The 20 best players in the 2023 college basketball transfer portal - right now (Version I)
It's late March, and while four teams are still competing for the national title, a new season has begun for everyone else.
Yes, I'm of course talking about transfer season.
That's right, it's a new world of college hoops, and now, April and May portal recruiting is often as important - if not more so - than year-round high school recruiting. And because of it, we'll have you covered from all angles here at Aaron Torres Online and Aaron Torres Media.
First off, if you're not following our portal tracker - @CBBTransfers on Twitter, make sure to do so. That's our one stop shop for all things transfer portal visits, commitments and players entering the portal. The full running list is available at CollegeBasketballTransfers.com.
But also, as I've done every year, I also keep a list of the my 20 Best Players in the Transfer Portal - Right Now.
Understand, these lists are hard - trying to balance high-upside young players, with seasoned vets who can help you win, high-major players with low-major stars.
Still, here's my first look at the best players in the portal right now - which will be updated throughout he next few weeks.
1. Caleb Love, G, North Carolina
Love is certainly the most well-known player in the transfer portal, but is he the best? It's a fair question to ask.
On the one hand, he has been a largely inefficient player for most of his career, with numbers that cratered this year. On a highly touted North Carolina team, he shot just 37.8 percent, and a career-low 29 percent from three. He also averaged just 2.8 assists per game, while also turning the ball over 2.4 times.
The fact that it's pretty obvious that he was forced out at North Carolina probably isn't the best sign.
At the same time, when he can play under control, he's one of the best guards in college hoops, period. Put simply, he's the only guy in the portal who has shown an ability to get buckets, at will, on the biggest stages of college basketball, with 30 in the Final Four last year against Duke, and 28 against UCLA in the 2022 Sweet 16.
It's going to take the right coach, and buy-in from Love himself next year, but if it clicks, he could be one of the best players in the sport.
In terms of fits, it'll be interesting to see who reaches out. He's a native of Missouri and would fit well in Dennis Gates' system and up-tempo schools like Alabama makes sense as well.
It'll be interesting to see who is actually interested.
2. Kel'El Ware, C, Oregon
While Love is the most high-profile player in the portal, you could argue that no one has a better high school pedigree than Ware.
A 6'10 center originally from Arkansas, Ware was a consensus Top 10 prospect and projected lottery pick before the season started. But in a crowded, more experienced front court in Eugene he got lost, and on the same day that Love decided to enter the portal, Ware did as well.
In terms of his upside, on the one hand, it's through the roof. He's an elite athlete, with a chance to be a difference-maker on both the offensive or defensive ends. At the same time, issues about his motor have followed Ware dating back to his high school days, and the big key for whoever recruits him next is the ability to actually tap into Ware's raw potential.
Ware recently released a loaded list of schools, that included Duke, Gonzaga and home-state Arkansas, so you know he's a top priority for several programs.
3. Brandon Murray, G/F, Georgetown
It'll be a third school in three years for the well-traveled Murray, who began his career at LSU, before transferring to Georgetown after Will Wade's firing a year ago. With Georgetown parting ways with Patrick Ewing, he has entered the portal again.
Still, despite the two stops in two years, whoever gets him next, is getting a big-time college basketball player.
The 6'6 wing was an All-SEC freshman team in 2022, and didn't miss a beat in his one year at Georgetown, averaging 13.7 points per game, to go along with three rebounds, three assists and over a steal and a half per game. He also shot around 34 percent from three as a freshman at LSU, so the shooting stroke is there, even if his numbers dipped a bit this year.
Murray is talented enough to play at any level and for any school in the country, and you should expect just about every big-time program to reach out.
4. Jameer Nelson Jr., G, Delaware
The son of NBA legend Jameer Nelson, Jameer Nelson Jr. plays like... well, his dad.
A 6'1 guard who was late to basketball growing up and began his career playing for Aaron Torres Media's Jamion Christian at George Washington, Nelson spent the last two years at Delaware, helping the Blue Hens to the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
This year he was a bona-fide star averaging 20. 2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game and over two steals. The only thing lacking right now is three-point shooting as he shot just 31 percent on the year, but he also shot 36 percent two seasons ago, so it's not a crippling deficiency either.
There have been few reports on Nelson's recruitment, but expect the best high majors in college basketball to be involved.
5. Khalif Battle, G/F, Temple
A big, 6'5 guard, Battle was the Owls leading scorer this past season, playing his final game in mid-February. This, after averaging over 21 points per game two seasons ago.
Put simply, there aren't many guys in the portal who have proven an ability to put the ball in the hole, at the level Battle did, making him one of the most high-priority wings in the portal.
6. Dalton Knecht, G/F, Northern Colorado
I'm always wary of ranking mid-major players too high on these lists, fearful of what a step up in competition will do to some players. But as the gap between high-major and mid-major begins to shrink, we consistently see more and more mid-major guys able to step up to the high-major level and thrive.
The list this year goes on and on from Antonio Reeves to Mark Sears, Jabari Rice and Baylor Scheierman.
And really, when watching film of Knecht, that's who the 6'6 wing from Northern Colorado most reminds me of - Creighton's Baylor Schiemerman. He's a legit 6'6, but also super athletic, able to put the ball on the floor, but also step back and hit threes. This year as the focal point of a bad Northern Colorado team, he scored 20.2 points and grabbed 7.2 rebounds, all while shooting 38 percent from three.
Based on the early interest, it's clear that high-major coaches are as excited about Knecht's talent as I am, as he's already heard from a number of big-time schools including Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana and Illinois, among many others.
