A new page has turned as we are about to start the 2023-24 college basketball season. We are now only a couple of months away from the game’s beginning, and the transfer portal has slowed down to a snail’s pace. While the majority of sports headlines center around college football, this is the perfect time in the college basketball cycle to start putting things together.
Each player’s growth is different, and the year-to-year jump can be significant. Sometimes, all it takes is an opportunity, sometimes it’s growth, sometimes it’s comfort. Whatever the case, each year, players across the college basketball landscape take steps forward.
Let’s discuss ten players, who are not new to their school, that could take steps forward for the 2023-24 season.
PF Ezra Ausar, East Carolina
2022-23 Stats: 9.8 points, 5.3 rebounds in 20 starts
The Skinny: In his final game of the season, in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, Ezra Ausar finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds against Houston. He held lottery pick Jarace Walker to 5 points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field in that game. It was an up-and-down season for Ausar, but in the 20 games he started, he averaged 12.7 points and 6.6 rebounds. Ausar is a length and strong player, but he has nimble feet with some pop and athleticism. There could be a very intriguing jump to take place from year one to year two.
PG Kylan Boswell, Arizona
2022-23 Stats: 4.6 points, 1.6 assists in 15.2 minutes per game
The Skinny: Kylan Boswell reclassified up and enrolled a year early at Arizona. As the year progressed, you could see Boswell getting more and more comfortable. Boswell played this summer with the USA Basketball U19 team in the FIBA World Games. He averaged 6.4 points in almost 19 minutes per game while shooting 35.3 percent from three. The Wildcats lost their starting backcourt from last season, Kerr Kriisa and Courtney Ramey. They brought in a pair of transfers to battle for the job, with Jaden Bradley (Alabama) and Caleb Love (UNC). Boswell brings a steady presence to a fast-paced offense and can play both on the ball and off.
C Donovan Clingan, UConn
2022-23 Stats: 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks in 13.1 minutes per game.
The Skinny: Donovan Clingan is a big human being. He spent his freshman season playing backup to Adama Sanogo, the center who was the NCAA Tournament MVP and first-team All-Big East. In the 11 games that Clingan saw more than 15 minutes, he produced to the tune of 12.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks and shot 77.6 percent from the field. The center position for the reigning national champions will be his this year, as his 13.1 minutes per game could more than double.
SG Rylan Griffen, Alabama
2022-23 Stats: 5.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game.
The Skinny: Rylan Griffen is a smooth operator from the wing. Last season, the freshman came into a crowded backcourt, so he was able to come along at his own pace. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Bradley both transferred in the off-season. While Nate Oats plays with multiple guards on the floor, he has shown that he likes skilled length on his team. While Mark Sears returns, and the Crimson Tide brought in transfers Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell, they are all 6-foot-3 and below. The 6-foot-6 Griffen is lengthy and skilled. He should be given every opportunity to slide into the wing spot in Oats’ high-octane offense.
F Oso Ighodaro, Marquette
2022-23 Stats: 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists
The Skinny: Oso Ighodaro finished second-team All-Big East last season, and according to the official Marquette roster, he grew two inches over the summer. Marquette is coming into the season with top-15 expectations as a team. They lost Olivier-Maxence Prosper to the NBA Draft and return the other four starters. Ighodaro is a unique talent with his passing ability. His court vision is excellent, and he is able to initiate and process in the half-court.
SG Riley Kugel, Florida
2022-23 Stats: 9.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 17 starts.
The Skinny: While it took Riley Kugel a couple of months into the college basketball season to get used to the speed of the game, he caught on. In the 14 games he played after his January 25 start against South Carolina, Kugel averaged 14.6 points on 47.4 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three. Kugel has a smooth floor game with the ability to handle and score. He also carries a strong, durable frame with some straight-line pop. Florida returns Will Richard and recruited some wing/guard depth, but Kugel should get the first crack at the starting role.
G Wooga Poplar, Miami
2022-23 Stats: 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals in 36 starts.
The Skinny: Wooga Poplar is a shooter, capable of creating space in the half-court and getting hot in a hurry. Poplar started for the Hurricanes’ Final Four run last season, but Miami featured ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong and first-team All-ACC Jordan Miller, who combined to take over 43 percent of the team’s total shots. The 6-foot-5 guard shot 37.5 percent from three on the season, and that number boosted to 43.1 percent in ACC play. The opportunity is bright for Poplar.
G Rodney Rice, Virginia Tech
2022-23 Stats: 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 8 games played.
The Skinny: Rodney Rice is a former four-star recruit who battled through an injury-riddled freshman season. The roster breaks well for Rice to get a lion’s share of the guard minutes as he enters his second year of college basketball. He is comfortable on the ball or off, able to dribble, pass, and shoot. While health got in the way of Rice’s freshman year, the off-season returns have been very positive.
F Payton Sandfort, Iowa
2022-23 Stats: 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 7 starts.
The Skinny: Payton Sandfort was the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year last year. Coming off the bench for the majority of the season, he averaged in double figures while posting good advanced stats across the board offensively. Sandfort plays with toughness at either forward position while moving the ball on offense and rebounding well on the block. Iowa lost 111 starts off last year’s team, there is production available as the 6-foot-7 forward slides into the starting lineup.
PG Milos Uzan, Oklahoma
2022-23 Stats: 7.6 points and 3.0 assists in 24 starts.
The Skinny: It is the IQ that makes Milos Uzan so intriguing. The 6-foot-4 point guard earned All-Big 12 Freshman honors last season, and his numbers picked up to 9.4 points on 40.0 percent shooting from three during Big-12 play. Uzan is the only returning player who started more than ten games for the Sooners. He shot 40.8 percent from three for the season. The opportunity is there for a big college basketball season.