Kansas basketball cracks final 6 for Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter
Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter released his top six schools on Monday afternoon and the defending national champions were on the list.
Joining Kansas in the push to land the talented guard are: Tennessee, Louisville, Gonzaga, Texas and Purdue.
Regarded by some as the top player to enter the transfer portal this offseason, Hunter figures to be a huge pick up for whichever program lands him.
As a true freshman with the Cyclones last season, the 6-foot, 178-pound defensive menace from Racine, Wisconsin, averaged 11 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game in 35 games last season.
His 71 steals ranked in the top five for a freshman in the history of the Big 12 Conference. And he averaged 32 minutes per game while shooting 39.1% from the floor, 27.4% from 3-point range and 68.7% at the free throw line.
While none of those offensive numbers jump off the page at you, Hunter is known for his defense and ball-handling ability. He seemed to be at his best during the most grueling parts of the Cyclones’ Big 12 slate, going toe to toe with talented offensive players night in and night out.
His pressure on the perimeter made life tough for just about everyone he guarded and he earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors as a result. He also was a unanimous selection for the Big 12’s all-freshman team last season.
A four-star prospect ranked No. 35 nationally in the Class of 2021, Hunter had offers from a couple dozen big time programs, including Arizona State, Creighton, Florida, Georgia, Louisville, Marquette, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
The two most interesting names on that list are Louisville and Texas Tech. Louisville because the Cardinals, with new head coach Kenny Payne, are back in the mix this time around. And Texas Tech because that offer came from then-TTU coach Chris Beard, who is now the head coach at Texas, which is also on Hunter’s list of six finalists.
As that list suggests, the word about Hunter entering the portal was that he was looking for a prime time place to showcase his talent.
It’s worth noting that former Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm did most of the work in recruiting Hunter to Ames, Iowa, and current ISU coach T.J. Otzelberger found a way to keep him committed after taking over.
Clearly, Otzelberger was a fan.
“Tyrese is a gifted player,” Otzelberger said after the Cyclones’ Sweet 16 loss to Miami in Chicago last month. “He certainly matured as the season moved on, did a great job commanding our team, proved that there’s no task too big for him even though he’s a freshman. Plays with a poise and composure beyond his years.” In two games against the Jayhawks last season, Hunter averaged 10 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals per game while playing 31.5 minutes. In the game in Lawrence, his five steals and five assists nearly led to an upset road win. That was the game that Dajuan Harris Jr. hit the off-balance layup — over Hunter — in the final seconds to win it for the Jayhawks.
Although the two battled against each other last season, the idea of Hunter and Harris pairing up at KU and making life miserable for opposing guards has a few national basketball analysts thinking big things for the Jayhawks and Hunter if he were to choose KU.
“Hate to see (Hunter) leave (Iowa State),” ESPN broadcaster Fran Fraschilla tweeted over the weekend. “But if he ends up at (KU), he reminds me of former Jayhawk Tyshawn Taylor. He’d be (a) National Defensive Player of the Year there.”
Added Stadium’s Jeff Goodman after Hunter’s list came out on Monday: “Will be a HUGE pickup for any of these schools. Might be the best player who has gone into the portal this year.”
A year ago, many believed that player was Remy Martin, who elected to leave Arizona State and landed at Kansas. Although Martin was all about offense and Hunter seems to be more defensive-minded, the impact could be similar should Hunter pick KU because the Jayhawks would be adding a dynamic, play-making guard with all the confidence in the world.
According to On3.com's Joe Tipton, Hunter has plans to visit Tennessee this weekend and Gonzaga the following weekend. As of now, there is no known timeline for a decision to be made.
KU's roster remains a bit in flux, with three players testing their NBA draft status over the next five weeks. KU could have an open scholarship if either Christian Braun or Jalen Wilson chooses to stay in the draft after the June 1 deadline to withdraw. But even if they don't, the bottom line here is that if a player like Hunter wants to come to Kansas, the coaching staff will find room for him.