UCF men’s basketball: Dawkins talks transfers, schedule

The last time UCF men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins spoke with reporters, the Knights’ season had just ended following a loss to Memphis in the AAC tournament quarterfinals.

Since that day March 11, UCF’s roster has undergone a near-complete transformation.

Only three Knights who played in the final game of the season — guards Darius Johnson and Ty Freeman along with forward CJ Walker — will return.

Reserve guard PJ Edwards, who sat out the season and took a redshirt, is returning as well.

“It’s been something different for us,” Dawkins said at the ChargeOn Tour stop in Oviedo. “We haven’t had that much turnover through our program, but it’s happened all over the country.

“It’s something we’re getting used to, but it’s been fine.”

UCF had six Knights — sharpshooter Darin Green, sophomore forwards Isaiah Adams and Jamille Reynolds, redshirt junior guard Dre Fuller Jr., sophomore guard Tony Johnson Jr. and freshman forward Ed’Xavior Rhodes — transfer out of the program.

Green landed at Florida State and Adams departed for Buffalo. Reynolds decided to stay in the AAC by transferring to Temple while Johnson, Fuller and Rhodes are still looking for new schools.

Darius Perry, Brandon Mahan and Cheikh Mbacke Diong are out of eligibility.

To rebuild his roster, Dawkins landed Utah forward Lahat Thioune, ECU guard Brandon Suggs, Indiana forward Michael Durr, Pittsburgh guard Ithiel Horton and Baton Rouge Community College guard Jayhlon Young from the NCAA transfer portal.

UCF will also be joined by incoming freshmen brothers Taylor and Tyler Hendricks from Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian.

Dawkins complimented his staff’s ability to recruit and wished the outgoing players well.

“Our guys have worked really hard and have been diligent, finding guys that we think can continue to enhance our program and our brand,” he said. “For the young men that are going other places, we’re excited for their opportunities as well.”

Dawkins added former Dr. Phillips coach Ben Witherspoon to his staff Thursday, naming him special assistant to the head coach.

The new-look Knights have an intriguing non-conference schedule that includes a home game against FSU — a team UCF upset during the 2020-21 season in Tallahassee.

“They’re coming to our place this year,” Dawkins said about the Seminoles. “That’s a great home game. I’m excited about that.”

UCF also is set to start a home-and-home series with Ole Miss. The Knights will travel to Oxford, Miss., this year and host the Rebels the following season.

Dawkins also shared that UCF will compete in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship — a four-team Nov. 18-20 event at the Baha Mar Convention Center in Nassau.

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“In the Bahamas, there’s DePaul, Oklahoma State and they’re still trying to determine what the third team is going to be,” Dawkins said. “It’s going to be a team of that caliber so we’re looking forward to going down there and playing two very good games.”

UCF will try again to play in the Orange Bowl Classic after last season’s cancellation.

The Knights were set to face FSU at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise but the game was not played due to COVID-19 protocols.

According to FanDuel’s Jon Rothstein, FSU will play St. Johns, while Dawkins said UCF will face another Power Five-caliber opponent.

Dawkins added that UCF still is in the process of negotiating a non-conference series with another Power Five team.

“I think our fans will be excited,” he said.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede,

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