SLU in the Hunt for Grad Transfer Bigs

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

Photo Credit: Chris Mlynarczyk

Frank Cusumano reported on his show The Press Box on 590 The Fan today that SLU "is in the mix for grad transfer bigs from Drexel and Nevada." Drexel has just one player in the transfer portal, Alihan Demir. Nevada, after the departure of head coach Eric Musselman to Arkansas, has six - and one of them, Mike Lewis II, has already committed to SLU. Looking through the rest of the list, Nevada has two other immediately-eligible transfers - both guards.

Cusumano clearly had a detail wrong. Was he talking about Lewis, a shooting guard who has already committed? Was he talking about Jordan Brown, the only big man transferring out of Nevada, but a freshman who'd have to sit out a year? Or was he talking about a grad transfer big man from UNLV, the other D-I program in the state of Nevada?

Let's assume he wasn't talking about Lewis, who he's already discussed at length. Brown is a former McDonald's All-American with an impressive list of suitors, SLU not among them. That leaves UNLV, with four transfers (three of them big men) after hiring T.J. Otzelberger to replace Marvin Menzies.

The only grad transfer in the bunch is Shakur Juiston, a former junior college transfer who played only eight games in the 2018-2019 season before a knee injury shut him down for the year. Juiston (pronounced like "Houston") arrived at UNLV as the top-ranked junior college prospect in the country out of Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and did not disappoint. He averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds as a junior, starting all 33 games and being named second-team all-conference in the Mountain West. He originally planned to apply for a medical redshirt and return to UNLV for the 2019-2020 season, but he entered the transfer portal and will spend his fifth year elsewhere.

Juiston visited Grand Canyon in April, but otherwise has not listed any contenders publicly and said he will wait until after graduation (May 18th) to commit. Juiston is one of the top grad transfer targets on the market and would undoubtedly be a starter and major contributor at SLU. His skill set is incredibly well-rounded for a frontcourt player; he rebounds both ends of the floor very well, he's a solid dribbler in transition or half-court offense, he's one of the best passing bigs in the nation, and he's an incredibly effecient scorer, with a field goal percentage of .639 in his last full season at UNLV. In his first eight games before injury this past season, he was attempting 1.6 three-pointers per game and making them at a rate of .308, keeping defenders honest.

Demir, who is nearly as high-profile a grad transfer big man prospect as Juiston, has visited Minnesota and Kansas State and said he "plans to decide between two schools in the near future". Is it possible that he's eliminated one of his visited schools and also has SLU in the mix? Or is SLU a late entrant into his recruitment, adding a third option?

There is a solid SLU connection: Tramaine Isabell, a grad transfer one year ago who helped the Billikens to an Atlantic 10 title and NCAA Tournament berth, played with Demir at Drexel in the 2017-2018 season. Isabell is rumored to have said he'd put in a good word for SLU with Demir, who averaged 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds this season at Drexel. Demir started 55 of his 60 games at Drexel in two seasons (he played his freshman year at Central Wyoming College) and also shows a broad skill set. He made 20 of 71 three-point attempts at Drexel, had an assist rate of 20.3% this past season, was the team's second-leading scorer, and is a strong defensive rebounder.

SLU has two scholarships to give after the Lewis commitment. The Billikens need both depth and scoring down low. Hasahn French is the anchor of the frontcourt but routinely faces double teams and fights off foul trouble as one of the most physically imposing players in the A10. A post player and a stretch big would provide SLU with a deep, balanced frontcourt that would make the Billikens competitive in what looks to be a strong A10 in 2019-2020. Either Demir or Juiston would be an excellent fit, and would ensure another scholarship for the 2020 class, clearly a priority as the SLU coaching staff has extended four new offers in the past two days.

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