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Big 5 Offseason Alarm Watch (Men)

05/15/2024, 9:30am EDT
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It has been a wild offseason in the Big 5, with all sorts of transfer movement both in and out of the city (and in several cases, from one local school to another). Now that things are starting to calm down somewhat, we figured it’s a good time to take a look around the various Big 5 programs to see how the offseason had affected them thus far. 

CLICK HERE to read about the women; now it’s time for the men, where we’ll take a quick look at the comings and goings and rate each program’s player movement from a scale of 1-5 alarm bells:



Justin Moore (above) transferred from Drexel to Loyola (Chicago) this spring. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Coming off a CAA Championship, it wasn’t a surprise when senior forward Amari Williams hit the portal, the three-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year winding up at Kentucky for his final season. But it was surprising when Wood product Justin Moore left after two years as Drexel’s starting point guard, transferring to Loyola (Chicago), and it didn’t help that Lamar Oden Jr. and Jamie Bergens also departed. All of that on top of an already-strong trio of graduate students who exhausted their eligibility in Luke House, Mate Okros and Lucas Monroe, and it means that head coach Zach Spiker has to replace his top five and seven of his 10-man rotation.

Spiker does have a couple JUCO commitments thus far in guard Kevin Vanderhorst and forward Victor Panov, with three freshmen led by Wood’s Josh Reed set to come aboard this summer as well. They’ll join a group of returners that includes Garfield Turner, Yame Butler, and Kobe Magee, but more reinforcements are still needed. There are some pieces there, but a lot of work to be done both in the transfer portal or recruiting landscape as well as in the gym this offseason to be ready to repeat this winter.

Offseason Rating: 4 alarm bells


La Salle

The biggest piece for the Explorers to retain this offseason wasn’t on the roster but on the bench, as head coach Fran Dunphy extended his illustrious Big 5 career at least one more year for a third season in North Philly. That being said, La Salle still suffered a bit via the transfer portal, as Jhamir Brickus (Villanova), Rokas Jocius (UCF) and Anwar Gill (Howard) all left; Daeshon Shepherd entered but returned, while Khalil Brantley remains uncommitted and could still come back to 20th and Olney. 

To offset the departures, Dunphy’s brought in a number of players: Temple wing Jahlil White is a terrific fit for Dunph’s defense-first approach; former Lower Merion big man Demetrius Lilley (Penn State) comes back to the area after not seeing a ton of playing time in two years up in Happy Valley; guards Corey McKeithan (Rider) and Eric Acker (LIU) should fill some significant gaps in production. Deuce Jones (College Achieve, N.J.) has wowed in some offseason events leading up to his freshman year, and the Explorers staff is still chasing after a few other potential pieces. La Salle could have had a better spring, roster-wise…but it could have had a worse one, too. 

Offseason Rating: 3 alarm bells


Penn Quakers

Even as transfers became more and more prevalent in college hoops over the last couple decades, the Ivy League remained largely immune. But now in the new NIL landscape, it’s becoming even harder for the Ancient Eight to hang onto talent. That was clear this offseason, when several of the league’s top young stars bolted for high-major programs — including Penn’s Tyler Perkins, who’ll suit up for Villanova next year after averaging 13.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg as a freshman. Also departing was leading scorer Clark Slajchert (18.0 ppg) to Southern Cal, though the grad student was forced to do so by Ivy League eligibility rules; Andrew Laczkowski (4.5 ppg) is in the portal for the same reason.

Also unusually, the Quakers picked up a pair of incoming D-I transfers, both coming off medical redshirt years. Ethan Roberts comes in after sitting out the 2023-24 season at Drake, though he averaged 12.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg as a freshman at West Point two years ago; Michael Zanoni averaged 6.2 ppg as a freshman at Mercer then only played four games last year. They also added Dylan Williams, a 5-11 combo guard from the junior college ranks. They’ll join a returning core led by Sam Brown, Nick Spinoso, Ed Holland III and George Smith that still has enough to be competitive in the Ivy League. But the long-term implications of this offseason have to be troubling for Steve Donahue and the rest of the Ivy coaches and fans.

