How Texas Tech used the transfer portal to build a Sweet 16 team

Mark Adams faced a massive challenge when he took over the Texas Tech program following Chris Beard’s departure. The 65-year-old first-time head coach had to replace most of his team.

After Beard left to coach at Texas, there was a mass exodus of players from Lubbock. Mac McClung declared for the 2021 NBA Draft while other players like Kyler Edwards, Micah Peavy, Jamarius Burton, Nimari Burnett, Tyreek Smith, Avery Benson and Vladislav Goldin all left the team via the transfer portal.

All told, only five players elected to stay with the team. Just three of them played significant minutes for the Red Raiders during the 2020-21 season.

Adams knew he had to act fast to add depth and talent to his team, so he did what every college coach has been doing in recent seasons. He began recruiting within the transfer portal without abandon. As a result, he was able to replenish his team’s roster and ensure that they would remain contenders.

Texas Tech rostered 14 players for the 2021-22 college basketball season. A whopping nine of them came from the transfer portal. 

Not all of the transfers added made a big impact. Guard Sardaar Calhoun opted to transfer again after playing just eight games with the Red Raiders while KJ Allen and Austin Timperman played sparingly.

That said, six of Adams’ transfers became key players within the Texas Tech rotation, and they are a big part of the reason that the team has gone 27-9 and has reached the Sweet 16 again. Here’s a look at the players who helped build the current Texas Tech program and why they chose to come play for Adams:

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Bryson Williams, UTEP

Williams was the fifth transfer that Adams lured to Texas Tech, but his choice was the most important. The Red Raiders needed both experience and offensive ability on their team, and Williams provided them with that.

Williams (6-8, 228 pounds) is a sixth-year senior who spent two seasons at Fresno State and three at UTEP (including a redshirt year while he transferred) before coming to Texas Tech.

During his final season at UTEP, Williams averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Miners and scored at least 20 points in seven of his 24 total games. The Miners failed to make the NCAA Tournament and with one year of eligibility remaining, Williams decided to transfer.

His logic? He wanted a chance to play against higher-level competition and wanted to improve his defense. That’s what led him to Texas Tech and its defensive-minded coach Adams.

“Offensively I have proven what I can do against some of the best in the country throughout my collegiate career,” Williams wrote in a statement announcing his transfer in June. “However, I wanted to challenge myself in other areas and I needed someone I knew could help me the most with that.”

Williams accomplished his goal of improving on defense, helping the Red Raiders allow the sixth-fewest points in the NCAA, at 60.2 per game. He continued to be a force offensively too, as he averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game while shooting a career-best 53.7 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc.

So, it turns out Williams was right. Texas Tech was “the best fit” for him, just as he said it would be when he first announced he was joining the Red Raiders.

Kevin Obanor, Oral Roberts

Obanor’s name will be familiar to college basketball fans and March Madness aficionados. He was one of the breakout stars of the 2021 NCAA Tournament while playing at Oral Roberts.

In 2021, Obanor helped lead the Golden Eagles to the Sweet 16 despite the team being a 15-seed in the tournament. They knocked off Ohio State and Florida and became one of the best Cinderella stories in tournament history.

Obanor (6-8, 225 pounds) averaged 29 points and 11 rebounds per game in the Golden Eagles’ two wins. He went for 12 points and 11 rebounds in their Sweet 16 defeat against Arkansas, a game that his team lost by just two points.

Nonetheless, the strong performance by Obanor helped put him on the map. So, like Williams, Obanor looked for an uptick in competition ahead of his senior year.

How did Obanor settle on Texas Tech? Two key factors influenced his choice. First, he was familiar with assistant coach Talvin Hester from their time together at Oral Roberts. The second came from an NBA workout with a Red Raiders player, Terrence Shannon Jr., that showed him the type of culture that Texas Tech had in place.

“I was actually at the Philly workout with TJ,” Obanor said, per the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal. “I was asking him about the coach [Mark Adams]. Seeing how the foundation is, the culture was over there and I bonded well with him, Kevin [McCullar] and a few of the other players. But, that connection with TJ at the Philly workout was pretty interesting how everything came full circle.”

Obanor chose Texas Tech as his destination over nine other schools that also considered him in the transfer portal. His final two choices were Texas Tech and Arkansas, the team that knocked Oral Roberts out of the NCAA Tournament.

During the 2021-22 season, Obanor has averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Red Raiders. His 60.9 field goal percentage is the best among Texas Tech players who have averaged 11 or minutes per game this season.

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Davion Warren, Hampton

Texas Tech is the third college program that Warren has played with during his career. He began at Olney Central College in 2017-18, spending two seasons there before eventually playing for Hampton.

Warren was a star at Hampton. He averaged a respectable 10.2 points per game during his first season with the Pirates but saw that number balloon to 21.2 points per game during the 2020-21 season. That was tied for the 12th-most in the country.

