Wichita State’s Kenny Pohto finds new basketball home out west through transfer portal

After playing 93 games the last three seasons for Wichita State basketball, center Kenny Pohto will finish his college basketball career out west.

The 6-foot-10 center from Stockholm, Sweden, committed to the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he will use his final year of eligibility.

It is the end of a six-year stay for Pohto in the Wichita area, as he spent his final three years in high school as a highly-touted recruit at Sunrise Christian Academy. He joined leading scorer Colby Rogers (Memphis) and reserve forward Isaac Abidde (Cleveland State) as departures who have found new homes, while Jalen Ricks and walk-on Trevor McBride remain in the transfer portal.

UC Santa Barbara is coming off a 16-15 season, although head coach Joe Pasternack guided the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament in 2023 and 2021. With last year’s starting center, Yohan Traore, headed to SMU in the transfer portal, Pohto is in line to play an expanded role for UCSB in the 2024-25 season.

Pohto started the first 14 games of this past season, forming a two-big lineup with 6-foot-11 center Quincy Ballard, but saw his playing time and role slightly decrease once American Athletic Conference play began in January. Pohto still finished with arguably his best statistical season at WSU, averaging a career-high 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 47.1% from the field.

At his best, Pohto brought versatility to the center position with his ability to defend in the pick-and-roll and create for others and himself on offense. He flashed perhaps his best version in conference play last season, averaging 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Pohto was a key player for the Shockers during nonconference play this season, averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in the first 13 games. He even scored 23 points with 12 rebounds in a win over Saint Louis, then followed it up with a career-high 25 points with six rebounds and five assists against Norfolk State.

But as conference play began, Wichita State shifted to a one-center lineup with Ballard and Pohto essentially splitting time for the rest of the season. Pohto averaged 7.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game. However, Pohto did often finish games for the Shockers, as the coaching staff valued his steady play at both ends.

One thing that never seemed to translate during his time at WSU was his 3-point shooting, as Pohto made just 22.4% of his 125 career attempts. After shooting 30.2% from beyond the arc as a true freshman, WSU internally believed Pohto had the potential to tack on 5 percentage points to that figure. But that never happened, as Pohto endured a sophomore slump (3 of 29) and wasn’t much better this past season (9 of 43) on 3-pointers.