Where Are They Now: 18 Former Miners Hooping at the Division I Level
Since the UTEP men's basketball team has continued its drought of missing the NCAA Tournament, the college hoops news in the local area is scarce, aside from a few transfer portal nuggets.
Let's take this opportunity to remember some old faces that have gone on and pursued Division I options at other schools. Firstly, the fact that 18 former Miners are playing Division I basketball is an accurate reflection of how the transfer portal has impacted UTEP over the last half decade.
When was the last time you heard the name Kaosi Ezeagu? Even if you're a UTEP diehard, I'm sure you haven't had your share of "Jordan Lathon versus Nigel Hawkins" upside debates. I don't remember fans, media members, players and coaches all coming together to gush over a player's potential like Deon Stroud—but what happened to him? And what happened to the others that left UTEP?
Let's jump into this...
MEN IN MARCH
Souley Boum, Xavier
(16.5 points/4.3 rebounds/4.4 assists/1 steal per game)
Of note: Xavier (3rd seed) will face Kennesaw State (14th seed) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Souley Boum, who led C-USA in scoring last year (19.8 ppg), became one of the best transfers in all of college basketball as he helped Xavier to a 25-9 record and 2nd place finish in the Big East.
Highlight moment: Aside from becoming an AP All-American, Boum's highlight game was pouring in 33 points in a win at Providence on an efficient 11-of-19 shooting, which included seven rebounds, four assists and four 3-pointers. Simply put, the senior was a walking bucket this season and was arguably a top-25 player in all of college basketball.
Tydus Verhoeven, Northwestern
(2.5 points/2.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game)
Of note: Northwestern (7th seed) will face Boise State (10th seed) after finishing 21-11 and second in the Big 10 regular season. Verhoeven has come off the bench to morph into a key rotational forward for this team during Big Ten play.
Highlight moment: Verhoeven scored eight points, grabbed three boards and had a steal in a home win against Iowa on Feb. 19.
Keonte Kennedy, Memphis
(9.2 points/2.6 rebounds/23 minutes per game on 54% shooting)
Of note: Memphis (8th seed) opens up the NCAA Tournament against C-USA's own in Florida Atlantic (9th seed). The Tigers are coming off an American Athletic Conference Tournament championship win over Houston and wrapped up the season 26-8 overall. Unfortunately for Kennedy, he only played in 25 of the 34 games for the Tigers due to injuries. Still, his impact was noted as he turned into a reliable off-the-bench scoring option for the team. He is currently battling a hand injury and is questionable to return to the court during the tournament.
Highlight moment: Kennedy scored in double figures for six straight games in conference play (Jan. 19 - Feb. 8), including an explosion of 19 points in a win at South Florida, which featured an efficient 7-of-13 shooting with five boards and a pair of steals.
ALMOST TOURNEY BOUND
Kaosi Ezeagu, Sam Houston State
(5.7 points/3.8 rebounds, 31 of 31 games started)
Of note: Sam Houston State (2nd seed) earned a bid for the NIT and will face Santa Clara in their opening round matchup. Since leaving UTEP midway into the 2019-20 season, Ezeagu has journeyed from Kansas State (2019-2022) to now Sam Houston State for his junior season (thanks, COVID).
Highlight moment: Ezeagu scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting with five rebounds and a block in their conference tournament championship loss to Grand Canyon on March 10.
Deon Stroud, Eastern Washington
(5.1 points/1.8 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game)
Of note: Eastern Washington was the favorite to come out of the Big Sky, finishing first in the regular season with a 23-10 record. However, they were upset in the opening round of the league tournament against Northern Arizona (81-80). Now, they are playing in the NIT and recently topped Washington State in their first matchup, 81-74. Making the UTEP connection stronger with this one, former assistant coach Arturo Ormond is on the staff at Eastern Washington.
Highlight moment: The senior scored a season-best 12 points in a regular season win against Northern Arizona, which included 5-of-8 shooting and four rebounds.
Jorell Saterfield, Portland State
(13.1 points, 4.3 points with 31 of 31 starts)
Of note: Portland State was 12-19 and finished seventh in the Big Sky after a disappointing season. Upon leaving UTEP last year, Saterfield was a go-to scoring option for the Vikings. He earned Honorable Mention Big Sky Conference awards for his on-court efforts.
Highlight moment: Having a buzzer beater is hard to have under your belt as a college player, so I'll have to go with Saterfield's shot to win the game as shown above. However, he scored 26 points in a non-conference upset victory at Oregon State on Nov. 19, which was another special moment.
Nigel Hawkins, Stephen F. Austin
(11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists)
Of note: Stephen F. Austin finished fourth in the WAC with a 19-13 overall record. Since transferring from UTEP in 2020, Hawkins started 38 games over three seasons for Stephen F. Austin.
Highlight moment: Hawkins scored in double figures in seven straight games to close out the season, including three games with 20 or more points. The senior scored 22 in a win versus Tarleton State on Feb. 15 to get the streak started.
Efe Odigie, SMU
(11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 31 starts)
Of note: Odigie was an impactful player for a bad SMU team that finished 10-22 and 10th in the AAC. Still, he managed to average double figures in scoring for the third season of his college career, which included three stops—UTEP, Troy and SMU. The grad transfer made the All Sun Belt team in 2022 and was a C-USA All-Freshman with the Miners in 2018.
