It was already a frenetically-paced winter for Miami men’s basketball.
The multiple weeks following a surprising and yet resilient showing in the 2021 ACC Tournament, however, have brought plenty of change for Miami men’s basketball.
Though the amount of college basketball talent in this year’s NCAA transfer portal has skyrocketed, such concept has also lately applied to Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga’s program, nonetheless.
With the latest destination decisions of senior guards Elijah Olaniyi and Chris Lykes, in addition to freshman forward Earl Timberlake, UM has encountered a revolving door of its own when it comes to the student-athletes who have cycled in and out of Coral Gables, Florida.
Timberlake, despite having only competed in seven games this season, decided Memphis remained the most optimal fit for him for certain reasons. A quartet of Tigers players (Boogie Ellis, Damion Baugh, Jordan Nesbitt, and D.J. Jeffries) have entered the transfer portal — consisting of over 1,000 players as of April 1.
“I feel like I can learn a lot from [coach] Penny Hardaway — all he’s done in his career,” Timberlake told ESPN on Thursday. “I like the way they defend, they have the No. 1-ranked defense in the country. I can add to that. I like how they see my game. They know I can pass and they’ll help me get back to defending the way I know I can defend and try to win a national championship.”
It was confirmed by Timberlake that he had also considered Gonzaga, LSU, and Providence, amongst others when determining where his college career would continue.
“I’m returning home to D.C. this weekend, and my shoulder rehab starts Monday,” said Timberlake after battling a shoulder injury for the remainder of the Canes’ season. “I’m looking at a month of rehab and I should be fine by the summer with no surgery. I’m praying everything goes well.”
Some had predicted Lykes to transfer to Southern California for his final year of eligibility, yet he instead declared his move to Arkansas on Wednesday. The Razorbacks advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, prior to falling to eventual-champion Baylor.
“They have a good coaching staff and they made a great run in the tournament this year,” Lykes said upon evaluating his options. “I like how they play and their coaching staff. They also have Earl Boykins on their staff, so I feel like he could teach me a lot of things.”
After averaging 15 points per game or greater for three consecutive seasons, the former preseason first-team all-conference nominee will team up with former Pittsburgh guard Au’Diese Toney next season.
“Chris is a proven, dynamic guard who has excelled in the ACC,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said in a released statement. “He has the ability to score and get his teammates involved. We like how he attacks the paint and gets to the free throw line. He also has shown great leadership. We are very excited to have Chris join our program and our fans will enjoy watching him play.”
With the opportunity to play professionally after the following winter, Lykes views his time in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as a brief stop in taking the next step.
“I’m looking at one year, go in and take care of business, do well, and enter the draft,” said Lykes, who had initially decided to turn professional until he changed his mind only days later. “I came back to college because the scouts all told me the same thing — go back and prove yourself again. Because even the teams overseas, they look at stats.”
Though Lykes saw his senior season at UM abruptly sliced due to a high ankle sprain, Olaniyi, on the other hand, will return to Stony Brook. The former All-America East First Team honoree averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds with Geno Ford on the bench for the Seawolves, yet remained uncertain if he would compete this year until debuting in mid-December upon the NCAA’s blanket waiver on transfers’ eligibility.
A specific reason as to why Olaniyi transferred back to Stony Brook was not stated upon the release from Stadium’s Jeff Goodman last Friday. The 7-foot graduate averaged 7.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this winter.
Losing guards was not Miami’s only recent deficit faced, nonetheless. Former Cincinnati transfer center Nysier Brooks will start next season at Mississippi.
“We feel ‘Nas’ can be one the very best defensive bigs in college basketball, and I am really excited to watch is growth on the offensive end,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis told the Associated Press upon Brooks’ signing on Wednesday.
In spite of its numerous losses, Miami has remained in contention for some of the nation’s high-caliber transfer names, though no commitments have been made. Georgia forward Toumani Camara remained in talks with UM’s coaching staff, but ultimately opted for Dayton on Wednesday.
East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner also has the Canes amongst his top choices of programs, though some believe he will head elsewhere, with NC State remaining a prediction.
“My family and I just felt like I needed to maximize my opportunity and just take advantage of what’s going on in college basketball right now,” Gardner said. “We want to make sure I maximize my opportunity to get to the next level. We feel I did all that I could at East Carolina and it’s nothing but love for them, but we just feel it’s in my best interest if I want to play at the next level to go somewhere else.”
Banking on the transfer portal to bolster its three arriving four-star recruits — Nisine Poplar, Bensley Joseph, and Jakai Robinson — Miami awaits the ongoing decisions of its pursued talent in the coming months.