Top 10 most impactful transfers in college basketball this season

The transfer portal has opened up a new avenue for players to explore different options from the original team to which they committed. Many college programs have found the missing piece to success this season in older, experienced transfers. Transferring to different programs has also helped a handful of players boost their NBA Draft stock this year after dominating tougher competition and playing at a high level.

Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht went from playing at a JUCO his freshman year, to Northern Colorado for his sophomore and junior year, before joining the Vols this season. He’s been the No. 1 offensive threat for head coach Rick Barnes’ squad and is one of the main reasons why the Vols are the No. 6 team in the country.

Yahoo Sports takes a look at the 10 most impactful transfers so far this men's college basketball season.

Dalton Knecht, Tennessee

Previous team: Northern Colorado

No player in college basketball has had a bigger impact on a new team than Knecht. His rise from zero Division I offers as a high school prospect to projected lottery pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft is nothing short of incredible. Knecht was one of the hottest names in the portal last summer and chose Tennessee over Kansas and North Carolina. In the Vols' most recent win over LSU, Knecht led all players with 27 points and added seven rebounds and six assists. He had a stretch of six games where he averaged 31.8 points while shooting 45.6% from 3-point range. His offensive decision-making is elite, he’s a tough finisher and his defense has improved significantly.

Hunter Dickinson, Kansas

Previous team: Michigan

Dickinson controlled the paint in the Big Ten for three seasons before transferring to Kansas for his senior season and not much has changed for the 7-foot-2 center. Kansas has remained a top-10 team the entire season thanks to the inside-out game of Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. Dickinson is currently averaging a double-double (18.9 points and 11.1 rebounds) and is leading the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Dickinson started his career as a Jayhawk with a bang when he recorded 27 points and 21 rebounds in a win over Kentucky at the Champions Classic in November.

"I don't think I ever had a 20-20 before," Dickinson said after the game. "We have a really unselfish team that's more than willing to give you the ball and it helps a lot."

Dec 1, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Hunter Dickinson (1) celebrates after scoring against the Connecticut Huskies during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas center Hunter Dickinson has been a double-double machine for the Jayhawks since transferring from Michigan. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

Harrison Ingram, North Carolina

Previous team: Stanford

In the first outing against rival Duke last Saturday, Ingram was the best player on the court. He was everywhere defensively and knocked down shots confidently, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds and four steals in the win. North Carolina is one of the toughest defensive teams in the country and Ingram has added to that with the way he can defend positions 1-4. The 6-7 junior spent two seasons at Stanford before making the move to the east coast this season and it’s paid off in a huge way, not only for North Carolina but also for Ingram as a future NBA prospect.

Kel’el Ware, Indiana

Previous team: Oregon

The 7-foot sophomore center was relatively quiet during his freshman year at Oregon and found new life under head coach Mike Woodson and his staff this year. He stepped into Trayce Jackson-Davis’ role offensively in the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll options and has added some much-needed rim protection for Indiana this season. Ware went from averaging 6.6 points last year to 14.8 points this season. He’s also attempted a few 3-point shots this season, something NBA scouts were eager to see in his development, and is now a projected first-round pick in the draft.

Caleb Love, Arizona

Previous team: North Carolina

Love had success at North Carolina two seasons ago when he helped lead the Tar Heels to the title game in 2022. He tested the NBA waters after his sophomore season but elected to return to UNC for what would be a disappointing junior season. Love made the move to Arizona and has found a new home and new success playing alongside sophomore Kylan Boswell. Love leads No. 8 Arizona in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game, and is shooting 44.3% from the field and 34.2% from 3. He erupted for 36 points in a win over Oregon on Jan. 27 and is one of the best scoring guards in the Pac-12.

Jan 13, 2024; Pullman, Washington, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Caleb Love (2) controls the ball against the Washington State Cougars in the second half at Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona's Caleb Love is averaging a team-high 18.9 points to go along with five rebounds a game this season. (James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

Cam Spencer, UConn

Previous team: Rutgers

Spencer has become the glue guy for No. 1 UConn as it looks to make a repeat run as national champions. In the last two games, Spencer has combined for 43 points (including nine 3-pointers) and shot over 50% from the field and 60% from behind the arc. The fifth-year senior spent three seasons at Loyola Maryland and one season at Rutgers before joining the Huskies this season. Defensively is where he’s most impactful, averaging close to two steals per game and guarding multiple positions.

LJ Cryer, Houston

Previous team: Baylor

Typically when players transfer, they choose to play in a different conference so they won’t have to face their former team. Cryer decided to transfer to Houston, 185 miles down the road from Baylor's campus in Waco, Texas. Cryer hit the ground running for his senior season and has been terrific in the backcourt for the No. 5 Cougars. He leads all Houston players in points (15.1) and is a great complementary piece to Jamal Shead after the Cougars lost Marcus Sasser to the NBA last season.

Max Abmas, Texas

Previous team: Oral Roberts

Abmas previously got NBA scouts' attention in 2021 when he led Oral Roberts to a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA tournament. As a fifth-year senior, Abmas has been a great addition in the backcourt alongside Tyrese Hunter for the Longhorns. At 6 foot, he’s a little undersized at the point guard position for the NBA level, but he leans into his strengths as a primary ball handler and has found success every step of his career. Abmas is leading all Texas players in points (17.7 per game) and has scored 20 or more points this season in eight games, including a 32-point performance against West Virginia where he hit seven 3s in the close loss.

Feb 3, 2024; Fort Worth, Texas, USA;  Texas Longhorns guard Max Abmas (3) shoots as TCU Horned Frogs guard Trevian Tennyson (11) and TCU Horned Frogs forward Xavier Cork (12) defend during the second half at Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Texas guard Max Abmas is undersized as an NBA prospect but he has succeeded everywhere he's been in college. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Tre Mitchell, Kentucky

Previous team: West Virginia

Head coach John Calipari is known for drawing five-star, one-and-done talent to Kentucky but he’s found success in the transfer portal the last couple of years. The Wildcats had two 7-foot freshmen coming in this season but Aaron Bradshaw was coming back from having surgery on his left foot and Zvonimir Ivišić didn’t get cleared by the NCAA until January. Mitchell was instrumental in Kentucky’s early success during the season. The 6-9 senior forward is strong in the paint, a solid passer out of the double team and a good rebounder. Mitchell is averaging 12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the Wildcats.

Hunter Sallis, Wake Forest

Previous team: Gonzaga

The junior guard went from averaging under five points per game in his freshman and sophomore seasons at Gonzaga to being a breakout player in the ACC for Wake Forest, averaging 17.9 points and shooting 39% from 3 so far this season. He’s leading the Demon Deacons in scoring and his best game of the season came in a win over defensive powerhouse Virginia when he finished with 21 points (including five 3-pointers) and added nine rebounds and two assists.