College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

Omar Payne Florida game action

Omar Payne, left, was one of three players to officially join Illinois’ roster for the 2021-22 season on Wednesday, along with high-school recruits RJ Melendez and Brandin Podziemski. Payne had played two seasons at Florida.

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Rosters across the country have been reshaped by the transfer portal this offseason. News-Gazette college basketball writer Scott Richey looks at 10 important transfers to hit the Big Ten for the 2021-22 season from the more than two dozen total on the move so far:

1. DeVante’ Jones, MichiganLike the Wolverines needed to get better with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country on the way to Ann Arbor. Jones does make them better, though, after averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists while earning Sun Belt Player of the Year honors at Coastal Carolina.

2. Qudus Wahab, MarylandJust in terms of need, the Terrapins knocked it out of the park by adding the Georgetown transfer. The most glaring hole in Maryland’s lineup last season was its frontcourt. Wahab, who averaged 12.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in 2020-21, fills it at 6-foot-11 and 237 pounds.

3. Tyson Walker, Michigan StateWhile we’re on the topic of need, Walker also fills one for the Spartans. Tom Izzo’s point guard experiments last season — namely trying to force it with Rocket Watts — didn’t work. Walker will and is coming off a breakout year at Northeastern averaging 18.8 points and 4.8 assists.

4. Alfonso Plummer, IllinoisBrad Underwood considered Plummer the best shooter in the transfer portal. There’s certainly a case to be made given how prolific he was at times at Utah. The “super senior” will give the Illini another option on the perimeter for every Andre Curbelo drive-and-kick opportunity.

5. Fatts Russell, MarylandThe Terrapins are probably hoping Russell returns to his 2019-20 form after a fairly significant dip in production last season. The 5-foot-10 “super senior” guard averaged 18.8 points, 4.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from three as a junior at Rhode Island.

6. Parker Stewart, IndianaStewart was a midseason transfer in 2020-21 and then hit the portal again after the Hoosiers’ coaching change before deciding to stick with Mike Woodson. The former Pittsburgh and UT Martin guard is the type of shooter Indiana needs around Trayce Jackson-Davis.

7. Omar Payne, IllinoisPayne could wind up one of the Illini’s most important players if Kofi Cockburn doesn’t return for a third season. The former Florida big man would certainly be in line for a bigger role than he had in either year he spent with the Gators, and Illinois would need him to take advantage.

8. Jamari Wheeler, Ohio StateThe Buckeyes certainly bolstered their defense after snagging the intraconference transfer from Penn State. Wheeler is a two-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection and will likely slot into the role CJ Walker had playing next to Duane Washington Jr.

9. Elyjah Williams, NorthwesternIt’s a homecoming for Williams, who put together a standout high school career at Evanston Township. He returns home as a “super senior” after a breakout final year at Fairleigh Dickinson where he put up 13.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and a 56/42/63 slash.

10. Jalen Pickett, Penn StateNew coach Micah Shrewsberry has some work ahead of him. Getting two years worth of Pickett doesn’t hurt. A three time All-MAAC guard at Siena, Pickett’s numbers were down a bit last season, but he’s averaging 15 points, 6.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds for his career.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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