How the Men’s Basketball transfers will impact the program

Jack Fitzpatrick

There is no getting around it, this next basketball season has the potential to be very rough. We all know what has happened since JMU announced Mark Byington as their next head coach, but just to recap…

There is a lot of change coming to campus considering that of last season’s starting five there is potentially only ONE remaining come game one. 

The good news is, there are five players coming in that can make an impact on the program and really help catapult JMU to CAA contenders come the 2021-22 season. There is also an outside shot that two of the transfers can make an impact this upcoming season as well, but with the NCAA, don’t hold your breath. 

Who are the transfers

Overall this is a great transfer class. Byington has stepped into the program and has gotten the ball rolling right away. In this class, he has added two small forwards in Rashawn Fredericks and TJ Taylor, two point guards in Vado Morse and Jalen Hodge and some much-needed height in 6’10 Center, Joel Mensah. 

The transfers are coming in from San Diego State, the last undefeated program from this past season, Wyoming, Mount St. Mary’s and a Cincinnati transfer, by way of UAB. These are players that had real playing time at their previous school and can step into the program and make an impact, something JMU hasn’t seen from transfers since Stuckey Mosley after a slew of some sloppy transfer play.

Or at least, that is what we expect… 

What to expect

In the 2020-21 season, don’t expect a lot. That is blunt, but of all five transfers, only one is guaranteed to play next season, the graduate transfer from UAB, Rashawn Fredericks. There is a chance that Wyoming transfer, TJ Taylor, receives a waiver and can play right away since he is originally from Virginia. 

Come the 2021-2022 season there is a lot of hope. Everyone will be eligible and with more commits and Byington implementing more of his system, there is a chance that this team can catapult themselves to contenders in the CAA. 

All of the transfers that are coming in have played in conferences that are the same if not better than the CAA and they all put up good numbers, not great but good. They all showed flashes of potential at their old school and with another year of development, and let’s face a slight step down in competition coming to the CAA there is a real chance that this group could surprise some people. 

Who will have the greatest impact

Joel Mensah
Courtesy of SDSU Athletics

Get ready to hear Joel Mensah’s name a lot once he starts playing. He is one of the tallest players JMU has had since Yohanny Dalembert in Rowe’s first season at the helm. Now, the 6’10 center coming to Harrisonburg from a top-five nationally ranked team will make a name for himself. 

I expect huge things out of Mensah and so does Byington

“Joel is huge for our program. He has size and athleticism and comes from a team that was top five in the nation,” Byington said. “He is much better than his stats the last two years and will be terrific for us. He is motivated, fits our style and will be great for JMU.”

Look, this guy is tall and athletic and will be the go-to five in this offense under Byington. In the CAA there are not a lot of great post defenders or even tall defenders in the league. Nathan Knight from William & Mary may have been the best one and now he is gone. 

Dwight Wilson was a monster down low for the Dukes this last season, and he was just 6’8. He ate CAA defenses alive for a majority of the season and really the only time he had a bad game was due to foul trouble. 

Now a more athletic and taller player will step into the five spot in two years and will dominate the CAA. Will he win CAA player of the Year? Yeah he will, I’ll be the first to proclaim that bold prediction. 

Overall, this is a talented group of transfers, I do believe that Joel Mensah has the ability to separate himself from the pack and be the one that is remembered for years to come, but the entire class really has that ability. 

We have seen athleticism for the last few years, but with their added abilities and what is expected out of Byington, in two years there is a real shot that this group of players, with the growth and development of who is already on the roster (looking at Christmas taking a big step come the 2021-22 season) I believe the Dukes can be real contenders. 

For this upcoming 2020-21 season, there may be some growing pains that come along with a new coach and not a deep bench since so many scholarships are being used by guys who can’t play this season. But there is cautious optimism for this program as they open their new home. 

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