Free agency has come to college basketball with the NCAA’s determination that transfers need not sit out a year before playing.
That has given programs with holes to fill access to players to fill those holes, but not all of them work out. Here are six that have, based not only on their production, but the team’s clear benefit:
MARK SEARS, 6-1, 185, junior, No. 1 Alabama
He averaged 19.6 points at Ohio last season and is at 14.0 for the Crimson Tide. That’s good for second on a team he leads with 39 steals. Sims also is second with 53 3-pointers, which has been a key area of improvement for the Crimson Tide after they finished 300th in the nation in 3-point percentage last season, making just 30.9%.
Sears has had several big outbursts (7-of-11 3-pointers, 24 points against North Carolina), 26 points against Arkansas and a 19-point, 4-of-6 3-point performance last week in a 97-69 win against Florida.
“He’s been aggressive,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said after the Florida win. “We need him. … He makes our offense go and he’s able to play some point, too. Sears can also attack the rim. He’s aggressive, gets fouled frequently because he’s a tough, physical, downhill guard.
“But when he’s making shots like he is, he’s tough to guard.”
Alabama rose to No. 1 this week for the first time in 20 years.
SOULEY BOUM, 6-3, 175, graduate student, No. 16 Xavier
A graduate transfer, Boum averages better than 16 points and leads the Musketeers (19-6) in 3-pointers (48), assists and minutes played after moving from UTEP. Boum scored nearly 20 per game last season.
He led the Musketeers with 26 points in a 90-87 victory against Creighton and added five rebounds, eight assists and three blocks.
“To play in a game that fast and have zero turnovers, is really hard to do,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “He’s playing like an All-American.”
CAM SPENCER, 6-4, 207, senior, Rutgers
His 18.9 scoring average at Loyola, Md., likely convinced him he’d undersold himself, and his transfer has proven it. He’s averaging 12.9 points, second among Scarlet Knights, with a team-high 49 3-pointers, and has another year of eligibility if he chooses to take it.
Spencer etched his name into Scarlet Knights lore on Jan. 2, capping a 14-point performance by hitting a 3-pointer with 13.3 seconds left to give Rutgers a 65-64 victory over top-ranked and unbeaten Purdue.
“He’s been a great addition to our program,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s a great kid from a great family. He’s the whole package.”
MORRIS UDEZE, 6-8, 240, graduate student, New Mexico
He’s third on the Lobos with an average of 15.4 points on 59.5% shooting and leads them in rebounding (8.7). At Wichita State last year, he averaged 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Needing a veteran center, “we were able to target Morris and he’s been great,” coach Richard Pitino said. “Besides the fact that he’s a really good player, he’s a winner. He is a relentless worker. He’s tough, and he’s a huge reason why we’ve been able to turn this around.”
BAYLOR SCHEIERMAN, 6-7, 2-0, senior, No. 18 Creighton
His scoring has dropped from 16.2 ppg at South Dakota State to 13.3 ppg, but he’s shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range with a team-best 63 3s and leads the Blue Jays (17-8) with 8.3 rebounds per game.
KENDRIC DAVIS, 6-0, 177, graduate student, Memphis,
A top scorer last season at SMU (19.4), he’s been even better for the Tigers, ranking seventh nationally at 21.8 per game. He also leads Memphis (19-6) with 41 3-pointers, 51 steals and 6.1 assists per game.
The former American Athletic Conference player of the year had 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds when the Tigers beat SMU on Jan. 26.
AP sports writer John Zenor in Alabama contributed.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.