The Pirates didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament in either of Warren’s two seasons with the program. After the 2020-21 campaign ended, the fifth-year senior decided to enter the transfer portal. He originally chose to transfer to Memphis but changed his mind after talking to Adams and Texas Tech assistant coach Corey Williams.

What led Warren to change course and join the Red Raiders? He cited “the opportunity” and “being genuinely loved at the school” as what ultimately swayed him.

“The coaches love me as a player and as a person and I feel like we can relate to each other,” Warren said, per “I feel like Texas Tech can get me to where I wanna get to.”

Warren has been a key starter for Texas Tech during the 2021-22 season. He has averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game with the Red Raiders.

Adonis Arms, Winthrop

Arms is a well-traveled journeyman who began his collegiate career during the 2016-17 season at Mesa Community College. He spent two years there before going to Northwest Nazarene in 2018-19 and transferring to Winthrop for two seasons, including a redshirt year.

Now, Arms (6-6, 205 pounds) is with Texas Tech, his fourth team during his six years of college basketball eligibility. His path has been somewhat similar to that of Warren — they both came to Texas Tech after playing at Big South schools — but Arms’ has been a bit longer.

Arms, who has long dreamed of playing in the NBA, was sold on two things when coming to the Red Raiders. The coaching staff and the role that he was promised.

“I liked the coaches’ vibe and what they were saying,” Arms said, per “They are cool people. Coach Adams envisions me having a big role for Texas Tech. He was a really cool dude.”

Adams was true to his word, as Arms has averaged 25.5 minutes per game, good for the third-most on the team behind Kevin McCullar and Obanor. Arms contributes 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game for Texas Tech and has started 24 of the 36 games that he has played.


Mylik Wilson, Louisiana

Wilson was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year at Louisiana in 2020 and during his second season with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

Like most of the other transfers, Wilson, the former No. 1-rated player in the state of Louisiana was sold on joining the Red Raiders because of the level of competition. He also cited his “toughness” and “winning attitude” as something that would mesh well with the program.

“I’m excited about playing at Tech because I think it is a great school and I think I would fit in their program,” Wilson said, per Texas Tech’s official website. “I’ll bring toughness and a winning attitude to the program. I know that Tech plays in a tough conference and playing against top-level players will bring out the best in me.”

While many of Texas Tech’s other transfers were seniors or graduates, Wilson is still just a junior and has three years of eligibility remaining. So, adding him was both a short- and long-term play for the Red Raiders.

During the 2021-22 season, Wilson (6-3, 175 pounds) has largely been a role player off the bench, averaging 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 15.6 minutes per game. The lattermost mark is a career-low, but he has shot 49.2 percent from 2-point range and proven to be an efficient playmaker.

Adams and Co. will likely trust Wilson with a larger role next season, but still expect him to see key action as a reserve during the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

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Daniel Batcho, Arizona

Batcho and Calhoun were the only two Power 5 players that the Red Raiders lured in from the transfer portal. While Calhoun left after eight games, Batcho remains.

Batcho (6-11, 245 pounds) came to Texas Tech from Arizona after the Wildcats fired Sean Miller and replaced him with Tommy Lloyd. He never played for Arizona as he spent his lone season there in 2020-21 recovering from a torn ACL. He took a redshirt with the Wildcats, so he has all four years of his eligibility remaining.

Given that Batcho is a long-term prospect coming off a serious knee injury, Adams and his coaching staff took it slowly with Batcho’s development. They gave him 10.2 minutes per game in 32 appearances. He averaged 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game in that limited playing time.

Batcho is unlikely to play much in the tournament, barring a blowout. After all, he is behind Williams, Obanor and Marcus Santos-Silva in the big-man rotation.

Batcho saw 15 minutes of action in the first contest against Montana State before playing four minutes against Notre Dame. He will likely be playing more minutes during the 2022-23 season should he stick around at Texas Tech.

Results of Texas Tech, Mark Adams’ transfer portal plan

All told, Adams’ plan to attack the transfer portal has been a success. Texas Tech has continued to establish itself as a college basketball powerhouse even after losing most of its roster along with Beard.

The Red Raiders were ranked 11th or higher in the AP poll for the fifth consecutive season. They made it to the Big 12 Tournament final, were given a No. 3 seed in March Madness and made the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last five years.

Texas Tech did all of that despite having immense turnover on its roster. The transfers have come in and been ready to play big roles and replace the production lost by the Red Raiders’ departures, especially in terms of scoring and rebounding. 

Stat Transfer players total % of team total
Minutes played 4,662 64.1
Points 1,732 66.8
Rebounds 924 70.3
Assists 281 56.9
Steals 169 57.9
Blocks 81 63.8

For the success of that effort, both Adams and all of the transfers deserve a lot of credit.