NKU closing in on game-changing transfer portal signings

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Photo courtesy of Northern Kentucky Athletics

Norse on verge of restocking their roster with portal standouts

With just 30 days left in the current transfer portal cycle, the Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball program – like all college hoops programs this time of year – has been hard at work trying to refill the divots left behind by their own three graduates and six outgoing transfers. 

The transfer portal is a cruel mistress, so replacing nine players seemingly overnight is a complicated mission.  However, a good portion of the rebuilding of head coach Darrin Horn’s roster was satisfied in recent months with the signings of four incoming freshmen guards:  Fiston Ipassou, Bryce Darbyshire, Randall Pettus II and Jeramiah Israel.  (Links to the two articles announcing those signings: https://horizoneroundtable.com/2023/04/14/norse-add-three-new-recruits-to-2023-24-roster/ and https://horizoneroundtable.com/2023/01/18/nku-adds-size-length-international-experience/)  All four players will be coming in as true freshmen and will have at least four years of eligibility in Highland Heights.

While I have no firm singular source to substantiate the contents of this article, I can say with a high degree of certainty – through careful, strenuous online research and via various veins of behind-the-scenes rumblings – that the Norse are in the running for the services of at least five proven players in the current TP.  These five players that are consistently popping up are players who in all likelihood would compete for spots in the Norse starting lineup to kick off the 2023-24 season. 

The five players in question are:

Dieonte Miles, RS Soph., Center – 6’11”, 240 lbs. – Xavier University

The moment Miles announced he was transferring from XU was the same moment the rumor mill began churning out theories that the 3-star prospect out of local Walton Verona High School may want to remain close to home to finish out his academic and athletic careers.  Miles was offered by Xavier in late Summer 2018, and he committed to the hometown Musketeers despite a laundry list of offers from many other high-major programs.

After an All-State career peppered with countless individual honors while playing at Walton Verona, Miles stepped onto the XU campus with great expectations but found appreciable playing time extraordinarily hard to come by.  Appearances on the court were relatively far and few between, as he only made 37 appearances in his three-season career while averaging just 7.6 minutes per game, 1.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg while shooting 53.3% from the field. 

Though a clear elite talent, Miles just could not find a way to make his talents fit the Muskies’ plans.  This would be a huge get for the Norse, plugging in the hole left behind by outgoing transfer Imanuel Zorgvol.  At NKU on Day 1, Miles could contend for the starting post position left behind by Chris Brandon and potentially be a force in a mid-major conference such as the Horizon League.

Keeyan Itejere, Soph., Forward – 6’9”, 215 lbs. – Marquette University

Scanning through various articles, reports and interviews on Itejere would lead one to believe the 3-star Las Vegas-born product may be one of the most athletically gifted players in the Big East…if not the entire country.  The sophomore was a member of the 2021 recruiting class and initially committed to Texas before swinging his commitment over to Marquette after Head Coach Shaka Smart left Texas to accept the Marquette job.

Word on the street is that Itejere has whittled his final two options down to NKU and Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah.  While it has been reported that he is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, it seems BYU is only able to offer him a preferred walk-on roster spot while NKU has a full scholarship to offer.  That could certainly be a deciding factor for the explosive (36.5”) vertical leaper, but my theory is that there’s a possibility Coach Smart pointed Itejere toward NKU out of respect to his former coaching colleague Darrin Horn, who was once the Associate Head Coach at Texas under Shaka Smart.

Just like Miles, playing time for Itejere was scarce at best for the Big East champion Golden Eagles.  Statistics on the uber-athletic player are a blip on the radar at MU, as he appeared in only 13 games, played 31 total minutes and made all five of his shots…all of them dunks.  Itejere redshirted his freshman season, and would have four full years of eligibility at NKU.  A player with his freakish athleticism and pedigree would likely compete immediately for a starting wing position in the Horizon League. 

