Rayshon Harrison (with ball) is one of the Division I transfers to keep an eye on in 2022-23. Image courtesy GCU MBB Twitter.

Five Division I Transfers to Keep an Eye on in 2022-23

Transfers are becoming the norm in the Western Athletic Conference. The transfer portal is a key piece of the recruiting plan for coaches. And in some instances, transfers have had a significant impact on their new schools. Just look at players like Fardaws Aimaq, Teddy Allen, Holland Woods, Ash Midtgaard, Cameron Tyson, and Gorjok Gak among others.

With that being said, there are some names to keep an eye on in 2022-23 around the WAC. Here are my top-5 for a variety of reasons.

1. Xavier Pinson – New Mexico State

The LSU transfer averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game in 2021-22. Pinson started 27 of 28 games for the Tigers. Pinson also spent three seasons at Missouri prior to heading to Baton Rouge. At Missouri, Pinson averaged 10.3 points, 2.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds.

PInson is part of a major rebuild in Las Cruces. Following a special run that includes a win over UCONN in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Chris Jans took the same position at Mississippi State. And with the departure of Jans, nearly the entire Aggie roster was depleted. Jabari Rice transferred to Texas. Mario McKinney Jr. is now at UTEP. Add in the graduations of Donnie Tillman, Johnny McCants, Your Alok and Clayton Henry, as well as Teddy Allen leaving for the NBA, and you see it was quite the rebuild.

Enter Greg Heiar who led Florida Northwestern to a JUCO National title in 2021-22. And the recruiting ramped up capped off by Pinson signing with the Aggies.

“I’m really excited to announce the signing of Xavier “X” Pinson,” NMSU head coach Greg Heiar said. “He brings a wealth of Power Five big game experience while averaging double figures for his career. He’s shot over 80 percent from the free-throw line for his career. He is what I call a “Finisher”… He is a perfect fit in our up-tempo style of play because he loves to play make for others but can also really play make for himself on both ends of the floor!”

2. Joe Pleasant – Abilene Christian

He’s BACK! Yes, transfers happen. Sometimes, transfers work out. But other times the grass isn’t always greener. Perhaps that is what ACU forward Joe Pleasant learned when he transferred to Wichita State following the 2020-21 season after leading ACU to the NCAA Tourney and an upset win over Texas in the first round.

Whatever it was, Pleasant is now back at ACU, reunited with Brette Tanner, Damien Daniels, Airion Simmons and Tobias Cameron among others. Pleasant was third in scoring in 2021-22 averaging 10.5 points per game while also pulling down a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game.

“We are excited to have Joe coming back hoe,” ACU head coach Brette Tanner said. “Everyone at ACU knows what he adds to our program not only in his talent but also his character.”

3. Timothy Ighoefe – California Baptist

CBU has become a place transfers go to re-invent themselves. Brandon Boyd and Gorjok Gak come to mind in recent years. And in its first season being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, it’s almost like CBU is going all-in in 2022-23. Yes, the Lancers got Riley Battin from Utah and sharpshooter Joe Quintana in the portal. But, the one piece that has been somewhat elusive outside of the 2020-21 season, has been a true big man.

Well, CBU got that true big man in 7-footer Timothy Ighoefe who transfers over from Georgetown. Now, the stats while playing for the Hoyas don’t jump out at you. 2.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game over a 3-year stint. But, those numbers are better than Gak had while at Florida. Gak averaged 1.9 points and 2.1 rebounds for the Gators over a 3-year stretch. And in his only season with the Lancers, Gak averaged 13.5 points and 10.3 rebounds.

With the strength of the guard line in Riverside, Ighoefe is primed to have a big season for the Lancers. There aren’t many teams around the WAC that can throw a 7-foot, 250-pound center on the floor.

4. Rayshon Harrison – Grand Canyon

Since taking over at GCU prior to the 2020-21 season, head coach Bryce Drew has been really good at finding a diamond in the rough in the portal. In 2020-21, it was Asbjørn Midtgaard. And in 2021-22, it was Holland Woods. Now, although it may not be a diamond in the rough situation, Drew has pulled another Division I transfer to Phoenix.

Harrison comes to GCU from Presbyterian where he was an All-Big South second-team honoree. Harrison averaged 17.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. At 6-4, Harrison has the length to play multiple positions along the perimeter and will be another compliment alongside Jovan Blacksher Jr.

“From the minute we saw film on Rayshon, we thought that his game would translate into our system very well,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. “We love his ability to be able to create off the dribble. He used to play quarterback, so he has tremendous vision at 6 foot 4 to pass the basketball. He’s also a proven Division I scorer.”

“The main reason I wanted to be part of the GCU family was because, even though I’m traveling across the country, I still feel as though I’m going to be at home,” Harrison said. “It’s because the people they have in place there are so welcoming. It felt right. They made me feel more comfortable than schools on the East Coast.”

5. Aziz Bandaogo – Utah Valley

Transfers have been key for Mark Madsen during his tenure 3-year tenure in Orem. And one of those became a household name. You remember, right? Yes, Fardaws Aimaq is a product of Madsen’s system and ability to develop players. Now that Aimaq has moved on to the Big 12 and Texas Tech, Akron transfer Aziz Bandaogo has some big shoes to fill. That may be an understatement. But, Bandaogo is one to keep an eye on. Standing 7-feet tall, Bandaogo has the opportunity to be a major rim protector for the Wolverines. Length, quickness and a high basketball IQ are all part of Bandaogo’s repertoire.

“Out on the circuit, coaches always talk about wanting players with a good motor,” said Madsen. “Aziz has a jet engine. He flies around the court and makes his presence felt. One of the things I love about Aziz is his calm and friendly demeanor off the court contrasted with extreme toughness and grit when he steps into live play. Aziz makes rim protection look like child’s play. He uses great footwork and finishes strong at the rim. Aziz passes the ball in a way that makes everyone around him better. I could not be more excited to welcome Aziz to UVU.”

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