There is no doubt that the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball program is in a place they have never been before. In the last week, the program has had six players enter the NCAA’s transfer portal. The recent revelation leaves the Bearcats with four scholarship athletes and a walk-on making up the entire roster.
Most notably in the portal are young stand-outs Tari Eason, Mike Saunders Jr and Zach Harvey. Eason was named to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) all-freshman team, Saunders started more than half of the Bearcats games this season and Harvey was a top-75 recruit coming out of high school.
Saunders was coach John Brannen’s first recruit in his tenure with Cincinnati, a player he said was the future of the program less than two weeks ago.
What’s perhaps more troubling, though, is that the Bearcats only have one high school player committed to the program for next season. Bryson Spell, the lone commit and a 3-star wing player from Virginia, is one of only two players Cincinnati has even offered this year.
Fortunately for the Bearcats, the transfer portal is a two-way street and is seeing more action than ever. Over 350 men’s basketball Division I athletes have announced intent of transfer, and Cincinnati has been in communications with a handful of players.
Au’Diese Toney, a junior guard at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of the bigger names Cincinnati has publicly been in contact with. The 21-year-old averaged 14.4 points and six rebounds in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Another highly touted transfer is guard David Collins, a graduate transfer from the University of South Florida. Collins averaged double-digit scoring numbers all four years he played with the Bulls, and is in contact with over 12 programs, Cincinnati among them.
Freshman forward Cam’Ron Fletcher out of the University of Kentucky has also entered the portal and heard from the Bearcats. Fletcher was a top-50 recruit coming out of high school and only played nine games this season for the Wildcats. Fletcher himself announced the interest from Cincinnati.
Boston College stand-out wing CJ Felder is also among the players who have heard from Cincinnati. Felder averaged 27 minutes a game for the Eagles and put up 10 points and six rebounds on the season in the ACC.
Emmanuel Okpomo, a 6’10’’ Freshman from Wake Forest, and Penn State big John Harrar round out the list of names Cincinnati has knowingly been in contact with.
Each of these players has been in contact with at least five other schools, so what are the chances Cincinnati can pull together some talent from around the country? The biggest question surrounding the program, and the seemingly main reason for the transfers, has been the relationship and faith between head coach John Brannen and his players. So, would players want to step into this program in a state like this?
Thankfully for the Bearcats, veteran guard David Dejulius publicly stated his support for Brannen and the program. The team’s spark-plug and arguably best player last season, Jeremiah Davenport, also tweeted his support and commitment to Cincinnati.
It definitely gives Bearcat fans hope. Still, seeing these players have had communications does not guarantee they’ll be in Clifton come fall. It does, however, give them a chance at regaining the talent they lost. There will also likely be more names added to this list over the next month, as there is no set-date for the transfer portal’s deadline.