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UCF Basketball Rebuilding Just in Time for Big 12 Transition

The Knights roster will look much different in the 2022-23 season, its last season in the AAC, as the Transfer Portal has been a revolving door for the program over the past few months.

ORLANDO - The UCF men’s basketball team has seen a lot of changes to its roster since the end of the season. It will be without at least seven contributors from last season heading into 2022-23. However, there are currently four players transferring in, as well as two incoming recruits (including the highest ranked recruit in school history, Taylor Hendricks).

Only four players from last year’s roster are currently expected to return, so the Knights will be lacking in continuity. Darius Johnson, CJ Walker, Tyem Freeman, and PJ Edwards (DNP last season) are the four players from last year currently listed on the 2022-23 roster. Let’s take a look at who is coming in, and who is on their way out.

Departing Transfers

Darin Green Jr. - G

In what came as a shock to many, Darin Green Jr. announced his plans to transfer from UCF shortly after the end of the 2021-22 campaign. He’ll head to Tallahassee to play for Florida State in his senior season, a place that has a reputation that will bode well for him and his hopes of playing in the NBA. This is the biggest loss for the Knights, as Green was the most reliable scorer and shooter on the team. He was always near the top of the AAC in 3-point percentage and total 3-pointers made, and led the team in scoring last year. Green also received third team all-AAC honors for his junior year. In his three seasons as a Knight, Green averaged 11.6 points, 1 assist, and 2.4 rebounds per game on 41% from the field including 38.8% from beyond the arc. The Knights will need to find a way to replace his production fast.

Darin Green, Jr's playmaking ability will be missed in Orlando.

Darin Green, Jr's playmaking ability will be missed in Orlando.

Jamille Reynolds - F

Jamille Reynolds, the rising junior who averaged about ten minutes per game with UCF last year, will be transferring to conference foe Temple for 2022-23. When he was on the court, he was usually pretty effective, throwing around his 230 lb frame to create matchup issues whenever he could. His playing time was expected to increase going into last year after the departure of Avery Diggs and a full year of experience under his belt, but Cheikh Mbacke Diong transferring in ended up changing that. There was a lot of promise for Jamille as a Knight moving forward, but he will look to show that promise now for the Temple Owls.

Isaiah Adams - F

Isaiah Adams burst onto the scene as a freshman in the 2020-21 season, showing a wide array of offensive skills to the tune of 9.9 points per game, and earning an all-freshman first team AAC nod. However, last season he saw his minutes drop from 24 minutes to about 14 minutes per game, and there was a drop-off in almost every statistical category outside of free-throw percentage. It seemed that he was just trying to play a bit too fast for himself, but the potential was still clearly visible, and this is still a big loss for UCF. The former “Mr. Basketball” of Florida in high school will transfer to Buffalo from the MAC for his junior year.

*Dre Fuller Jr. and Tony Johnson Jr. are also not listed on the 2022-23 roster, and according to ESPN are “expected to depart.”*

Graduating Seniors

Cheikh Mbacke Diong - C

Diong was the main defensive anchor for the Knights last year, and he made his presence felt by the opposition night in and night out. He averaged 6.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game in his one season at UCF. Diong was also a big “energy” guy, and it seemed every time he made a big defensive play, it sparked the Knights to go on a run. UCF will miss his paint presence sorely as they move forward.

Cheikh Mbacke Diong UCF Basketball

Mbacke Diong's defensive presence really helped the Knights this past season.

Brandon Mahan - G

The case of Brandon Mahan was an interesting one. Sometimes, he caught absolute fire, and carried UCF on his back with lights-out shooting and playmaking. Other times, he shot the Knights out of games. He had seven games with 17 or more points, and nine games with three or more 3-pointers made, but he also had eight games in which he scored five points or less. Overall, his production will be tough to replicate with incoming new guys, but UCF may be able to find some more consistency out of somebody than they had with Mahan.

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Darius Perry - G

Darius Perry was the leader of the Knights’ squad for the past two seasons. After transferring from Louisville, he took on a much bigger role for the Knights, last year scoring 11.8 points per game with 4.4 assists. Last year he scored in double figures in 20 of his 29 starts for UCF. Perry was a hot and cold shooter, but overall provided the team with a respectable 36% mark from 3-point range. Many times, UCF would look to him in clutch time, and he was donned the nickname “Scary Perry” from some of the UCF faithful for this reason. His maturity and leadership will be what is missed the most.

Darius Perry UCF Knights

Darius Perry was a valuable contributor as a floor general, defender and scorer for the Knights.

The Newcomers

Michael Durr -F/C

UCF is very familiar with Michael Durr. Last year he played for Indiana, but the three years preceding that, Durr was a South Florida Bull. Durr is a proficient rebounder, and more than holds his own defensively in the paint. He did not see much playing time in his one year at Indiana, just seven minutes per game, but moving back into the AAC for his final collegiate season should revert him back to his 20+ minutes of playing time he was receiving at South Florida.

Lahat Thioune - C

Lahat Thioune will come in from Utah, and he will likely be the main candidate to try and replace the production Cheikh Mbacke Diong brought last year. He has similar size and length, as well as a play style that mirrors Diong’s. He will, like Durr, likely see a major increase in minutes as he averaged around seven minutes per game for the Utes. Although on a small sample size, Thioune has shown an ability to be efficient offensively from the floor, shooting 67.5% from the floor in his career.

Brandon Suggs - G/F

This is another new guy that UCF knows pretty well already. Brandon Suggs will come over from East Carolina to join the Knights for his fourth season. He will not ‘wow’ anybody with offensive moves, but the ball does go in the bucket. Last year he averaged 10 points on 7.6 field goal attempts per game, shooting 42% from the floor. The three-point shooting could also use some work, but Suggs has a good feel for his shot selection so it's unlikely he will shoot too many head-scratching threes.

Ithiel Horton - G

A starter for the ACC’s Pitt Panthers, Ithiel Horton will join the Knights. He has plenty of experience facing some of the top talent in the country. Horton will all but surely lead the team in three-point attempts, having shot over five per game in all three of his seasons at Pitt, for a career percentage of 39%—surprisingly slightly higher than Darin Green Jr’s.

Taylor Hendricks - F/C

Taylor Hendricks is a four-star recruit who will join the team as the highest-ranked recruit in the history of UCF basketball. ESPN has him listed as the 54th best recruit in the country for 2022. 

He is expected to be a two-way threat, thriving on both sides of the ball. Hendricks fills up the stat sheet on a regular basis, in high school he averaged 15 points, 2.6 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.9 blocks per game, all while shooting the three ball at 40% and having an overall field goal percentage of 59%. He should be penciled in as a first-game starter.

Tyler Hendricks - G

The brother of Taylor, Tyler is not ranked as high and might need more time to adjust to major college basketball. He’s going to be battling for minutes behind Horton, Suggs, Darius Johnson, Tyem Freeman and possibly PJ Edwards, but he will gain valuable insight from the upperclassmen and may find his way into the rotation over the following seasons.