Welcome back to our continuing look at one key question in this transfer-heavy era of ours: Just how important have transfers been — whether due to addition or subtraction — to each program in Division I’s top seven conferences?
Bear in mind we define a “transfer in” as someone who actually played minutes previously at a different four-year program. On the other hand, a “transfer out” is simply a player who saw time at the Big Ten program in question.
Understood? Here are the most significant Big Ten transfers of the modern era.
Best transfer in: Alfonso Plummer, 2021-22
Plummer earned third-team All-Big Ten honors after draining 41% of his 3s for a Fighting Illini team that went 23-10 and earned a No. 4 seed. That’s sufficient for the onetime Utah perimeter threat to edge former Drake standout Rayvonte Rice for this honor. Other notable transfer arrivals at Illinois have included Trent Meacham (by way of Dayton) and Jack Ingram (Tulsa). Going way back, Kenny Battle was the heart and soul of the 1989 Final Four “Flying Illini.” Battle arrived by way of Northern Illinois.
Most significant transfer out: Kendrick Nunn, 2013-16
Nunn played three productive seasons at Illinois and then was dismissed from the team after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from a domestic-battery arrest. He finished his career by winning Horizon player of the year honors at Oakland. Undrafted in 2018, he was signed by the Miami Heat and finished second in NBA Rookie of the Year balloting in 2020 behind Ja Morant.
Best transfer in: Marco Killingsworth, 2005-06
Killingsworth made an indelible impression in just his third game with the Hoosiers. The former Auburn star erupted for 34 points on 14 of 19 shooting against reigning (and future) ACC defensive player of the year Shelden Williams in Indiana’s 75-67 loss to Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Killingsworth finished the season averaging 17 points and eight boards. In later years he would say he originally intended to go to Indiana directly from high school. Then, in 2000, former IU player Neil Reed stated that he had been choked by Bob Knight at a practice in 1997. Killingsworth elected to start his career at Auburn instead.
Most significant transfer out: Jordan Crawford, 2007-08
Crawford was outstanding in his one season at Xavier in 2009-10. He averaged 20.5 points and made first-team All-Atlantic 10 as the Musketeers advanced to the 50th minute of a Sweet 16 game before falling in double overtime to Kansas State. That’s enough for Crawford to earn bragging rights over a rich vein of successful IU out-transfers including but not limited to Armon Bassett, Al Durham, Justin Smith, Luke Fischer, Malik Story, Jeremy Hollowell, Mo Creek, Ben Allen and Remy Abell.
Best transfer in: Adam Haluska, 2004-07
Haluska became Iowa’s featured scorer in 2006-07 following the departures of Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner. He recorded an excellent true shooting percentage of 57.2 while averaging better than 20 points a game. After starting his career with one season at Iowa State, Haluska finished it as a first-team All-Big Ten selection alongside the likes of Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker and Ohio State’s Greg Oden.
Most significant transfer out: Tyler Smith, 2006-07
Smith was a first-year player who teamed with Haluska in 2006-07 and averaged 15 points. He then transferred to Tennessee, where he rang up more than 1,000 points over his next two seasons. His career was cut short, however, when he was dismissed from the Volunteers program in January of 2010 following his arrest on gun charges.
Best transfer in: Byron Mouton, 2000-02
Mouton was a starter who averaged 11 points and five rebounds for the Terrapins’ 2002 national championship team. The luster of that 32-4 season gives onetime Tulane role player Mouton “best transfer” honors despite the superior individual stats recorded by Dez Wells at Maryland between 2012-2015. Wells came to the Terps after being expelled from Xavier due to allegations of sexual assault.
Most significant transfer out: Darryl Morsell, 2017-21
Morsell was named Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2020-21. He then transferred to Marquette, where last season he averaged double figures (13 points) for the first time in his career. Another ex-Terrapin who found success elsewhere was Seth Allen, who flourished (often as a sixth man) at Virginia Tech between 2015-2017.
Best transfer in: Duncan Robinson, 2015-18
Robinson is the best of a robust group of in-transfers that includes Mike Smith (who came to Michigan via Columbia), Charles Matthews (Kentucky) and DeVante’ Jones (Coastal Carolina), to name a few. None of the others, however, can match the sheer scale of Robinson’s remarkable ascent. Eight years ago he was playing for Williams College in Division III. Today Robinson has just completed his third full season as a starter for the Miami Heat. In between he made 237 3-pointers over three seasons at Michigan.
