Could newly-eligible transfers change the league’s outlook?
Noah Waterman, F, Detroit Mercy
Last week, the NCAA Division I Council voted to grant all transfer waivers for the 2020-21 College Basketball season. That decision came just as 7-foot-1 graduate transfer Buay Koka became eligible for Detroit Mercy. Finally, on Tuesday Emmanuel Ansong — who followed Will Ryan from Wheeling University — was granted immediate eligibility.
Here’s a look at the players who will be jumping into Horizon League play and the impact that they could have for their teams this season:
Due to the Division I Council vote, Waterman was technically eligible last weekend, but was held out due to COVID-19 protocols. When Waterman is cleared to play, it’ll be the first time he sees the court in over a year. The 6-foot-11 forward earned a starting spot at Niagra just three games into his freshman year, but went down for season in the team’s eighth game. If he’s fully recovered from the injury, it seems likely that he could be a solid contributor for the Titans.
One thing to note is that despite his height, Waterman’s contributions aren’t likely to come in the form of a dominant low post threat. Almost half of his shots last year came from beyond the 3-point arc, and his rebounding rate is more comparable to some guards than to prominent Horizon League post players.
I’ve mentioned it on the podcast before, but Waterman strikes me as a guy who might be a year away from a Trevon Faulkner-style breakout from role player to reliable double-digit scoring option.
Buay Koka, C, Detroit Mercy
Because he was a graduate transfer and wasn’t subject to any COVID-19 protocols, Buay Koka was able to step onto the court for Detroit Mercy in the team’s opening weekend of Horizon League play. While Koka’s debut saw him score just two points in nine minutes against Horizon League favorite Wright State, he had a much better outing on Sunday. Koka went 4-for-7 from the field for 9 points while blocking two shots and securing a pair of rebounds.
The type of impact to be expected from Koka is a bit difficult to figure out. He wasn’t a particularly productive player at Tulane in his three seasons there, but he’s also playing for a team that desperately needs help in the post. The fact that he was able to take on the best frontcourt in the Horizon League and come away with the same number of fouls as blocks seems to indicate he might have better luck staying on the court in this league than he did in the AAC.
Donovan Moore, G, Green Bay
Moore transferred from Toledo after a freshman year where he averaged 1.4 points per game in eight contests. While the non-conference portion of the season made it clear that much of the MAC is well ahead of the Horizon League — despite the Horizon League taking a 7-6 advantage head-to-head this year — it’s not totally clear how much of an impact a reserve will be able to have.
Milwaukee guard DeAndre Gholston had a similar impact as a freshman at Kent State — albeit with almost twice as many appearances — but expecting anything remotely comparable out of Moore this year seems premature. Gholston spent last season as a third-option on an extremely talented JUCO team before joining the Panthers.
Based on Moore’s first two games with the Phoenix, it seems Green Bay is willing to let him have a fairly significant role. Moore took nine shots in 16 minutes during his two games against Milwaukee this weekend, including seven shots in 10 minutes on Saturday alone. While he didn’t find his jumper in his first action with the Phoenix, it’s clear Green Bay Head Coach Will Ryan is going to be willing to let him shoot.
Emmanuel Ansong, F, Green Bay
After initial reports that the Division I Council’s decision didn’t affect transfers moving from Division II to Division I, there were doubts that Green Bay would have Ansong available this year until Tuesday’s announcement. The junior averaged 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds for Will Ryan’s Wheeling University last year.
While it’d be easier to predict him translating as a key player for the Phoenix if he were coming from a top Division II program, at the very least it’s not unreasonable to think his rebounding should translate well enough. From there, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him getting some points off of putbacks on offense. If Green Bay can figure out a role for the 6-foot-4, 195 pound Ansong to play defensively he should be a solid player in his first year in Division I.
Jordan Lathon, G, Milwaukee
While Lathon isn’t currently eligible and the podcast might need to start a #FreeJordan campaign soon, Milwaukee Head Coach Pat Baldwin put out a statement last week saying that the Panthers are optimistic that Lathon will be on the court this year.
If he is, the 6-foot-4 junior could be the biggest difference maker on this list. He averaged 10.9 points per game as a freshman and was UTEP’s assists leader in each of the last two years. With Lathon at their disposal, Milwaukee would be able to come up with 40 minutes of high-quality point guard play virtually every night. When he was done spelling Te’Jon Lucas, Lathon could slide over to the wing where he would likely be able to fit into a glue-guy role similar to the one Courtney Brown plays, but with better scoring ability and passing skills.
Kahliel Spear, F, Robert Morris
Another player who already took the court for his new school last weekend; Spear tallied 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in the 85-65 loss to MAC preseason favorite Bowling Green. Given how much of a struggle teams have been having to come out fresh this season, it was an impressive all-around output for the 6-foot-7 junior forward. Last year, Spear averaged 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds for a Bucknell team that would’ve likely been most comparable to Green Bay, Youngstown State or Oakland.
Going forward, it would probably be a surprise for Spear to be among the team’s leading scorers. Instead, expect him to be a very valuable rotational big for Robert Morris.