As important as high school recruiting classes are to college basketball, they may have been overtaken in recent years by the NCAA transfer portal. The ability for teams to bring in players with more experience, rather than rely so much on unproven prep talent, has become a central part of most programs’ offseason approaches.
It certainly has for Arizona, which added three transfers from the portal this offseason and eight in Tommy Lloyd’s three years in Tucson.
And while ex-North Carolina guard Caleb Love was certainly the most high profile of that transfer trio, it’s Keshad Johnson who is getting some national attention as possibly the top portal addition in the country.
Bleacher Report has tabbed Johnson as the “clear frontrunner” for the best transfer in Division I, a distinction no doubt influenced by his performance during Arizona’s win at Duke last week. The San Diego State transfer had 14 points, including the game-winning basket, in that 78-73 victory, and then he followed that up with a career-high 17 in Monday’s win over Southern.
“It just felt like he was everywhere all the time, which figures to be a season-long trend,” Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller said of Johnson, who leads the UA in points, rebounds and blocks. “We’ll see if he can feast on Michigan State’s frontcourt on Thanksgiving.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-7 senior who averaged 7.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season at SDSU, has played with a level of effort and energy that Lloyd and UA players have said is rubbing off on others.
“I do definitely think it’s infectious, and what it does, is it establishes a standard,” Lloyd said. “This is the standard of which we play. And other guys got to get themselves to that standard.”
Added Pelle Larsson: “He plays really hard, so that’s gonna affect everyone on the team to do the same.”
Johnson has scored in double figures in every game for Arizona, part of a balanced attack that has seen 19 double-digit scoring performances in three games but with on player going for more than 18.