Offseason Rating: 2.5 alarm bells


Saint Joseph’s Hawks

Billy Lange led the Hawks to their best season in eight years, winning 21 games in something of a breakthrough for the fifth-year head coach, but that wasn’t enough to stop some significant roster movement. St. Joe’s lost two starters in Lynn Greer III (Temple) and Christ Essandoko (Providence), as well as rotation forward Kacper Klaczek (Albany) while graduating Cameron Brown, but held onto its biggest piece in senior-to-be Erik Reynolds II, a sign of the program’s ability to raise some significant NLI money and retain talent in its own right. 

Reynolds (17.3 ppg), Xzayvier Brown (12.7 ppg) and Rasheer Fleming (10.7 ppg) will form the core of next year’s group, which added two impact transfers in former Harvard big man Justice Ajogbor (8.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Rutgers guard Derek Simpson (8.3 ppg, 2.9 apg). That’s a quality starting five, but to compete for an A-10 title, the Hawks will need significant production from sophomores-to-be Anthony Finkley and Shawn Simmons II, redshirt freshman Dasear Haskins and/or some of its four-man recruiting class 

Offseason Rating: 2 alarm bells


Temple Owls

Lynn Greer III (above) transferred from St. Joe's to Temple. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

It was an up-and-down portal experience — well, down-and-up — for the Owls, who first lost a whole bunch of talent but did a good job of making up for it with some quality additions. Having Hysier Miller (15.9 ppg) hit the portal and going down to Virginia Tech was probably the biggest surprise of the spring; Jahlil White (10.1 ppg) and Jordan Riley (11.9 ppg) are also major contributors who left, while Deuce Roberts and Taj Thweatt were much further down the bench. 

But then Adam Fisher and his staff brought in a quality backcourt in Lynn Greer III (St. Joe’s), Jamal Mashburn Jr. (New Mexico) and Jameel Brown (Penn State), adding a ton of talent and experience to shore up the perimeter, plus 6-8 Fordham transfer Elijah Gray to the frontcourt. That group joins a veteran bunch of holdovers — Steve Settle III, Shane Dezonie, Matteo Picarelli, Zion Stanford and Quante Berry — who bring a ton of experience and leadership to the table. This could be a sneaky good team, especially if 6-8 legacy freshman Dillon Battie is ready to be a frontcourt contributor, and if the coaches could bring in one more quality big piece this offseason.

Offseason Rating: 2.5 alarm bells


Villanova Wildcats

The Wildcats’ offseason grade is a little incomplete, as there’s still one major question mark hanging over their roster: will Eric Dixon come back for one final year of eligibility? If the Abington product does return for a sixth year of college off his best season yet (16.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg), he’ll give Kyle Neptune an anchor to build around as the program’s coming off consecutive missed NCAA Tournaments for the first time in 20 years. If Dixon comes back, Neptune has quite a bit to replace considering T.J. Bamba (10.1 ppg) and Brendan Hausen (6.2 ppg) also hit the portal and Mark Armstrong (8.4 ppg) is off to the NBA Draft, white Tyler Burton (7.5 ppg) and Hakim Hart (6.3 ppg) are out of eligibility.

Neptune and his staff did bring in three impact transfers, two of whom we’ve already discussed here in La Salle’s Jhamir Brickus and Penn’s Tyler Perkins, along with VCU’s Max Shulga, a 6-4 shooting guard. With Dixon plus a talented 2024 class led by 6-8 wing Matthew Hodge (St. Rose, N.J.), the outlook is a lot more positive than it is without Dixon, whose absence would mean Neptune and his staff would need to pick through an increasingly thin transfer pool to find some more experience and post scoring.

Offseason Rating: 2.5 alarm bells


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