Oklahoma basketball: Transfer portal working for, against Sooners

Oklahoma guard Elijah Harkless (55) secures a rebound from Kansas during the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Oklahoma guard Elijah Harkless (55) secures a rebound from Kansas during the second half of Saturday's game inside Allen Fieldhouse. /

Transfers played a major part in the men’s Oklahoma basketball program this past season, and the portal has been open for Sooner movement again this offseason.

A year ago, following the retirement of veteran head coach Lon Kruger, 10 different Sooners, including three starters, elected to enter the transfer portal rather than return for another season at OU. And that didn’t include Austin Reaves, the team’s leading scorer in 2020-21, who had an extra year of eligibility if he wanted it but instead opted for the NBA Draft.

The most notable Sooner departures through the transfer route were Brady Manek, who went to North Carolina and played a pivotal role in the Tar Heels’ playing for the national championship this season, De’Vion Harmon, who was a key player at Oregon in 2021-22 and Alondes Williams, who had a strong season at Wake Forest.

That was the fallout from the 2020-21 roster that left new head coach Porter Moser with just four scholarship players when he took over the Sooner program around this time last year. Moser rebuilt the Oklahoma roster with seven incoming transfers and two freshman recruits.

Considering all the newcomers — nine in total — the Sooners should be delighted that they finished the year in college basketball’s strongest conference with a winning record overall (19-16) that included wins over five top-15 teams and a couple losses to eventual national champion Kansas by a combined total of five points.

It was a truly commendable job by Moser and his staff with a roster full of newcomers who had never played together before this past season.

Entering an offseason that Moser believes will be considerably less volatile than the one he stepped into last offseason when he departed the shores of Lake Michigan and the head job at Loyola Chicago for the plains of Oklahoma, he also knows the transfer portal will be part of it. And he would be the first to acknowledge that the transfer process works both ways.

A month into the 2022 offseason, Oklahoma’s net score on the transfer board is net minus-two. Three Sooners from the 2021-22 roster have entered the transfer portal, including one of the OU starters in Elijah Harkless. Harkless was one of the four OU players remained from the 2020-21 team after Moser was named the new head coach.

Harkless, who transferred into the Sooner program following his sophomore season at Cal State Fullerton in 2019-20, averaged 9.1 points and nearly five rebounds per game in two seasons at OU. The 6-foot, 3-inch guard played 26 games, 23 as a starter, for the Sooners this past season, before suffering an undisclosed injury in mid-February that ended his season.

Also leaving OU via the transfer portal are 6-foot, 1-inch freshman guard Alston Mason, 6-foot, 8-inch power forward Akol Mawein and 7-foot center Rick Issanza, all of whom played sparingly this past season. Mawein was the strongest contributor of the three, averaging 5.5 points and four rebounds in 13.5 minutes of action per game.

But it hasn’t just been players going out the door, the Sooners have also welcomed in a couple of newcomers so far this offseason. This past weekend, OU added Wofford transfer Sam Godwin to the roster. The 6-foot, 9-inch walk-on averaged 6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds as a sophomore this past season. He shot close to 60 percent inside the three-point arc and averaged 2.2 blocked shots per game. Godwin, a former All-State selection at Southmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, will walk on at OU.

And on Monday this week, Moser announced the addition of Joe Bamisile, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard who is transferring to Oklahoma from George Washington, where he averaged 16.3 points and five rebounds as a sophomore this past season. Bamisile’s performance this past season earned him a third-team All-Atlantic 10 selection.

There is a question mark, however, surrounding Bamisile’s ability to play immediately for the Sooners. This is the second time he has transferred in the past year. He transferred to George Washington from Virginia Tech after the 2020-21 season. If he is granted eligibility to play immediately, he should be one of Oklahoma’s more accomplished scorers next season.

The Sooners are hopeful of returning the majority of last season’s active roster for 2022-23, including seniors Tanner Groves and Umoja Gibson, both of whom have an extra season of eligibility should they elect to use it because of the pandemic year.

Oklahoma has two commits in its 2022 recruiting class expected to join the roster for next season: four-star shooting guard Ortega Oweh from Blairstown, New Jersey, and four-star point guard Milos Uzan from Glendale, Arizona.