Key '23-24 Sycamores Kent, Larry transferring to Texas

Apr. 14—Moments after being introduced as Indiana State's new men's basketball coach on Friday, Matthew Graves said he hoped to retain up to six potential returnees from last season's 32-7 Sycamore team.

"In a perfect storm, hopefully we're bringing back anywhere from four to six guys from the team last year," Graves said after the ceremony in Hulman Center's lobby. "At that point, you're probably looking at six, seven, eight guys in the portal" seeking offers from programs elsewhere.

The list of keepers dwindled by two over the weekend.

Jayson Kent, who developed into a double-double threat in two seasons as an Indiana State Sycamore, is taking his scoring and rebounding talents to the University of Texas, the online basketball recruiting site Verbal Commits indicated on Sunday.

Hours later, defensive hawk and point guard Julian Larry joined Kent in committing to Texas, the same site confirmed. Larry played four seasons at ISU.

The 6-foot-8 Kent entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday, joining the bulk of his 2023-24 ISU teammates. He carried the Sycamores' fourth-best scoring average at 13.5 points per game and led the squad in rebounding at 8.1 per game. Kent was also ISU's most accurate shooter, hitting 63.9% of his field goals.

Eight times Kent totaled double-digit points and rebounds, tops among Missouri Valley Conference players as ISU won its first conference regular-season title in 24 years.

Kent's 2023-24 numbers marked significant jumps from the previous season, when he averaged 5.1 points and 2.3 rebounds a game as he and the Sycamores finished 23-13. He averaged 30.4 minutes per game this season and started 37 of 38 games, missing only once from an injury. In 2022-23, Kent averaged 14.8 minutes a game and started six of 36 games.

Kent started his college career at Bradley and posted averages of 6.9 and 3.6 points per game, respectively in his first two seasons in Peoria, but transferred to Indiana State prior to the 2022-23 season. The Oak Forest, Ill., product has one season of eligibility remaining, and will use that as a graduate student. He'll receive his undergrad degree from ISU next month.

Larry averaged 11 points and 2.8 rebounds a game last season for ISU. He was the lone team member to have played under both former coach Greg Lansing for one season and then the next three under now-former coach Josh Schertz.

Larry, a 6-3 quick ballhandler, was a high school quarterback in Frisco, Texas, and will be returning to his home state. He's been a regular starter since his freshman season.

After Schertz announced Saturday, April 6 that he'd be taking the coaching position at Saint Louis University, nearly all of ISU's scholarship players soon entered the portal. By the following Tuesday, those included all five starters — Kent, his former Oak Forest teammate Robbie Avila, Larry, Isaiah Swope and Ryan Conwell — as well as reserves Eli Shetlar, Augustinas Kiudulas, Masen Miller and Aaron Gray. Besides Kent and Larry, the others hadn't yet declared a destination.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Avila and Swope will visit the Schertz-coached SLU program this week, while Conwell visited North Carolina State.

Players entering the portal can withdraw at any time, and could ultimately stay at their current school.

Summer workouts for ISU's 2024-25 team will begin June 10.

Just as last season's players are testing the market via the NCAA transfer portal, Graves and his assistant coach Justin Furr will have access to incoming transfers as needed. Graves acknowledges the difficulty of landing those players with a marquee coach like Schertz gone and a potentially large loss of returnees, but sees an upside.

"It's a double-edge sword," Graves said Friday. "When you have so many pieces gone, guess what that creates? It creates opportunity, and that's what kids in the portal want. They want opportunity to play. And what they got to see [from the Sycamores' run as the National Invitation Tournament runners-up] was a two-hour-long infomercial on ESPN and all across America on Indiana State University and how we play.

"We've gotten a lot of interest in the portal," Graves said.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or