The Kansas State men’s basketball team had a historic run to the Elite Eight after fielding only two returning players from the 2021-22 roster, because of head coach Jerome Tang recruiting new players from the transfers portal.
The K-State roster has four scholarship spots open and will lose Markquis Nowell, Keyontae Johnson, Ismael Massoud and others. K-State needs new key contributors and its Elite Eight run could help attract top transfers.
Sahvir Wheeler, PG, Kentucky
Wheeler enters the transfer portal as a potential replacement for Nowell. The 5-foot-9 guard spent two years at both Georgia and Kentucky, averaging a collective 10.3 points and 1.1 steals per game while twice leading the SEC in assists with 6.1 per game. Due to injury late in his senior season, Wheeler played only 21 games for Kentucky and fell to 7.7 points per game.
With some similarities to Nowell, Wheeler could come into K-State as another point guard who controls the pace of play while leading as a defensive pest for opposing guards. Unlike Nowell, Wheeler has struggled with shooting beyond the arc, but he still managed to shoot 36.6% from 3-point range in his shortened season. Kentucky lacked his calming on-court presence in their Round of 32 match against K-State, where they committed 16 turnovers in the close battle. Under Tang, Wheeler could thrive and potentially become a star, like Nowell.
Jameer Nelson Jr., PG, Delaware
The son of former NBA All-Star Jameer Nelson, Nelson Jr. enters the transfer portal as one of the most athletic scoring guards available. Nelson Jr. exploded at Delaware, averaging 20.6 points per game on 45% from the field in the 2022-23 season. Prior to his 2022-23 season, he helped the Blue Hens reach March Madness for the first time since 2014 in the 2021-22 season.
Nelson Jr. fell short of bringing Delaware back to the tournament but made a name for himself. He fits perfectly into the Wildcat mold with a tough defensive mindset and a strong athletic build. Nelson Jr. averaged 2.4 steals per game, ranking ninth in the country, and showed off his high-flying attacks on the rim. Joining Tang’s roster could benefit the Wildcats and help Nelson Jr. follow in his father’s footsteps to the NBA.
Jordan Minor, PF, Merrimack
The Merrimack Warriors won its conference tournament against the now-famous Fairleigh Dickinson due to the performance led by NEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Minor. Minor was unable to appear in March Madness since Merrimack was finishing its transition period from Division II to Division I. Minor played all four years of the transitional period and improved every year, averaging 17.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in his 2022-23 season.
Minor enters a guard-driven transfer portal as one of the best big men available. His play focuses around the rim where he can be a defensive anchor and an offensive hub. Minor possesses athletic ability similar to most K-State forwards with their length and verticality. While his lack of 3-point shooting alongside forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin may limit Wildcat spacing, Minor would have the chance to hold as a replacement for Johnson with his ability to score in the lane.
T.J. Bamba, SG, Washington State
Bamba emerged in his junior season at Washington State, averaging 15.8 points per game while shooting 37% beyond the arc. His ability to score either from the 3-point line or at the rim benefitted him late in the year. Bamba helped lead the Cougars to a seven-game win streak that included his career-high of 36 points in the regular season finale against Washington.
Bamba has both declared for the NBA Draft and entered the transfer portal. This gives him many options to consider before making a decision. If he joined the Wildcats, Bamba could take over as a lead scorer and have opportunities to become the primary ball handler. Playing alongside starting shooting guard Cam Carter may not be ideal, but they have potential to become one of the best combo-guard duos in the Big 12 if they make the fit work.
Kel’el Ware, C, Oregon
The former No. 7 prospect and McDonald’s All-American enters the transfer portal after a year at Oregon. His freshman season did not meet expectations, averaging 6.6 points on under 16 minutes per game. The lengthy 7-footer came in as a high-leaper with major potential and is now the highest-ranked player on the transfer portal by most.
Ware would provide the Wildcats with its second high-flying rim-runner. His game is similar to Tomlin’s; both have raw talent that can be used to finish highlight-reel dunks and to protect the rim on defense. They both shot under 30% from 3-point range but can also make a few perimeter shots from time to time. The potential Ware-Tomlin duo could force opposing teams to rely solely on perimeter shots, as they may struggle to score near the rim against K-State.