College basketball transfer portal winners: Alabama reloads, John Calipari rebuilds Arkansas from scratch

A look at which teams improved the most through the transfer portal in the 2024 offseason
Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) reacts against the Iowa State Cyclones in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) reacts against the Iowa State Cyclones in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports / Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois transfer Coleman Hawkins, the No. 2 ranked player in the portal according to Evan Miya, has committed to Kansas State by virtue of what’s expected to be the largest NIL deal in college basketball.

According to reports, Nate Conley of Court XIV and Aaron Turner of Verus Basketball landed a $2 million NIL agreement with Hawkins, who was named All-Big Ten this past season. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists with Illinois.

Hawkins opted to return to college after testing the NBA Draft waters, though he made it clear he wasn’t going to return to Illinois for a fifth year. Plenty of schools were in the mix, but it’s likely that few could contend with K-State’s NIL war chest. 

Hawkins’ commitment puts the Wildcats at No. 3 in EvanMiya.com’s transfer portal rankings, just a little over a week after they landed former Kentucky forward Ugonna Onyenso. Jerome Tang also reeled in Dug McDaniel from Michigan and 6-foot-9 forward Achor Achor from Samford. C.J. Jones (Illinois-Chicago) and Max Jones (Cal State-Fullerton) are solid guards from the mid-major level who should have an impact as well.

After landing the cherry on top in Hawkins, the 2024 offseason could be considered a win for Tang and his coaching staff. 

As the last few big-name transfers make their decisions for next season, here’s a look at the teams who capitalized the most in the portal:

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Alabama has a case to be the No. 1 team heading into the 2024-25 season. Nate Oats brought in an elite shot blocker in two-time Big Ten All-Defense selection Clifford Omoruyi to hold down the paint, complemented by the scoring pop from AAC co-Player of the Year Chris Youngblood (15.3 points per game at South Florida) and sharpshooting wing Houston Mallette (14.7 points per game at Pepperdine). Aden Holloway from Auburn joined the Tigers’ in-state rival after being named SEC All-Freshman this past season.

On top of returning Mark Sears, Grant Nelson, Latrell Wrightsell Jr. and Jaren Stevenson, the Crimson Tide appear loaded on paper.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Following the disastrous Kenny Payne era, the Cardinals appear more suited to compete in the ACC under new head coach Pat Kelsey, who has already revamped the roster entirely through the transfer portal — literally. Louisville didn’t have a scholarship player on the team after its top 12 scorers from last season’s 8-24 squad entered the portal. The clean slate allowed Kelsey to reel in the second-best incoming transfer portal class in the country. BYU transfer Aly Khalifa, Big Ten All-Defense selection Chucky Hepburn and J’Vonne Hadley, a double-digit scorer with Colorado this past season, headline the group of newcomers. 

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

Dusty May got right to work as the new Wolverines head coach. He brought 7-foot-1 center Vladislav Golden with him from Florida Atlantic in addition to landing commitments from Roddy Gayle (13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per with Ohio State) and 7-foot center Danny Wolf (14.1 points and 9.7 points per game with Yale). Auburn transfer Tre Donaldson was a highly-rated player in the portal due to his strong per 40 minutes stats.

INDIANA HOOSIERS

What an offseason for Mike Woodson. Myles Rice, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year at Washington State, and two-time All-Pac 12 big Oumar Ballo headlined a high-touted transfer portal class that ranked seventh in the nation according to EvanMiya.com. Illinois transfer Luke Goode should provide much-needed shooting on the perimeter for an Indiana team that shot 32.4% from downtown last season. 

MEMPHIS TIGERS

Penny Hardaway’s 2024 transfer class might be overlooked after the Tigers went 22-10 last season with a roster that was built primarily through the portal. Still, Memphis’ transfer haul this time around is still impressive. Hardaway landed Tyrese Hunter (Texas), 6-foot-9 forward Dan Dianja (Illinois) and AAC Rookie of the Year PJ Haggerty (Tulsa). Haggerty averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a redshirt freshman. 

UCLA BRUINS

UCLA reloaded for its first season in the Big Ten. Two-time Pac-12 All-Defense selection Kobe Johnson fits the mold of a typical Mick Cronin wing. Former four-star recruit Eric Daily Jr. from Oklahoma State, former Kentucky commit Skye Clark from Louisville and 6-foot-9 forward Tyler Bilodeau from Oregon State make up most of UCLA’s transfer portal class that ranks top 10 in the country on 247Sports. Dominick Harris, a former five-star recruit at Gonzaga who transferred to Loyola Marymount before last season, committed to the Bruins after averaging 14.3 points with the Lions last season.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Lack of depth and scoring punch shouldn’t be a problem for the Jayhawks in the 2024-25 season. Bill Self hauled in one of the best classes in the country — All-Big Ten guard AJ Storr (16.8 points per game with Wisconsin), 6-foot-5 guard Rylan Griffen (11.2 points per game with Alabama) and Lawrence, Kansas, native Zeke Mayo (18.8 points per game, Summit Player of the Year with South Dakota State). Even with Riley Kugel decommitting, Kansas’ transfer portal class ranks No. 3 in the nation according to 247Sports.

USC TROJANS

Eric Musselman’s first transfer portal class as the Trojans head coach shapes out impressively. Boise State transfer Chibuzo Agbo headlines the group of newcomers after putting up 13.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with the Broncos. Saint Thomas (19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game with Northern Colorado), Bryce Pope (18.3 points per game with UC San Diego) and Josh Cohen (15.9 points per game with UMass) should be major contributors as proven scorers at the mid-major level. Terrance Williams II (12.4 points per game with Michigan) is a solid replacement for Johnson at the wing position.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

John Calipari built Arkansas into a top-20 team from scratch essentially. DJ Wagner, Zvonimir Ivisic and Adou Thiero followed Calipari from Kentucky, while FAU transfer Johnell Davis decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft and join the Razorbacks as well. Tennessee transfer Jonas Aidoo, one of the best defenders in college basketball, was another big addition to the frontcourt. Calipari still has wiggle room left to work with.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

It’s not the list of 5-star recruits Kentucky fans were used to seeing, but Mark Pope has done well in the portal cycle after starting from the ground up. Jaxson Robinson (14.2 points per game with BYU) was the latest addition, as the 6-foot-7 wing followed his head coach from Provo, Utah, to Lexington, Kentucky, as the reigning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. Lamont Butler Jr. brings a lot of NCAA Tournament experience with him from San Diego State, while Koby Brea (49.8% from 3-point range with Dayton) and Kerr Kriisa (42.4% with West Virginia) provide a lot of outside shooting in the backcourt. Andrew Carr (13.5 points per game with Wake Forest) and Otega Oweh (11.4 points per game with Oklahoma) are solid additions even if they aren’t the flashy names fans might expect.


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Cole Forsman

COLE FORSMAN

Cole Forsman is a reporter for Gonzaga Nation, a member of Sports Illustrated’s FanNation network. Cole holds a degree in Journalism and Sports Management from Gonzaga University.