Transfer Portal Buzz: Latest UTEP Activity & What We Know So Far
It's been a little quiet on the UTEP basketball transfer portal front. A little too quiet.
For starters, March 31 kicked off the official dead period for men's and women's basketball. The basketball programs will not be able to host campus visits, no in-person evaluations, no university-sponsored events, among other restrictions until April 7. During this time, the basketball program can conduct meetings internally and still recruit virtually.
Since the season concluded in The Basketball Classic postseason tournament, the Miners have had just three departures: point guard Jamal Bieniemy (turn professional), forward Tydus Verhoeven (turn professional and retain college eligibility) and forward Bonke Maring (transfer portal).
More players could be on the move too, sources tell 600 ESPN El Paso, with exit interviews between players and coaches set to be held on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.
Miners lose a pair of forwards
Make no mistake, the Miners will miss the defense and rim protection that Verhoeven brought to the table for the past three years. And when he did good things offensively, it transitioned into wins for the Miners. When Verhoeven scored 10+ points, the team was unbeaten (11-0) oddly enough.
Verhoeven went from averaging 1.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in his first season with UTEP (2019-20) to scoring 6.6 points and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game (2021-22), while averaging at least one block and nearly a steal per game. The Manteca, CA, native will have one final season of eligibility, should he wish to explore another university. The 6-foot-9 forward, who transferred to UTEP from Duquesne after the 2019 season, would also like to explore professional basketball playing opportunities this summer.
Sophomore forward Bonke Maring could never carve out a consistent role for himself this season with the Miners. One of his best games of the season came in a 63-60 win over LA Tech in which Maring totaled five points, and five rebounds in just nine minutes off the bench. Maring appeared in 22 games, averaging 2.3 points, 1.2 rebounds in 7.0 minutes.
UTEP's recruiting radar
Now that the coaching staff is back in town, fresh off their extended recruiting trip, names of prospects continue to pop up on social media. Among the names that could be difference-makers down the line, UTEP made the top-6 list for Penn State grad transfer Sam Sessoms.
The 6-foot-1 guard, who averaged 11.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in 2021-22, will make his decision on May 1 between the Miners, Minnesota, George Mason, Michigan, Mississippi State and Coppin State.
He told 247 Sports' Dushawn London what he liked about each team in his top-6:
"UTEP: They’re in the conference USA which is guard heavy and the last two player of the years were scoring guards. Not only that I have a good relationship with their coaching staff. Coach Spriggs is from Philadelphia so we have a good connection out there and it’s a different scenery from the city of Philadelphia," said Sessoms.
Among some of the other names that UTEP continues to pursue include FIU guard Tevin Brewer, who scored 15.2 points and dished out 5.6 assists as a three-year starter for the Panthers. The Miners are also targeting Sacred Heart guard Aaron Clarke, who totaled 16 points and 4.0 assists per game in 2021-22.
Catch up on UTEP recruiting by going to my Twitter thread below.
What's next for the transfer portal?
There are two obvious big player decisions that are looming over UTEP—Souley Boum and Keonte Kennedy. Beyond the two starters, one might also watch the decisions that other rotational players make, such as Christian Agnew. Finally, it will be interesting to see which players outside the rotation return to the squad for next year.
If Boum returns next year, he could be a solidified preseason C-USA Player of the Year candidate. If he pursues the professional route, there's no doubt in my mind that Boum would get a chance somewhere. If he elects to enter the transfer portal, Boum will be one of the most coveted transfers in mid-major hoops.
Kennedy's decision is also really interesting. He has a chance to be an All C-USA caliber type of player if he decides to return. However, if he indeed wishes to leave, Kennedy might try to parlay his stellar season into a high major/Power-5 opportunity.
And if you're UTEP, you want to keep fundamental rotational pieces like Agnew. Even though his production dipped in terms of scoring this year, Agnew could continue to be a ferocious off-the-bench defensive specialist next year.
By losing two starters in Verhoeven and Bieniemy, the Miners might want to try to keep as many players on the current roster. Conversely, if they think some of the players that Rodney Terry recruited will want to leave, maybe the 2022-23 roster could look like a brand new team.
We expect to know more either way by the end of the week.