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Wyoming men’s basketball gets trio of transfers over the weekend from USC, UCLA

Arena-Auditorium on the UW campus in Laramie. (Briar Napier/Cap City News)

With key departures on the Wyoming men’s basketball roster this offseason, it’s critical for coach Jeff Linder to make some splashes in the transfer market leading up to an all-important 2022-23 season.

That mission appears to be accomplished.

This past weekend, the Cowboys picked up a trio of transfer pickups that played college ball in Los Angeles for the 2021-22 season, bringing a wealth of high-major experience and skill to Laramie and joining a team that’s expected to be in the thick of the Mountain West Conference title hunt next season.

Former USC teammates Ethan Anderson and Max Agbonkpolo committed to UW on Friday and Saturday, respectively via social media, with UCLA transfer Jake Kyman following suit later Saturday night to cap off a spectacular weekend for Linder and his staff.

With senior guard Drake Jeffries (10.3 points per game, 40.9% 3-point percentage in 2021-22) having forgone his extra year of college eligibility to play professionally, fill-ins from guards Anderson and Kyman should help soften the blow from his departure — especially if star guard Hunter Maldonado (18.5 points, 6.3 assists per game this past season) doesn’t return after he declared for the NBA Draft but left his options open for another year in Laramie.

Anderson was the most battle-tested of the bunch, starting 49 of 90 games played over three years at USC as the 6-foot-1 point guard finished with career averages of 5.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds a night with the Trojans.

Agbonkpolo, a 6-foot-8 forward, had a bit of a breakout year in 2021-22 with career highs of 7.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game over 18 starts in 33 games. His growth potential is perhaps his most exciting feature, however, as Agbonkpolo was pursued out of high school as a four-star recruit that was ranked the 59th-best player nationally in the 2019 class by recruiting service 247Sports.

Kyman was a bench piece over his three seasons at UCLA, averaging 3.6 points and 10.3 minutes per game over his time in Los Angeles. A decent shooter at 36.3% from 3 in his career, the 6-foot-6 guard fits well into Linder’s preference for a bigger backcourt and should be a solid depth piece for the Cowboys.

There are big expectations of the Cowboys this season after a historic year in which they went 25–9 overall and appeared as an at-large selection in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. Linder was rewarded for the success with a cozy contract extension that increased his pay and locked him to Laramie until at least 2027.

At least four players (plus Jeffries) likely won’t be returning to Laramie next season as depth players Ben Bowen, Eoin Nelson, Deng Dut and John Grigsby all entered the transfer portal shortly after the season ended. Nonetheless, senior center and Pine Bluffs native Hunter Thompson announced earlier this offseason that he would be returning for his extra year of eligibility, giving some additional cover for returning All-MWC junior big man Graham Ike.

Three-star recruit and 6-foot–10 center Caden Powell from Texas is the lone freshman scholarship player that’ll be on the Pokes’ roster next season, though Cheyenne (Central) all-state guard Nathanial Talich committed to the Pokes as a preferred walk-on shortly after his prep season ended.