The top 20 locals in college basketball’s transfer portal

Among the many options for college coaches at all levels are former high school prospects out of Illinois who, for one reason or another, are on the move.

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Terrence Shannon Jr. of the Texas Tech celebrates a basket against the Duke during the Sweet Sixteen.

Terrence Shannon Jr. of the Texas Tech celebrates a basket against the Duke during the Sweet Sixteen.

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The endless job of recruiting by college basketball coaches has been magnified more than ever before thanks to the NCAA Transfer Portal. 

The college basketball transfer has evolved into the top recruiting priority for college programs, shifting the recruitment of high school players to the back seat. College coaches can’t afford to go too young these days when so many older, accomplished and ready-made players are available to them — in the hundreds — in putting together a roster each season. 

The transfer is even more prevalent and important considering there are so many more players who are now available. The NCAA granting every player an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic has enhanced the transfer trend. 

If you look hard enough you can even find players approaching their mid-20s. The stark difference between going to battle with a 22, 23 or even a 24-year old rather than a teenager out of high school is enormous — and in some cases essential. 

A fresh, new coach just hired and taking over a downtrodden program with a depleted roster? Hit the portal.

A coach who is in year four or five and on the hot seat due to losing more than winning? Hit the portal.

A coach who feels he’s just a player away from competing for a conference title and getting into the NCAA Tournament? Hit the portal.

The portal can be a big hit for some, but it can also be fool’s gold for others. 

Among the many options for college coaches at all levels are former high school prospects out of Illinois who, for one reason or another, are on the move. There are some good ones out there. And there are some not so good ones. 

Here is a ranking of the top transfer portal options out of the state of Illinois with, we are sure, more to come as the weeks, days — and even minutes — go by this spring. 

1. Terrence Shannon Jr., Lincoln Park (Texas Tech)

The physical attributes are ones every high-major program salivates over. He’s a lengthy 6-6 gazelle who can run with guards in the open floor and elevates off the floor as well as anyone. He is a physical and athletic marvel. 

Shannon, who was ignored out of high school despite finishing as the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 5 ranked prospect in the Class of 2018, spent a year at IMG Academy in Florida before signing with Texas Tech. 

Shannon has a vast amount of high-level experience, which is awfully attractive for college coaches. That includes being at the very minimum a part-time starter for three NCAA Tournament teams, including 21 starts for the 2020 Final Four team as a freshman.

Despite some modest numbers this past season, which included 10.4 points and just 2.6 rebounds and two assists, Shannon helped the Red Raiders to 27 wins and a Sweet Sixteen berth. 

Shannon is one of the top players in the country in the transfer portal and could flourish as a senior in the right situation. 

2. Antonio Reeves, Simeon (Illinois State)

The most coveted player in basketball right now is the shot-making player who can space the floor with consistent three-point shooting ability. They are at an absolute premium, and it’s exactly what Reeves provides. 

Reeves was lightly recruited and overlooked as a senior at Simeon. He was uncommitted throughout a breakout senior campaign for coach Robert Smith and the Wolverines. While Wisconsin was a high-major that flirted with Reeves as a senior, it was Illinois State that jumped in hard, albeit late, and nabbed the blooming 6-5 guard. 

After putting up some whopping numbers this past season as a junior, dozens of high-major programs across the country, including several high-profile ones, have been calling and clamoring for his services for next year. 

The silky smooth Reeves averaged 20.1 points this past season–– second in the Missouri Valley Conference — and has already scored nearly 1,200 career points in three years. 

But what really makes Reeves one of the most desired players in the portal is his shooting ability. He made 76 three-pointers as a junior while shooting a very respectable 39 percent from beyond the arc. 

3. Xavier Pinson, Simeon (LSU)

The slithery but slender 6-2 point guard surprised many with his production at the high-major level while at Missouri. 

In his junior season at Mizzou, his last season there prior to transferring to LSU, Pinson averaged 13.6 points and 2.9 assists a game. That came after putting up 11.1 points as a sophomore. 

This past season for the fired Will Wade, Pinson was a starter in the SEC and averaged 9.8 points while upping his assist and steals numbers to 4.8 and 1.9 a game, respectively. 

There is certainly some high-major production for Pinson, though improving his three-point shooting numbers would go a long way in being a more impactful player at that level next season. He’s a career 30 percent three-point shooter who shot just 24 percent from beyond the arc this past season for the Tigers. 

Pinson will take advantage of being a “super senior” next season, thanks to the extra year of eligibility that’s been granted to every college player.

4. Jeremiah Williams, Simeon (Temple)

Just as he did throughout his high school career at St. Laurence and Simeon, Williams is a stat-sheet stuffer. The 6-5 guard is as versatile as they come, capable of playing and defending multiple positions. 

