Following a pandemic-altered season last year, men’s basketball returned just six players, forcing head coach Jamion Christian to replenish the roster with five transfers and four freshmen this offseason.
Christian said he has focused on utilizing transfers to revitalize the program as the team looks to move forward from last season. His 2021-22 team includes 10 total transfers on its roster, the second most in the country behind only Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
After the NCAA rule change that granted all transfers immediate eligibility in the middle of last season, Christian said he knew it could help the program rebuild faster.
“We have a great culture of transfers,” Christian said. “Our transfers enjoy D.C., they love GW, they love the graduate school opportunities they have here. So part of the plan all year was always going to be taking transfers and bringing those guys in.”
Three of the transfers are graduate students, including guards Brendan Adams and Bryan Knapp and forward Ira Lee. Christian hopes the experience of the graduate transfers can help the team in high-stakes situations.
“Whether it’s Ira Lee or Brendan Adams, those guys have great experience in their lives.” Christian said. “We have a lot of guys who’ve been there and done that and they’ve done a really good job of sharing their knowledge.”
Adams, a Baltimore, Maryland native, spent the first three years of his college career at Connecticut, where he appeared in 78 games and averaged 4.9 points and 1.8 rebounds, although he only started eight games. He was ranked as a top 150 player in the country by the collegiate prospect ranking site Rivals.com coming out of high school and also received a scholarship offer from GW under former interim head coach Maurice Joseph.
“It’s pretty close to home, a great school academically, a great place to come get my MBA,” Adams said. “Personally, I can really feel the love in the program coming from Christian and just the relationship I have with Christian from him recruiting my brother and recruiting me out of high school.”
Adams has featured heavily for the Colonials three games into the season, tied for the most playing time with junior guard James Bishop with 144 minutes while starting all three games. He is averaging 16 points per game and is shooting 45.7 percent from the field thus far and led the Colonials with 22 points in their season opening win over Saint Francis.
Knapp, a D.C. native, comes to GW after spending four years at Cornell, which had its season cancelled last year due to the pandemic. He averaged 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 15.8 minutes per game with the Big Red.
Lee transferred to GW from Arizona after spending four years with the Wildcats, averaging 3.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 13.2 minutes per game while in Tucson. Unfortunately for the Colonials, Lee ruptured his patellar tendon playing pickup basketball over the summer and will miss the season.
Sophomore guard Joe Bamisile transferred from Virginia Tech after just a year with the Hokies where he averaged 3.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 8.9 minutes per game in 13 appearances. Coming out of high school, Bamisile was ranked as the 61st best player and the 15th best shooting guard in the country on Rivals.com.
Bamisile chose to attend VT over offers from six other ‘power conference’ schools, including perennial basketball powerhouses Florida and West Virginia. For the Colonials, he has been a star through four games, showing his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim.
He has started all three games and averaged 17.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, highlighted by a 20-point performance against Maryland. Bamisile has taken 36.1 percent of the Colonials’ shots so far this year and figures to be key cog for the Colonials’ attempt to make an A-10 tournament run this year.
Junior forward Qwanzi Samuels, from nearby District Heights, Maryland, came to GW from Florida Gulf Coast. In his time with the Eagles he appeared in 27 games, averaging 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 11 minutes per game.
Samuels figures to be an important player coming off the bench for the Colonials and his experience and versatility will be valuable for a team that has little experience playing together. Through the first three games, Samuels has averaged 2.0 points and 10 minutes per game.
Among the four incoming freshmen, the only one who has seen significant minutes three games into the season is guard Brayon Freeman. Freeman, a native of D.C., is a shifty 6-foot-2 guard who Christian said does well to create opportunities for his teammates.
“Brayon Freeman can create plays out of nothing,” Christian said. “He can get in the lane and create money for himself.”
The remaining first-years, Daniel Nixon, Laziz Talipov and Tyler Warner all look to be important pieces moving forward for the program. Nixon, a 6-foot-7 forward out of White Plains, New York, is a raw prospect with potential who fits the mold of players Christian wants on his teams.
Talipov is a high energy guard out of Orlando, Florida who will certainly play a role down the line due in part to his perimeter shooting ability. Warner is a big man out of Rochester, New York who will look to factor into the rotation and use his size to help the program.
With so many new players, it remains to be seen exactly how they all fit together for the Colonials. One thing is for sure, there is talent on the roster. It’s just a matter of fitting all the puzzle pieces together.
“It’s been up and down,” Adams said. “Just gelling with the team, it’s not something that’s going to be perfect. We’ve definitely had ups and downs, but I think we’re coming together now, we can see the progress, we should be good when it matters most.”