Highlight moment: Odigie scored a season-high 22 points in a road loss to Tulsa, which included nine boards and two assists.
Kristian Sjolund, Portland
(11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds; 64% FG)
Of note: Portland struggled in the West Coast Conference this year, finishing 8th in the league with a 14-19 overall record. Sjolund was a bright point of the team, being one of just three double-digit scorers. He started 46 games at Portland and will have one more year of eligibility.
Highlight moment: Sjolund erupted for 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting in a road loss to BYU. He also had six rebounds and a steal in the game (63% FG).
Kaden Archie, Georgia Southern
(9.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 25 starts)
Of note: Kaden Archie spent three seasons playing for Georgia Southern (2020-23) after his time at TCU (2018) and UTEP (2019-20). He averaged seven points or more each of his three seasons, having started 42 of 67 games played. The Eagles ended the year 17-16 and seventh in the Sun Belt.
Highlight moment: Archie scored a season-best 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting with three rebounds in a non-conference loss to Santa Clara on Nov. 10.
Bonke Maring, Houston Christian
(13 points/5.9 rebounds on 58% shooting with 31 starts)
Of note: Houston Christian was a bottom-10 team in NCAA by KenPom's rankings, as they ended the year with a 10-22 record and sixth place finish in the Southland Conference. This is an example of a former Miner like Maring taking advantage of extended playing time. He took advantage of his opportunity by going from a 2.3 points per game scorer last year to 13 per game this season.
Highlight moment: Maring scored 24 points on an efficient 12-of-14 shooting in a Dec. 30 win versus New Orleans.
LOST IN THE SAUCE
Christian Agnew, Southeastern Louisiana
(5.9 points, 26 games played)
Of note: Southeastern Louisiana finished 18-14 but for Christian Agnew, it was a tale of two seasons. Agnew made an impact on the court in non-conference play, averaging 11.6 points on 22 minutes per game from Nov. 11 - Dec. 30. Afterward, he averaged just 1.0 point and 6 minutes per game in 14 games played from Jan. 5 to Feb. 25.
Highlight moment: Agnew scored a season-best 22 points and grabbed five rebounds in a road loss to Nicholls State on Dec. 15. Two weeks earlier, he scored 20 in a loss to Dayton.
Jordan Lathon, Morehead State
(0 games played)
Of note: Jordan Lathon transferred from Milwaukee to Morehead State but didn’t record a single minute this season.
WAIT, HE PLAYED AT UTEP?
Vuk Vulikic, UC San Diego
(1.5 points on 39% shooting & 26 games played)
Of note: Vulikic has spent the last two seasons at UC San Diego, having endured a 10-20 season in the Big West. He’s played in 46 games over his two seasons and has two more years of eligibility under his belt.
Highlight moment: Vulikic scored five points in a loss to Occidental, where he played 25 minutes and was 2-of-3 shooting, with three assists and three steals.
Adam Hess, NJIT
(10.7 points on 43% 3-point shooting; 24 of 29 games started)
Of note: After playing in just seven games for the Miners in 2020-21, Adam Hess spent a year in D2 at Eastern New Mexico (2021-22) and found himself as a grad transfer back at the Division I level for NJIT. They finished just 7-23 (8th in American East Conference). Through his college basketball career, Hess journeyed from Cal Baptist, Salt Lake Community College, UTEP, Eastern New Mexico and, finally, NJIT.
Highlight moment: Hess poured in a season-best 23 points, featuring a trio of 3-pointers and two assists in 36 minutes of action in a loss to Binghamton on Feb. 15.
CUP-OF-COFFEE WITH THE MINERS
Che Evans, USC Upstate
(1.6 points, 1.2 rebounds in 5 games played)
Of note: Che Evans simply can’t find his sweet spot. He redshirted for San Diego State out of high school and joined UTEP in January of 2022 as a mid-year transfer. Evans wasn’t part of the team’s future plans, and as a result, he left for USC Upstate. Evans never played a second for the Miners.
Brendan Wenzel, Wyoming
(7.9 points, 3.8 rebounds on 40% 3-point shooting)
Of note: Upon committing to the Miners for the 2019-20 season, Wenzel flipped his commitment late and joined Utah in the Pac-12. He ended up transferring to Wyoming in 2021 and has started 35 games since. This year, he transformed into a reliable and sizable perimeter forward.
Highlight moment: Wenzel scored 20 points in a win against LA Tech on Dec. 10. In the win, he hit 5-of-7 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds.
Jesse Zarzuela, Central Michigan
(16.3 points, 2.7 assists on 40% FG)
Of note: Zarzuela is another player that put together quite the journey after committing to the Miners. He redshirted for UTEP in 2018-19, then went the JUCO route for the next two years (Navarro and Missouri State West Plains). Zarzuela found himself back into Division I basketball with Coppin State in 2021 and then Central Michigan in 2022. Of note, former Miner coach Tony Barbee is the head man at Central Michigan, where they finished 10-21 in the MAC this year. Zarzuela also recently hit the transfer portal, which would be his sixth school in six years.
Highlight moment: Zarzuela went off for 29 points, four rebounds, four assists and shot 8-of-16 in a win against Buffalo on Jan. 14.