After two years at Temple, where he started 37 games, Williams is a seasoned player who will be sought after by both mid-major and high-major programs. With his size, length and mindset, Williams is an elite defensive player.

Offensively, while Williams struggled shooting the basketball from the perimeter, he managed to average 9.3 points as a freshman and 9.5 points as a sophomore. His two-year career numbers of 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game show his overall productivity. 

5. Dante Maddox Jr., Bloom (Cal State-Fullerton)

The City/Suburban Hoops Report called Maddox one of the biggest recruiting steals out of Illinois in the Class of 2020. He had name recognition early in his career while playing at Bloom, but the big-bodied guard broke out as a senior after signing with Cal-State Fullerton. 

The strong, athletic 6-2 guard put together a heck of a freshman season two years ago. Maddox averaged 11.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game while shooting 43 percent from three and 90 percent from the line. 

Maddox battled some nagging injury issues and a bit of a change in offensive philosophy and his numbers regressed this past season as a sophomore. He averaged 6.8 points a game while his shooting numbers tumbled to 25 percent from three. But he took more three-point attempts as a freshman, when his numbers were eye-opening for a freshman, in seven fewer games played. 

Maddox is being hunted by mid-major programs across the Midwest in hopes of getting him back home on the rebound from the West Coast. He’s physical, competes and brings all the right intangibles as a willing defender with offensive punch, character and solid academics.

6. Tamell Pearson, Morgan Park (Western Illinois)

The 6-10, 225-pound Pearson, who was a part of two state championships at Morgan Park, brings legitimate size college programs desperately need. He also brings a ton of experience as an added attraction. 

Pearson began his career at UAB and was a part-time starter as a sophomore. He made the move to Western Illinois and produced these past two seasons as a starting big man. 

As a junior Pearson averaged 10.4 points and 6.9 rebounds. This past season he was again a double-figure scorer averaging 10.1 points, added 5.9 rebounds and really improved his shooting percentage from 45 percent as a junior to 58 percent as a senior. 

7. Jayson Kent, Oak Forest (Bradley) — Committed to Indiana State

The classic late-blooming player in high school. Kent’s game, production and physical dimensions all came together late in his career at Oak Forest. He went from a no-namer to an all-state caliber player in a matter of a year, growing into a multi-dimensional 6-7 wing with a promising jump shot with range. 

Bradley signed the high-upside Kent. He wasn’t quite physically ready for the grind of the Missouri Valley Conference as a freshman, playing just 10 minutes a game as a freshman.

But Kent found his way on the floor this past season as a sophomore, starting 15 games and playing over 20 minutes a game. Kent averaged 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds. The jumper, which shows the potential to be a weapon, must become more consistent going forward as he shot just 26 percent from beyond the arc (24 of 91 from three). 

8. Tyler Cochran, Bolingbrook (Ball State)

The big-bodied 6-2 versatile guard has been a pretty productive college player in his three seasons — first at Northern Illinois and then at Ball State. But in both places his head coach was fired before he had exhausted his eligibility. 

After averaging 15.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and two assists as a do-it-all sophomore guard at NIU, Cochran transferred to Ball State. This past season he averaged 11.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists while also markedly improving his three-point shooting. 

Cochran is now a mid-major veteran who still has two more years of eligibility. 

9. Dusan Mahorcic, Notre Dame (Utah)

Finding the right fit — and level — for the 6-10, 230-pound Mahorcic is the goal. He’s now played at four different schools and four distinctly different levels. 

A late bloomer who came on as a senior at Notre Dame, he started his career at Division II Lewis in Romeoville. After a year there he spent a season at a junior college before signing with Illinois State. 

With Dan Muller’s Redbirds, the mobile big man put up decent numbers in 22 games during the Covid season of 2020-21, averaging 9.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 24 minutes of action. 

He transferred to Utah and played in just 13 games. He played 14 minutes a game and put up a pedestrian 5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. 

Mahorcic’s size and experience, however, will be desirable once again on the open market. 

10. Sherif Kenney, Orr (La Salle) — Committed to Bryant

He arrived in Chicago to play his final year of high school at Orr and ultimately signed with La Salle where he did put in some work over the past three years. He’s been a regular contributor as a big, strong 6-4, 225-pound guard. 

After averaging 8.7 points, 2.2 and 1.8 assists in three seasons in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Kenney is headed to Bryant, a program that reached the NCAA Tournament this past season. 

11. Myles Baker, Young (Eastern Illinois)

Baker began producing immediately as a college player, playing 21 minutes a game as a freshman at Central Connecticut State and averaging 8.6 points. He came back and averaged 10.4 points and two rebounds as a sophomore before he decided to transfer. 

Now, after playing just one game in one season at Eastern Illinois, the 6-2 guard is back in the portal. 