7. Denver Jones, G, Florida International
Originally from tiny New Market, AL (population 1,500) Jones may have been a bit underrecruited, but after two big years at FIU, the guard has blown up into one of the most coveted players in the portal.
Standing 6'4 but playing even bigger, Jones is a pure scorer, averaging 20 points per game while shooting 37 percent from behind the arc, with an athletic ability to get his shot just about any time he wants.
Jones is a high-priority for some of the biggest schools in college hoops, as Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have already had in-home visits with him.
8. TJ Bamba, G, Washington State
Bamba is a new-age guard, standing 6'5 and able to play on and off the ball. And after two developmental years at Washington State, blew up in 2023, averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game, while shooting 37 percent from three.
Since entering the portal, he has heard from a who's who of big-time schools, including Kansas, UConn, Arizona, Illinois, Florida and St. John's among many others.
9. Reese Dixon-Waters, F, USC
For those who didn't stay up late to watch West Coast games, you missed some very fun performances from Dixon-Waters.
The Pac-12's Sixth Man of the Year, Dixon-Waters is a big, 6'6 guard, with toughness and athleticism to guard multiple positions. He's not an elite shooter (just under 30 percent) but did come on late overall, scoring double-figures in five of the Trojans' final seven games.
Put simply, there aren't too many guys with his size and athleticism that are available, and it's reflected in the schools pursuing him, as Kansas, UCLA and Texas are among the schools who've already reached out, per Rivals' Travis Graf.
10. Walter Clayton Jr., G, Iona
There's no other way to put it: Clayton is an electric guard, who thrived playing this season in Rick Pitino's frenetic, up-tempo attack at Iona.
On the year he was the Gaels best player, averaging just under 17 points, on a blistering 43 percent three-point shooting. And it's not as though he didn't do it against big-time competition, dropping 22 points on SMU in the out of conference, 20 against St. Louis and 15 against UConn in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for schools hoping to grab Clayton, his recruitment is essentially over. He has already told reporters that he will choose between his home-state Florida Gators (who he visited this weekend) or Pitino's St. John's squad.
A decision should come after he visits St. John's later this week.
11. Graham Ike, F/C, Wyoming
It's been a whirlwind two years for Ike, a 6'9 Ike, as he was an All-Mountain West first team performer two years ago. Last year he averaged 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, helping Wyoming to the NCAA Tournament. This year he missed the entire year, as the Cowboys plummeted to last place in the conference.
Well after the season he decided to transfer, and should bring immediate size and physicality to some team.
Think of him in the Oscar Tshiebwe/Adama Sanogo mold. He's not super tall or long, but tough as hell, and able to finish around the rim.
Expect him to be playing at the high-major level next year.
12. Kario Oquendo, G/F, Georgia
The 6'5 Oquendo is an A+++++ elite that does one thing at an extreme level: He gets buckets. The high-flier averaged 15 points per game two seasons ago in Athens, before finishing second on the team with 12.7 points per game in 2022-2023.
And when the season ended, he decided to both enter the portal and declare for the draft.
Because of the limitations on his game, Oquendo will probably end up returning to school. While he can score at will on opposing teams (even at the high-major level), he doesn't shoot the ball well (just 27 percent this year) and really doesn't make anyone around him better.
Still, the skill-set and athleticism are off the charts, and schools like Kansas, Arkansas and Ole Miss have already reached out trying to convince him to return for another year.
13 Kerr Kriisa, G, Arizona
You could argue that, outside of Caleb Love, Kriisa is the second most high-profile player on this list, as a two-year starter on an Arizona team that was in the Top 10 for most of his time manning the offense.
You could also argue that he's almost the exact opposite of Love: A player who has been consistently excellent for two years, but has struggled a bit in the bigger moments, against the better teams.
On the year Kriisa averaged 9.9 points per game and 5.1 assists, while shooting 37 percent from three, this after averaging 9.7 points and 4.7 assists a season ago. The problem is in big games against elite competition, where Kriisa's lack of explosive athleticism got exploited, most notably in a six-point, zero assist Pac-12 title game against UCLA and three-point, two assist NCAA Tournament loss to Princeton.
Kriisa does have his limitations, but as long as you know that going in, he can still be a productive player at the high-major level. He reportedly visited West Virginia this past weekend, and also reuniting with Sean Miller (the coach who recruited him to Arizona) could make sense at Xavier.
14. Jayden Epps, G, Illinois
For the second time in three years, a guard starred at Illinois as a freshman, then surprisingly decided to enter the transfer portal. It happened after the 2021 season with Adam Miller, and happened again earlier this week, when Epps decided to leave the Illini as well.
Epps isn't super-big at 6'2, but that never stopped him from getting where he needed to on the floor, and in general, was one of the better freshman guards in the Big Ten this year. He finished the season averaging 9.8 points per game, but as time went on, it was clear that his role diminished, playing just six minutes in the Illini's NCAA Tournament loss to Arkansas.
Still, he will be a solid lead guard to some program's backcourt next season.
15. Caleb Mills, G, Florida State
16. Yohan Traore, F/C, Auburn
17. Nick Timberlake, G, Towson
18. Jamison Battle, G/F, Minnesota
19. Chris Ledlum, G/F, Harvard
20. Sahvir Wheeler, G, Kentucky
21. Joe Girard, G, Syracuse
22. Damian Dunn, G, Temple
Players who were on this list who've since committed
JJ Starling, G, Notre Dame (Committed to SYRACUSE)
John Tonje, G, Colorado State (Committed to MISSOURI)
Skyy Clark, G, Illinois (Committed to Louisville)
Paxson Wojcik, G, Brown (Committed to North Carolina)