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HOW ARE THERE MORE MARQUETTE MEN’S BASKETBALL TRANSFER POSSIBILITIES

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got that can’t stop/won’t stop in the portal

NCAA Basketball: East Carolina at Central Florida
We don’t get a chance to use UCF pictures often here, so here’s a shot of Brandon Mahan going for a layup.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

At some point in the past, while talking about Marquette men’s basketball’s transfer recruiting, I believe I said that we were a long way off from anything resembling certainty about the roster. Well, it turns out that I was more right that even I realized.

There are more guys entering the transfer portal every day as the spring semester starts to come to an end, and Marquette is still reaching out to some of them. Here are the latest two.

Justin Kier

If we’re being honest, calling Kier “a Georgia transfer” is a little misleading. It’s true, but only because the 6’4”, 190 pound guard from Virginia spent the 2020-21 season in Athens. Before that, Kier spent four seasons at George Mason, although he only played in nine games in 2019-20 due to a stress fracture in his right foot. He was granted a medical redshirt after that, but elected to grad transfer to Georgia. He’s now taking advantage of his COVID bonus season to move along to a third and final destination.

At George Mason, Kier started in 94 of his 108 appearances, and that was actually 92 of 99 before the stress fracture messed up his fourth season there. All together, he averaged 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game for the Patriots. Kier’s three-point shooting was all over the place, going from a 39% shooter as a freshman to 17% as a sophomore to 37% as a junior to 46% on just 24 attempts as a senior before injury ended his season.

Upon arriving to play for Tom Crean, Kier was installed directly into the starting lineup for the whole season. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 39% from the field, 37% from long range, and 75% from the free throw line.

I’m guessing that the ability to generate steals while not getting whistled for fouls is the thing that attracts Shaka Smart’s attention the most. In the last two seasons where Kier was healthy, he was ranked in the top 275 in the country in steal rate per KenPom.com as well as top 450 in fewest fouls called per 40 minutes of action. That’s for two different coaches in two different leagues, so that’s either A) Tom Crean maximizing what a guy does well and putting him in a position to succeed or B) proof that Kier can be that kind of guy no matter who the guy in the suit on the sideline is.

From an advanced stats perspective, that’s about the only thing that stands out about Kier. Well, the only thing that stands out as a positive. He’s got a big ol’ red flag in the turnover department. In the four seasons of college basketball where he was healthy to play for a full season, Kier posted a turnover rate over 20% in each of them according to KenPom. Only one of them was under 24%, and unfortunately for our conversation here, it was not his season at Georgia. In his injury hampered 2020 season, the turnover rate was down to a totally fine 17.3%, but given that he missed the start of the season because of the stress fracture and then eventually succumbed to surgery to end his season, I can’t help but wonder if it was lower because he was taking fewer chances because he knew his body wasn’t cooperating. The fact that the TO% skyrocketed back to 25% with the Bulldogs is not a good sign.

Brandon Mahan

Mahan will be looking for his fourth stop in college basketball after playing at Chipola College as a freshman, Texas A&M as a sophomore, and then transferring to UCF and getting a waiver to play immediately and playing for the Knights for two years.

The 6’5”, 205 pound guard out of Alabama has been a most-of-the-time starter for his three years of Division 1 hoops. At Texas A&M, Mahan played in all 32 games for head coach Billy Kennedy, starting 20 times while averaging 5.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. In Orlando, Johnny Dawkins started Mahan in 33 of his 51 appearances in two seasons. He was about 50/50 as a starter in 2019-20, but then started in 19 of UCF’s 23 games while missing two of them. The more prominent role on the team brought with it a boost in his stats, as Mahan averaged 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game this past season, all of which were career highs for him.

It’s safe to say that 2020-21 was Mahan’s best season in Division 1. It’s also the only season where he had a notable impact in terms of stats as shown to us on KenPom.com. We can’t ignore that he was #247 in the country in effective field goal percentage and #102 in true shooting percentage. That’s due to Mahan shooting 44% from behind the three-point line and 91% from the free throw stripe this past year. Those were also huge jumps in both categories for him to get to a career best in both. Over 62 games in his first two years in D1, Mahan shot 34% from behind the three-point line on 216 attempts and shot a very not good 68% on 76 free throw attempts. In fairness to Mahan, we should point out that he was a 38% three-point shooter with Texas A&M before hitting less than 30% of his threes in his first year at UCF. It’s entirely likely that he tends more towards a 40% shooter, but those 104 attempts in 2019-20 are still a problem.

The fact that he suddenly doubled his free throw attempts per game from junior year to senior year is pretty good news in terms of maximizing his potential. Mahan also maybe got a little bit lucky in terms of how many free throws he made. He did shoot 86% in AAC play in 2019-20, so maybe Mahan has figured his charity stripe shooting out and he can replicate that 91% again. Maybe not though, so there is at least a question to be asked here.

We also have two names to stop considering.

Okay, on to the scholarship chart.

Marquette only has a scholarship available for the 2020-21 season if Dawson Garcia does not return to Milwaukee at this point. There’s also the possibility that someone from the group of Greg Elliott, Jose Perez, Oso Ighodaro, and Justin Lewis will not be returning to the team in the fall. After all, like we said at the top, more and more guys are entering the portal as the semester comes to an end. Maybe one of those guys elect to leave and thus give new head coach Shaka Smart space to bring Garcia back after withdrawing from the NBA Draft and bring in either Kier or Mahan.

Or maybe someone else! We probably haven’t seen the end of Marquette checking in on a player’s interest in transferring to the Big East.