12. Chris Payton, Bloomington (Pitt)

A real wild card going forward after barely playing for Pitt in the ACC this past season. He saw meaningless minutes in only 13 games and scored a grand total of 10 points.

The still raw but physically and athletically gifted Payton will be the definition of a college program getting older. He was part of a Bloomington team that finished third in the state in 2017, so there is some age to Payton as he’s already been out of high school for five years. 

The 6-7 Payton was a heavily recruited junior college prospect as recently as two years ago when he averaged a double-double at Indian Hills Community College. 

13. Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South (UIC)

The 6-6 forward started his career at Iowa State where he played minimal minutes with little production. As a sophomore with the Cyclones he averaged three points and two rebounds a game. 

He then came home, transferring to UIC where he’s played 26 minutes a game the past two seasons. This past season Griffin averaged 11.1 points and four rebounds for the Flames. 

14. Nana Akenten, Bolingbrook (Southeast Missouri State)

This is the older, seasoned college veteran who has one year of eligibility remaining and offers age, experience and having been through a college basketball season’s grind. 

Akenten, a 6-6 forward and former all-stater at Bolingbrook, played two years at Nebraska where he saw very little time. He sat out a year while redshirting at Southeast Missouri State before starting a total of 27 games the past two seasons. 

After averaging 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in his first season of action at SEMO, Akenten averaged 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds this past season. 

15. Joey St. Pierre, Richmond-Burton (UW-Milwaukee)

The numbers won’t jump out at you, but the size will. And big men are a commodity. St. Pierre is a legit 6-10, 275-pound back-to-the-basket behemoth who was mildly productive in his first taste of Division I basketball this past season. 

Following three seasons at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside — and sitting out a year after transferring to UW-Milwaukee — he started 29 games and played 24 minutes a game for the recently fired Pat Baldwin this past season. 

He averaged 6.3 and 5.7 rebounds while converting 59% from the field. But his free-throw shooting (25 of 52) is cause for concern. 

16. Maurice Commander, Curie (UIC)

The 5-11 point guard is on the move after spending two years at Tennessee-Chattanooga and the past two seasons at UIC.

After averaging double figures (10.5 ppg) for the Flames in just 15 games, including 12 starts, a year ago, he missed this past season with a season-ending hip surgery. Prior to his surgery, Commander played in a lot of Division I basketball games. 

Before his transfer to UIC, Commander started all 32 games as a sophomore for Chattanooga, averaging 6.2 points and 2.2 assists.

17. Colton Sandage, Bloomington (Western Illinois) 

A sleeper in high school who flew under the radar, Sandage went to Vincennes Junior College for two years where he helped them to a NJCAA national championship. 

He didn’t waste much time in becoming a major factor at Western Illinois. He started all 31 games this past season as a senior after averaging 20 minutes a game as a junior.

The 6-2 guard showed he’s more than just a shooter. While he did connect on 35% of his threes and knocked down 65 of them this past season, Sandage averaged 13.4 points. 

18. Zion Young, Simeon (Oakland)

There are some up-and-down numbers to sift through as he has now played two seasons at Western Illinois and two at Oakland.

He had a breakthrough season for the Leathernecks in the Summit League as a sophomore in 2019-20. The powerfully built guard averaged 13.2 points, chipping in 4.5 rebounds a game while starting 25 games. 

He played mostly off the bench as a junior following a transfer to Oakland in the Horizon League, averaging 7.8 points, and was limited to just seven games this past season due to an injury. 

19. Kejuan Clements, Simeon (Eastern Illinois)

After a couple of seasons playing junior college basketball, including his final year at Triton Junior College, Clements headed to Eastern Illinois. In one season there the tough, competitive guard averaged 8.3 points and 4.5 assists a game. But he made just 18 of 79 from the three-point line. 

20. Kenny Strawbridge, Rockford Lutheran (Alabama State)

After redshirting for a year at UMKC and then playing a season at Western Nebraska in the junior college ranks, Strawbridge landed at Alabama State and just finished his second season there. 

The 6-4 guard averaged 10.5 points a game in each of the past two seasons. While the points came in a high-volume way with poor shooting numbers, he also averaged 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists combined in those two seasons. 

Other players in the transfer portal from Illinois:

Kani Acree, Carbondale (Ball State)

Trey Boston, Downers Grove North (Louisiana-Monroe)

Tyler Chisom, Proviso East (South Dakota) –– Committed to Prairie View A&M

Brandon Hall, Thornton (East Tennessee State)

Bobby Harvey, Hillcrest (IUPUI)

Jamere Hill, Joliet West (Toledo)

Jaheim Holden, Evanston (Tarleton State)

Malcolm Townsel, Evanston (Holy Cross)

Trey Boston, Downers Grove North (Louisiana-Monroe)

Barlow Alleruzo, De La Salle (Eastern Illinois)

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