The University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team defeated the University of Central Florida 69-68 at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati on Sunday, February 14, 2021.
After the season officially ended for both of the University of Cincinnati’s basketball programs, there have been some changes.
Women’s basketball star Ilmar’I Thomas and men’s basketball players Tari Eason, Michael Saunders Jr., Zach Harvey, Mamadou Diarra and Gabe Madsen have entered the transfer portal looking for a new uniform to play with and a new one University to study.
Ilmar’I Thomas, a senior aged just 20, will be using a graduate transfer as part of the additional year of eligibility granted to seniors by the NCAA due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on programs over the past year.
Thomas has been the strong leader and best goal option for the Bearcats since she was sophomore. Since then, she has been called up to the All-AAC First Team three times and was named Player of the Year at the American Athletic Conference in 2021.
She led the conference with 23.7 points per game, also in the nation’s top ten, and contributed 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Suffice it to say that Thomas should have no problem finding a program elsewhere if she chooses to.
Tari Eason had an electric freshman season with the Bearcats and was one of only five players to have played in all 23 games that season – he started in eight of them. Responsible for his natural talent and raw athletic ability, Eason averaged 7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and just under two assists this season.
Michael Saunders Jr.’s decision to enter the transfer portal may come as a surprise to some, as he and head coach John Brannen had developed a relationship since Brannen trained at Northern Kentucky University.
Saunders was the first player Brannen offered a scholarship when he moved across the river to Cincinnati. After injuries and opt-outs at the guard positions opened up some space, Saunders stormed through the door of opportunity in his first season with the Bearcats.
Saunders was recognized for its elite speed and was very successful for Cincinnati in the last part of the season. He started six of the last eight games and averaged 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, two assists and nearly one steal per game over that period.
Zach Harvey saw limited playtime in Bearcats colors in 2021 when the second security guard used the COVID-19 opt-out option back in February. As one of the greatest options in the guard position on Cincinnati’s roster, Harvey provided useful points from the bench.
After being held as a reserve in his first season and bailing out last year, season is likely Harvey’s greatest wish as he is looking for a new university. Averaging 6.4 points per game in 2021, he was the Bearcats’ most consistent threat from below. He shot over 45% from below before signing out.
Mamadou Diarra will literally leave a big hole in the Cincinnati line-up as the 6’9 forward is the second tallest player on the team after center Chris Vogt. Its presence in color and its ability to stretch the ground need the Bearcats to replace quickly. Diarra lasted an average of 8 minutes per game and averaged 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.
Like Saunders, Gabe Madsen entered the transfer portal after his first year. Unlike Saunders, however, Madsen saw much less playing time on the pitch before taking advantage of the COVID-19 opt-out.
Madsen, whose brother Mason continued to have a breakout freshman year with the Bearcats, appeared in two games for a total of twelve minutes, knocking down a single three-pointer in that time.