Most significant transfer out: Colin Castleton, 2018-20
Castleton played a total of just 264 minutes over two seasons at Michigan behind Jon Teske. He then transferred to Florida, where he has started 49 games and was one of nine players selected for the 2021-22 All-SEC first team. Castleton’s success as the Gators’ leading scorer makes him the best of a distinguished group of UM out-transfers that also includes Aubrey Dawkins, Ekpe Udoh, Kameron Chatman, Max Bielfeldt and Spike Albrecht.
Best transfer in: Bryn Forbes, 2014-16
Forbes was superb in his role as the second leading scorer on a 2015-16 MSU team that featured Denzel Valentine. In a year when the Spartans went 29-6 and earned a No. 2 seed, Cleveland State transfer Forbes shot a blistering 48% from behind the arc. Unfortunately for Michigan State, the season ended with a shocking loss to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee in the round of 64.
Most significant transfer out: Foster Loyer, 2018-21
Loyer steadily earned more playing time over the course of three years at Michigan State before taking a quantum leap forward in that department at Davidson last season. In a Wildcats rotation that also featured Hyunjung Lee and Luka Brajkovic, Loyer converted 44% of his 3-point attempts and rated out as the team’s leading scorer at 16.1 points.
Best transfer in: Marcus Carr, 2019-21
Carr belongs to that rare category in which a player could plausibly be termed both a program’s “best transfer in” and its “most significant transfer out.” We’ll settle on the former with Carr, who began his career playing on the last Pitt team coached by Kevin Stallings in 2017-18. He then transferred to Minnesota, where he scored 1,041 points in two seasons and earned third-team All-Big Ten recognition in 2020-21. Finally, Carr transferred to Texas and averaged 11 points last season.
Most significant transfer out: Colton Iverson, 2008-11
Iverson took a long look at Colorado State out of high school before choosing to sign with Tubby Smith and Minnesota instead. Then, three years later, Iverson was willing to give CSU coach Tim Miles another shot. Iverson announced his decision to transfer to the Rams in April 2011. By the time he arrived, however, Miles had taken the Nebraska job. Playing under first-year CSU coach Larry Eustachy in 2012-13, Iverson averaged 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds and earned first-team All-Mountain West honors.
Best transfer in: James Palmer Jr., 2017-19
Palmer was a fleeting presence on the floor for Miami, earning few minutes and scoring in double figures just six times over the course of two years. That all changed at Nebraska, where Palmer was the featured scorer more or less from the moment he stepped on the floor. Palmer was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2017-18 after he averaged 17.2 points, and he then increased that figure to 19.7 as a senior.
Most significant transfer out: Teddy Allen, 2020-21
Allen was named the 2022 WAC player of the year at the beginning of March and, remarkably, his most impressive feats at New Mexico State were yet to come. In the Lobos’ 70-63 upset win over No. 5 seed UConn in the round of 64, Allen scored 37 points. Alas, it was one of the most overlooked great performances in recent tournament history. It so happened that Kentucky was in the process of losing to Saint Peter’s in overtime at that same moment. Allen captures this “most significant transfer out” nod by a hair over Andrew White, who left Nebraska and had an excellent season at Syracuse in 2016-17.
Best transfer in: Tim Doyle, 2004-07
Doyle was the point guard and common thread in a mid-aughts era of Wildcats basketball that featured scorers like Vedran Vukusic, Mohamed Hachad and Kevin Coble. Before he was dishing assists to all of the above at Northwestern, Doyle averaged six minutes for coach Mike Jarvis at St. John’s in 2002-03.
Most significant transfer out: Isiah Brown, 2016-18
Brown converted 59% of his 2-point attempts for Weber State at a listed height of 6-foot-2 while averaging better than 17 points per contest. He and Eastern Washington’s Tanner Groves (soon to transfer to Oklahoma) were the only unanimous selections to the 2021 All-Big Sky first team. Prior to his celebrated senior season, Brown came off the bench for two years at Northwestern and made 18 starts at Grand Canyon.
Best transfer in: Ron Lewis, 2005-07
Lewis was the second leading scorer on the great 2006-07 Ohio State team that featured Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jamar Butler, Ivan Harris and Daequan Cook. That team is remembered for reaching the national championship game before falling to Florida. The tournament run was made possible by the long 3 that onetime Bowling Green star Lewis hit with two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime against Xavier in the round of 32.
