Posted on May 18, 2023
aThe “Conference of Champions,” the Pac-12 is one of the most popular and influential conferences in all of college sports.
Fiercely loyal fans can look back through the annals of history and find leagues of players who will fervently support rival teams and opponents that they can use to fuel their fans’ fires.
The transfer portal, in addition to changing much of the popular order of college sports, has opened up a previously almost unheard-of avenue for players seeking a new opportunity: the intra-conference transfer.
While it used to be taboo for players to jump from one school to another in the same league, let alone a rival, the portal has greased the wheels on that practice.
While this phenomenon affects conferences across the country, Pac-12 schools host several players who have gone from one school to another in the conference.
It’s worth looking into which of these in-conference transfers will have the most significant impact on the league this coming season.
It could be a precursor to a larger trend emerging among college basketball and football players.
Lazar Stefanovich. Utah – UCLA
aAfter a great stretch of basketball under Mick Cronin, where Johnny Yousang, Tiger Campbell, Jaylen Clark and James Jaques Jr. led the team to three Sweet Sixteen appearances and one Final Four appearance, the Bruins enter a transition year without returning talent. .
That’s pending some NBA draft decisions, with Amari Bailey, Adam Bona, Clark and Jaques Jr. all weighing staying in the draft and returning to school.
While it wouldn’t be surprising to see at least one of the four players return to school, there is enough draft buzz about this quartet that all four players shouldn’t be discounted either.
To make up for the lost talent, Cronin scoured his own conference for Lazar Stefanovic, the Utes’ starter last year.
Stefanovic had a sophomore season where he shot 35.9% from deep on the season, a mark that would comfortably put him among UCLA’s top shooters this season.
With the summer to mature his game and learn the offense, expect Stefanovic to serve as a veteran compass for the Bruins’ new-look roster.
With five new starters back for UCLA next year, Stefanovic will likely be the most experienced player in college basketball, putting him at the forefront of most of the team’s offensive game plans.
DJ Rodman. Washington State to USA
In:In the wake of Bronnie James’ commitment to the Trojans, much of the buzz surrounding Rodman’s switch of allegiance from the Cougars to USC was lost.
However, even without the fans, his move and the potential role he could play for Andy Anfield will be much loved.
The Trojans have done a wonderful job gathering talent from all over the country.
While they lost reigning Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year Rhys Dixon-Waters from San Diego State, they landed a recruiting class headlined by the top player in the 2023 graduating class in Isaiah Collier and consensus five-star James.
USC retained Boogie Ellis, Kobe Johnson, Joshua Morgan and Vince Iwuchukwu, all of whom are expected to play significant roles next year.
One hole for the Trojans was on the wing, where they needed some size and shooting to balance out the dichotomy of the roster structure.
Rodman had a senior season in Pullman where he made 38.1% of his threes, and he has the size and experience needed to match up against small forwards at the Pac-12 level.
While the final starting spot will likely come down to Johnson, James or Rodman, whether he starts or not, Rodman should see his share of minutes at either forward position.
His ability to hit from deep and play gritty defense will give the Trojans more opportunities than last year.
Devan Cambridge. Arizona State to Oregon
aAfter a year roaming the Arizona desert with his brother en route to the NCAA Tournament, Devan Cambridge chose to take his talents from Tempe to Eugene via intra-conference Oregon.
He arrives on the Duck roster at a critical juncture in Dana Altman’s tenure, which has become fiery and could be reaching a tipping point.
In sports, however, winning cures all, and Altman put himself and the Ducks on that path by grabbing Cario Oquendo from Georgia and Cambridge from ASU.
Both players will look to contribute on the wing for an Oregon team that is ready to hand the keys to Jackson Shelstad and man the middle with N’Fali Dante.
This is Cambridge’s third school since he played middle for the Auburn Tigers before establishing himself as a starter for the Sun Devils.
He averaged the most points and rebounds of his career last season and did so with the most efficient shooting from the floor he has had at the collegiate level, which speaks to his potential to continue that streak at Oregon.
Given his proven Pac-12 production, it’s likely that Cambridge will be the most impactful transfer on the team this year.
His ability to attack the wing defense, rebound the ball and attack the guard wings will give the Ducks a dimension they lacked last year and could help them return to the top of the Pac-12.
Cole Bajema and Lawson Loving. Washington/Colorado to Utah
T:Last year, he led the Utes to a No. 7 seed in the Pac-12, barely easing through a rough non-conference stretch to open the season at .500 against their conference teams.
Utah lost just four transfers, bringing in three new players, including two Pac-12 players in Cole Bajema and Lawson Lovering.
Bajema started his career at Michigan, but after two years as an understudy in Washington, he cemented himself as the Huskies’ primary starter.
He hit 36% of his threes, which shows he has the size to be a small forward at the Pac-12 level.
Loving spent two years in Colorado, starting every game for the Buffaloes last season.
He didn’t have a pronounced scoring impact due to his role, but at 7’1,” Loving has a massive frame built with ferocious shot blocking to gobble up rebounds and stifle attempts at the rim.
Adding Bajema and Lovring to the Utes’ roster gives them two solid starters next season.
Both players have proven their starting ability in the conference and now look to do the same, albeit at a new school.
While it may be unprecedented for the same team to land two in-conference transfers, it speaks to Utah’s resourcefulness in using the transfer portal to its advantage.