Ranking the top 5 all-time Syracuse basketball transfers

Wes Johnson
Dec. 18, 2016; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) drives against Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson (33) during a 117-110 win. Mandatory Photo Credit: Keith Allison, KA Photos.

There were two bits of Syracuse basketball transfer news this week, both in regards to waivers of mandatory redshirt years for transfers. Incoming wing Alan Griffin and outgoing guard Jalen Carey (Rhode Island) were ruled immediately eligible for play by the NCAA.

Earlier in the year, my colleague Chris McGlynn wrote about how Jim Boeheim has mastered the transfer market. With that in mind, I wanted to come up with an all-time top 5 of Syracuse basketball transfers.

It was a tough exercise. Syracuse has had quite a few good ones over time, and some names that had impressive credentials, didn’t make the cut (sorry to players like LeRon Ellis, Michael Lloyd and Jason Cipolla). But that also speaks to the quality of player that Syracuse has gotten via transfer, and the hope is that Griffin will continue in that rich tradition.

5. Andrew White: White was known as “the mayor,” having previously played at Nebraska and Kansas before landing at Syracuse for his grad transfer season. White led Syracuse in scoring at 18.5 points per game, and was named to the 2017 All-ACC Third Team. He caught on with the Atlanta Hawks in the 2017-18 season, appearing in 15 games.

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4. Michael Gbinije: After one uninspiring year at Duke, Gbinije became the only player to play for two ACC teams in his career (after Syracuse moved from the Big East to the ACC in Gbinije’s mandatory redshirt year), and he blossomed into the recruit that the Blue Devils envisioned him as. In his senior season, he averaged 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, and was named to the All-ACC Second Team. He went on to play a season in the NBA after being drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft.

3. Elijah Hughes: Hughes was a lightly recruited forward when he played at Eastern Carolina for his freshman season. But having played at nearby Beacon in New York, Syracuse saw his potential and he transferred to the Orange where he exploded in his junior season. He led SU in scoring at 19.0 points per game, and was named to the All-ACC First Team in 2020. He declared for the NBA Draft after that, and projects as high as a late first round pick.

2. Leo Rautins: Rautins started his career in Minnesota, where he was named to the All Big 10 rookie team. But he really flourished at Syracuse in his three years, averaging 12.1 points, 5.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds, establishing himself as a talented multi-dimensional forward. He will be forever remembered for his dramatic tip-in against Villanova to give Syracuse its first ever Big East championship in the 1980-81 season. He would go on to play two seasons in the NBA before knee injuries took their toll.

1. Wesley Johnson: Johnson was named to the All Big 10 Rookie Team and was an Honorable Mention in his sophomore season after averaging 12.4 points. He exploded in his one season at Syracuse, averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, and was named Big East Player of the Year and AP First Team All-American. He played eight seasons in the NBA as a journeyman, not quite living up to the hype as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.


jimJim Stechschulte
Senior Columnist

I would nominate Ryan Blackwell and bump Andrew White III from the list. After playing at Illinois as a freshman, Blackwell transferred to SU, sat out a year, then became an immediate source of consistent production.

Blackwell was in the starting lineup for each of the 100 games in his three years of eligibility, averaging 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. The Orange went 26-9, 21-12, and 26-6 in his three seasons, claiming two Big East titles and making two Sweet Sixteens (1997-1998 and 1999-2000 for both achievements). He led the team in rebounding in both his sophomore and junior seasons.

Quietly, but most impressively, Blackwell is fifth in program history in minutes per game. While it doesn’t sound like the most impressive accomplishment, here are the top ten in that category (there is an unspecified minimum number of games required):

McNamara, Owens, Moten, Hart, Blackwell, “Pearl”, Autry, Wallace, Coleman, Warrick

There’s a reason you only have to use last names (and one nickname) for that group.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2597 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.