Kobe Rodgers, Soph., Guard – 6’3”, 175 lbs. – Nova Southeastern (D-II)

The list of teams that are after this continuously improving D-II guard is a mile long…and for good reason.  The Cincinnati-born Rodgers is coming off a perfect 36-0 season in which he led his Sharks to a D-II national championship title.  The Norse have shown interest in Rodgers, and hope to bring him back home where he could play in front of his family again.  During his sophomore season, Rodgers averaged 12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg and 2.4 spg while shooting 45% from the field for the Sharks, all substantial increases from his previous season.        

Rodgers’ college recruiting was light coming out of Cincinnati-St. Xavier, with his only other firm documented offer being from D-II Lincoln Memorial, but his stock has skyrocketed since his announcement to enter the TP, attracting interest from D-I programs with some clout:  NKU, Temple, Cornell, Boise State, Vermont and Youngstown State among many others. 

Rodgers has all the makeup of a sturdy point guard at the D-I level, and NKU is very much in need of a player that can run the point following the graduation of PG Xavier Rhodes.  That said, as the only experienced pure PG on the roster, Rodgers would likely join the roster as the odds-on favorite to take over the point position.

Cade Meyer, Soph., Wing – 6’8”, 205 lbs. – Green Bay

Perhaps the most intriguing of the players the Norse are aiming to sign is Meyer, a star player for Horizon League rival Green Bay.  Meyer was strongly recruited out of Monroe High School in Wisconsin but chose to stay closer to home over offers from Rice, Valparaiso, Holy Cross and many other known D-I programs.

As a full-time starter his two years at Green Bay, Meyer has established himself as one of the rising players in the Horizon League.  His length and broad skill set make him hard to defend down near the paint and out on the elbows.  During Meyer’s sophomore season, he started every game and averaged 27.4 minutes per game, 10.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg and shot 57% from the field.  This season he went on to score 15+ points in seven games and scored in double figures 18 times.  As a freshman, Meyer was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team after starting all 30 games and posting 12 double-digit scoring efforts. 

While Meyer would be leaving his comfort zone away from home to join NKU, he would be leaving a team that finished its most dreadful season (3-29) in recent memory and hired a new, unproven coach to take over a program that has struggled mightily in recent years.  A perineal winner like NKU would increase a player of his caliber’s visibility and give him chances to succeed that he may not have seen in Green Bay during the remainder of his time there. 

If he were to sign with NKU, Meyer would plug directly into the wing rotation nicely, as Horn and his staff have seen his game for two full years now and would already have an advanced understanding of what he can and can’t do well.

Michael Bradley, Senior, Point Guard – 6’0”, 175 lbs. – Mercyhurst University (D-II): 

The Norse seem to have “a type” recently when it comes to plugging holes at the point guard position – seniors coming off highly successful D-II careers and looking to give themselves one last shot to see if they could have made an impact at the highest level.  With the TP in effect, there’s no time like the present to boost your stock. 

The Norse have reportedly been in recent talks with this D-II point guard out of San Antonio, TX in hopes of replacing the graduated Xavier Rhodes with another seasoned court general.  Bradley is a gifted point guard who has improved immensely each and every year through his senior season in which he led Mercyhurst to a 25-6 record and into Round 2 of the NCAA D-II National Tournament where his Lakers bowed out to eventual championship finalist West Liberty.  In his final game, Bradley played 39 of 40 minutes and scored 20 points, snagged six rebounds and dished out five assists.

On the year, Bradley averaged 14.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, shot 47% from the field and 86% from the charity stripe, had an otherworldly ratio of 132 assists to only 41 turnovers while also adding 36 steals to his tab.  In Bradley the Norse would get an experienced player who has played at the highest level of D-II and is ready to see if being surrounded by D-I talent extends his own output even further.  Depending on which guard they sign, Bradley would be a no-brainer plug-in starter on Day 1 at the point position.

Whether the Norse sign all five of these players or just 3-4 of them, this group of targets really gives the Norse a fair chance to plug many holes in quickly with players who seem to have the skills and overall makeup to step in and contribute right off the proverbial bus.  This would also allow the program to keep pace (at the very least) with their fellow Horizon League rivals who have been securing quality signings the past two weeks.  Only time will tell, but the quality NKU is targeting is very promising to see as a fan of the team and the conference in general.

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