Green Bay’s season came to a surprising end on Thursday night in a devastating double overtime loss to Purdue Fort Wayne in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament at the Kress Events Center.
But the end of a season unlike any other – due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all the protocols that were put in place because of it – brings about an offseason that will also likely be unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory. Roster turnover is likely just based on recent trends: nearly 900 Division I players entered the transfer portal last season which averages out to more than two players per team.
But add in the fact that most of the players on the current roster were brought to Green Bay by former coach Linc Darner and his staff to play in an up-tempo offense rather than the more disciplined swing offense of the current staff and it may lead to more players looking to move on this offseason.
“We’ll have our individual meetings with the guys here probably sometime early next week just to get a gauge of where some of these guys are at and what they’re thinking,” head coach Will Ryan said after the loss to Purdue Fort Wayne.
The first big domino fell on Friday afternoon when sensational sophomore Amari Davis reportedly entered his name into the transfer portal according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium.com. Davis was Green Bay’s leading scorer this past season at 17.2 points per game and was recently named second team All-Horizon League. His shooting percentage slipped a bit this season as he extended his shooting range to include three pointers but he upped his scoring average and assists per game while turning the ball over less than a season ago. He also drastically improved defensively and spent most games guarding the opposing team’s top player.
Darner’s highest regarded recruit by far, he was the Horizon League Freshman of the Year last season – the first Green Bay player to earn that honor – and surpassed Tony Bennett’s program record for points scored as a freshman when he put up 524 points last season. It is a tremendous blow as Davis was a foundational player who still has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Senior guard Josh Jefferson has also reportedly entered his name into the transfer portal. Jefferson was the team’s second leading scorer at 14.8 points per game and could have returned to Green Bay next season thanks to the NCAA granting every player an extra season of eligibility due to the pandemic, but he will apparently be playing his final season elsewhere.
He joined the program prior to the 2019/2020 season with Darner still at the helm but had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules after transferring in from Illinois State. Jefferson had originally entered the transfer portal last summer but decided to stay with the Phoenix during the coaching change last June.
Other Darner holdovers on scholarship include juniors Paris Taylor and Blayton Williams, sophomore Donavan Moore, and freshmen Japannah Kellogg, Terrance Thompson, Jacob Jones, and Damontae Taylor.
“I feel like we bonded and, the coaching staff, we have a good relationship with these guys,” Ryan said. “But let’s face it, it’s college basketball. We didn’t recruit these guys and they were recruited to a different style. So I told them to do some soul searching to figure out if this is where they want to be. Not that I’m trying to send anybody packing, that’s just the way of the world.”
“I hope everybody comes back and they’re ready to get better and get ready to work when we have our spring workouts, which will then springboard us to the summer and before you know it we’re right back at it in the fall.”
Green Bay’s other senior, PJ Pipes, will also have a decision to make regarding whether he will return to play another season in a Phoenix uniform, transfer to play one more season elsewhere, or potentially go start a professional basketball career.
Pipes briefly mentioned when asked during the season that he was taking it day by day and likely wouldn’t make a decision until after the season is over. Now that the season is over, his decision could help shape what the roster may look like next season. He had the best season of his collegiate career this season under Ryan averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, all career highs, while shooting 43% from beyond the arc and 95.1% from the free throw line. He also filled a much needed leadership role this season and would do so again next year if he returns.
It remains to be seen who else will potentially be joining Davis and Jefferson in the transfer portal. As of right now 12 of Green Bay’s 13 scholarships for next season are accounted for – Pipes returning would not count against that total – with Wisconsin high school prospects Kamari McGee, Cade Meyer, and Brayden Dailey set to join the program replacing the two seniors as well as Jiovanni Miles, who was dismissed from the team earlier this season.
Davis’ departure frees up a scholarship to use on another newcomer, though freshman Lucas Stieber and Ryan Claflin are currently walk-ons that played significant minutes this season that could be in-line to earn a scholarship opportunity.
The only certainty this offseason is that there will be more changes to the roster.
“There’s guys that will have to take a long hard look in the mirror and figure out what their next steps are and where they want to be,” Ryan said.
Photo via Green Bay Athletics