Most significant transfer out: Jordan Sibert, 2010-12
Sibert logged a total of 492 minutes at two seasons at Ohio State before transferring to Dayton. Playing under Archie Miller with the Flyers, the 6-4 wing scored 1,030 points, reached the 2015 Elite Eight and was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 in 2015-16.
Best transfer in: D.J. Newbill, 2012-15
Newbill began his career with one season under coach Larry Eustachy at Southern Miss in 2010-11. He started all 32 games for the Golden Eagles yet elected to return to his native state of Pennsylvania as the first major signing by new Penn State coach Pat Chambers. Newbill averaged 20.7 points as a senior in 2014-15 and landed on the All-Big Ten second team alongside the estimable likes of Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Maryland’s Melo Trimble.
Most significant transfer out: Rasir Bolton, 2018-19
Bolton won one of the most coveted and competitive spots in all of Division I as a starter at Gonzaga in 2021-22. The Bulldogs don’t lack for transfers eager to earn playing time with a perennial top seed, and Bolton reached that prized position after one season at Penn State and two at Iowa State. A feat like that elevates Bolton ever so slightly above a talented field of onetime Nittany Lions like Izaiah Brockington, Sharif Chambliss, Jermaine Marshall and Chris Babb.
Best transfer in: Willie Deane, 2000-03
Deane forms an exception to the rule in a Purdue program that, Evan Boudreaux notwithstanding, has rarely featured transfers. The 6-1 point guard began his career coming off the bench for Al Skinner at Boston College and then after one season signed with Gene Keady and the Boilermakers. Deane averaged 17.8 points as a senior in 2002-03 and made first-team All-Big Ten.
Most significant transfer out: Kendall Stephens, 2013-16
Stephens is the son of 1980s Purdue star Everette Stephens, and the younger Stephens committed to the Boilermakers during his sophomore year in high school. His encouraging first season in 2013-14, however, coincided with an unusually poor 5-13 showing by Purdue in Big Ten play. He lost his spot as a starter midway through his second season, and after three years Stephens chose to transfer to Nevada. Playing alongside fellow transfers Jordan Caroline (Southern Illinois) and Caleb and Cody Martin (NC State), Stephens averaged 13 points for a Wolf Pack team that reached the 2018 Sweet 16.
Best transfer in: Jonathan Mitchell, 2009-11
Mitchell was the leading scorer on a 2010-11 Rutgers team that marked the arrival of new coach Mike Rice. While the Scarlet Knights finished 15-17 that year they showed encouraging signs of progress by beating Villanova and winning a game in the Big East tournament for the first time since 2006. Mitchell’s playing days began at Florida, where he averaged six minutes for the national championship team in 2006-07 and 11 as a sophomore the following year.
Most significant transfer out: Gregory Echenique, 2008-10
Echenique’s time at Rutgers came to an end just seven games into his sophomore season, when he underwent surgery to correct a detached retina. He then announced his intention to transfer, and just four days later he picked Creighton. With the Bluejays, Echenique teamed with Doug McDermott and contributed to a 56-14 run between 2011-13 that presaged CU’s move to the Big East. Say this for Rutgers, the program can claim one strong roster of out-transfers: Echenique, Mike Rosario, Eugene Omoruyi, Junior Etou, Myles Johnson, Jacob Young, Eli Carter, Gilvydas Biruta and Peter Kiss, among others.
Best transfer in: Sharif Chambliss, 2004-05
Chambliss was a starter on the Wisconsin team that featured Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker, a group that reached the 2005 Elite Eight before falling to eventual champion North Carolina. A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Chambliss played three seasons at Penn State before transferring to his home state. If the year Chambliss played for the Badgers is considered too long ago to qualify as the “modern transfer era,” onetime Ohio State Buckeye Micah Potter would be another strong selection for “best” honors.
Most significant transfer out: George Marshall, 2012-14
Marshall stated his intention to leave Wisconsin in early December of his sophomore season. He landed at South Dakota State, where he averaged 15 points as a senior in 2015-16. Remarkably, it appears that no player who has actually taken the floor for Wisconsin in the Bo Ryan or Greg Gard eras has subsequently transferred to a different major-conference program. (Jarrod Uthoff doesn’t count. He never played for the Badgers.) That is, no player has done so until now: Ben Carlson announced in May that he would transfer to Utah.