his options to Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and returning to Alabama.

Ohio State likely took itself out of the running after landing a commitment from another shooting guard in Louisiana-Lafayette’s Cedric Russell on Sunday. The Buckeyes had a significant need at shooting guard after losing Duane Washington Jr. to the NBA, but Russell should fill that void comfortably.

That leaves three options: a pair of Big 12 programs with new head coaches in Texas Tech and Oklahoma or a return to Alabama. TTU has been extremely active in the portal since Mark Adams took over but doesn’t have a clear need for another wing scorer, given the return of Terrence Shannon Jr. and the additions of Sardaar Calhoun (Florida State) and Davion Warren (Hampton).

Oklahoma could certainly use the scoring pop Shackelford brings to round out an impressive transfer class for Porter Moser. That said, it would be quite the adjustment for Shackelford to move from Alabama’s fast-paced offense that has ranked in the top 15 nationally in tempo both years of his career to Oklahoma, where he’d be playing for a coach in Moser whose Loyola Chicago teams were among the slowest in the country.

A return to Alabama would once again give the Tide one of the best backcourts in the country, even with the departures of John Petty, Herbert Jones and Joshua Primo for the pro ranks. Nate Oats’s team brings back Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis, and adds five-star PG JD Davison and former five-star Nimari Burnett, a transfer from Texas Tech.

Kevin Obanor

Obanor introduced himself to the college basketball world in style this past March, pouring in 30 points against Ohio State and 28 against Florida to help lead Oral Roberts on its miracle run to the Sweet 16. Obanor’s combination of toughness on the glass (9.7 rebounds per game) and elite three-point shooting (46.3% from deep in 2020–21) makes him perhaps the best “stretch four” in college basketball. The 6' 8" big man has quickly narrowed his list from 10 to four to two schools, and is currently deciding between Texas Tech and Arkansas.

The Red Raiders are believed to be the leader for Obanor’s services. He’d join a veteran frontcourt that features fifth-year bigs Bryson Williams (UTEP) and Marcus Santos-Silva, and provides major scoring punch for a reloaded roster under Mark Adams. The only concern at Tech is the lack of a true point guard, which could hinder Obanor’s ability to dominate the game in pick-and-pop situations like he did in the NCAA tournament for ORU.

Stylistically, Obanor’s game fits more with Arkansas in Eric Musselman’s offense. He could play as an undersized center in Musselman’s system like he did at Oral Roberts, and Musselman’s ball-screen-heavy style that emphasizes spacing would get Obanor lots of open looks from deep. Still, the Razorbacks have plenty of frontcourt depth even without Obanor, thanks to the return of Jaylin Williams and the additions of versatile pieces like Au’Diese Toney (Pitt), Stanley Umude (South Dakota) and Trey Wade (Wichita State). 

More College Basketball Coverage:

• NCAA Winners & Losers of NBA Draft Decisions
SI's Top 10 Recruits Will Have Major Impact in College
Final 2021 SI All-American Recruiting Class Rankings