How Georgia State continues to land transfers from top collegiate basketball programs

Coach Rob Lanier talks about the main reasons that Georgia State basketball is doing so well at getting transfers. Photo by Shel Levy | The Signal

Basketball is by far the bread and butter of Georgia State athletics. The program’s greatest call to fame is the exceptional talent that comes in year after year. 

Not from high school prospects, though. 

The Panthers are currently seeing a golden age of basketball. Much of the credit goes to the recruiting staff for getting big-time transfers to play for Georgia State.

The men’s basketball team has mastered the ability to recruit solid talent by finding hidden gems on other NCAA basketball rosters. The Panthers eagerly exploit that in order to gain an edge in the Sun Belt Conference by tapping into the constant player transfers in college basketball. 

One of the main reasons that Georgia State does so well at getting transfers is the city itself. All of the current and old transfers talked about how Atlanta was a big draw in coming to Georgia State. 

“The city of Atlanta and getting kids an opportunity to play for a winning program something that we want to build off of,” head coach Rob Lanier said.

Under former head coach Ron Hunter, the city of Atlanta helped boost the success of the program. In Hunter’s tenure, the team reached multiple NCAA Tournaments.

In his first year as head coach, Lanier looks to be continuing this trend. 

“Being able to recruit transfers with experience is one of our best assets,” Lanier added.

He sees the addition of transfers to the program as a vital piece for the success of the program.

Under Hunter, the program was able to acquire bigtime transfers to win and continue to grow the program. 

The Panthers have made the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four seasons and, during each season, added impact transfers. Players of the past, such as Devin Mitchell, Willie Clayton and Justin Seymour, along with the current talent (redshirt senior Damon Wilson and redshirt sophomore Justin Roberts) have made Georgia State a haven for those in the transfer portal. 

For Wilson, after he left the University of Pittsburgh, the choice to come to the state was an easy one. Born in Atlanta, he is not a stranger to Georgia State and Hunter’s success attracted him to the program.

“I’m from Atlanta, and I wanted to come home,” Wilson said. “Georgia State is a basketball powerhouse.”

Wilson’s answer is similar to the other transfers who were lured in by the city. For others, there is a tie to the school. Redshirt sophomore Justin Roberts is in his first season as a Panther after one year with DePaul University. His connection to the school is a special one.

“I knew about Georgia State when I was in middle school, and I grew up down the street from RJ Hunter,” Roberts said. 

One of the biggest transfers to come to Georgia State was former Louisville forward Kevin Ware Jr. in 2015.

Ware, widely known for his gruesome leg injury in the Louisville Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA Tournament against Duke, spent three seasons with the University of Louisville, which won the national championship that season. But allegations of corruption led him to leave the school. He transferred to Georgia State for the 2015 season and put on a show for the Panther family.

Ware’s first year at Georgia State was a major success, winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament MVP, and also being on the team who upset third-seeded Baylor in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The historic game for Georgia State was their just their second NCAA Tournament win in program history.

“I chose Georgia State because it had everything I needed and wanted,” Ware said.

Ware is originally from Georgia, which gave Georgia State the advantage in getting transfers to return closer to home. A common trend among transfers looking at the school is the connection to the state of Georgia and a desire to play in the major market of downtown Atlanta.

Ware was not the only big-time transfer to come to Georgia State. Ryan Harrow made the move from the University of Kentucky to Georgia State, arriving before the 2013 season. Like Ware, Harrow provided an immediate impact on the team. He led the Panthers to two Conference championships, one 2013 and one 2015, with Ware. 

Harrow and Ware both earned team and conference honors during their tenure at Georgia State. Ware was named to First-Team All-Sun Belt in 2015, while Harrow eclipsed 1,000 points in a Panthers uniform. Harrow was also named to the First-Team All-Sun Belt in 2013.  His honor came after he guided the team to a record 17-1 conference record. 

The 2013 team with Harrow was the best team under Coach Hunter to not reach the NCAA Tournament.

The additions of Ware and Harrow, amongst others, are a critical reason for Georgia State’s consistent success in the Sun Belt.

Each transferred to Georgia State and transitioned well, giving the program a national platform. Large networks, such as ESPN and CBS, were giving airtime to a small school out in the Sun Belt.

In year one, Lanier continues to bring in transfers. Lanier has signed players from the University of Memphis and the University of Cincinnati in his first year. 

Last month, former Memphis Tiger Ryan Boyce transferred to Georgia State. 

Boyce’s relationship with Coach Lanier goes back to his days in high school. He fell in love with the system and the choice was easy.

As we look back at this golden age of Panther basketball, the addition of impact transfers will be the most critical part of the program. The rise or fall of the basketball program will be predicated on the quality of transfers that can be lured to downtown.