By Landing AJ Storr, Kansas Men’s Basketball is Early Winner in Transfer Portal Moves

The Jayhawks have a rebuilt roster capable of serious national championship contention and may not be done yet.
Storr committed to Kansas on Thursday, giving the Jayhawks their third major portal addition this offseason.
Storr committed to Kansas on Thursday, giving the Jayhawks their third major portal addition this offseason. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a month ago, when the Kansas Jayhawks’ season ended with a whimper in a blowout loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, legendary coach Bill Self caught the ire of many for saying something that essentially every coach in the country was thinking: He had been looking ahead to next season already. 

It’s not popular to admit defeat before the final buzzer sounds, but Self has been around this game long enough when his team doesn’t have enough firepower to win it all. That was true with Kansas from the opening tip of last season and came more into focus as injuries wore on an already thin Jayhawk roster. By the time the men’s NCAA tournament tipped off and star wing Kevin McCullar Jr. had been ruled out for the event, it was a question of when not if the Jayhawks would get bounced. Self seemed fixated on righting the roster construction wrongs that capped KU’s ceiling in 2023–24, and has done just that in the four weeks following the Gonzaga loss. The latest big move, landing former Wisconsin Badgers wing AJ Storr, arguably the best player in the transfer portal

Storr, who averaged nearly 17 points per game for a Badgers team that earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, became Self’s third portal commit of the cycle Thursday afternoon, picking the Jayhawks over the Illinois Fighting Illini, Texas Longhorns, Arkansas Razorbacks and a host of other suitors. Joining him in Allen Fieldhouse next fall will be former Florida Gators wing Riley Kugel and South Dakota State Jackrabbits import Zeke Mayo, and there’s plenty of buzz that Self and the Jayhawks’ monster offseason isn’t done yet. 

Kugel, then with Florida, committed to Kansas from the transfer portal.
Kugel, then with Florida, committed to Kansas from the transfer portal. / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Kansas went all in on Hunter Dickinson in the portal, winning the most hotly contested recruitment of 2023. But landing Dickinson alone couldn’t overcome what was otherwise a bust of an offseason by Kansas. Towson Tigers transfer Nick Timberlake never came close to living up to the hype, and Texas transfer Arterio Morris never suited up for the program after being charged with rape in the fall (those charges have since been dismissed, and Morris is back in the transfer portal). Meanwhile, other key pieces departed via the portal, with reserve bigs Ernest Udeh Jr. and Zuby Ejiofor and young wing MJ Rice all heading elsewhere. 

The result: a Kansas roster around Dickinson that didn’t have nearly enough depth, shooting or firepower to win at the level Jayhawks fans expect. KU went into games with, at best, nine scholarship players available, three of whom were freshmen. The Jayhawks made six or fewer threes in 24 of 34 games on the season, a number that’s simply not good enough in modern college basketball. Kansas’s eight Big 12 losses were its most under Self, and that tally might have been worse if not for the surprise emergence of freshman Johnny Furphy. 

With Storr, Mayo and Kugel, it’s clear Self has no interest in history repeating itself. Storr is wired to score, capable of creating buckets in isolation and filling it up at all three levels. He scored 20 or more points 11 times this season and is, in many ways, exactly the type of player the Jayhawks were missing in 2023–24. Kugel, meanwhile, was on plenty of NBA draft boards in the preseason before a disappointing sophomore season in Gainesville, Fla. His upside is enormous, though, with excellent size and the ability to create for himself. And in Mayo, KU gets a combo guard who shot over 39% from deep this past season and was one of the best mid-major players in America. Kansas has also been connected to Alabama Crimson Tide transfer Rylan Griffen, perhaps the best three-and-D player in the portal who played a key role on the Crimson Tide’s Final Four team this season. 

Add that deep stable of wings to a returning core that already includes point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. and veteran forward KJ Adams Jr., and this group looks dangerous. The Jayhawks could get even scarier, too, if Dickinson decides on another season in Lawrence, Kan. Teams would be staring down a Kansas team that would essentially be two deep at every position: Dickinson and five-star Flory Bidunga at center, a deep stable of wings playing the 2–4 positions and Harris running the show. That’s a roster, especially with Self coaching it, that should be in the mix for the No. 1 spot in the preseason poll

Was Self’s March candor uncommon? Sure. And most coaches don’t have the goodwill built up to be as open as Self was in that moment. But it’s obvious Kansas’s “planning ahead” has paid off, with a rebuilt roster capable of getting the Jayhawks back into serious national championship contention. 


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).