The University of Rhode Island’s prospects for the 2020-21 basketball season are getting better by the day.
Syracuse transfer Jalen Carey received a waiver from the NCAA on Wednesday and will be eligible for the upcoming campaign. The news comes just 48 hours after Maryland transfers Makhel and Makhi Mitchell were granted the same approval.
At one time this off-season, when NCAA waivers were up in the air, the Rams had only seven players eligible for 2020-21. The late signing of Ileri Ayo-Faleye made eight, but that group included three freshmen and two players who sat out last season.
Any success in the waiver process would have helped URI’s depth. That Carey and the Mitchells received approval means a potential major impact, on top of the numbers boost. They are all former highly-touted recruits, with high-major pedigree.
URI saved the best for last in pulling in Carey to cap its five-man transfer class. The 6-foot-3 guard was a four-star recruit out of high school who ranked as high as 38th nationally in the class of 2018.
“As was the case with the Mitchells earlier in the week, getting Jalen immediately eligible is a significant development for the program," head coach David Cox Cox said in a statement. "Jalen is a highly talented player who improves us on both ends of the floor. We are going to be a dangerous team with the versatility to attack the game in a variety of ways."
Thumb surgery kept Carey out of all but two games this past season, his sophomore year with the Orange. Before that he was a consensus top-80 recruit who picked Syracuse over the likes of Villanova, Kansas, UConn and Miami. ESPN rated him as the fifth-best shooting guard in the country.
As a freshman at Syracuse, Carey played in 25 games, starting two. He averaged 3.5 points in 12.2 minutes per game, with a few tantalizing performances mixed in. Three games into his career, in a game at Madison Square Garden, Carey poured in 26 points. He added 14 points the next night against Oregon.
Carey started the season opener last November but played only one additional game before opting for surgery to fix a thumb injury that he had suffered in the summer.
The waiver news means Carey won’t have to stay sidelined again, and he figures to play a major role in URI’s backcourt. First-team all-conference pick Fatts Russell and former junior-college standout Jeremy Sheppard are now joined by Carey, giving URI a guard unit that projects to be one of the best in the A-10.
The Mitchells offer a similar boost to the frontcourt. for the Rams, who lost standout big man Cyril Langevine to graduation. Junior center Jermaine Harris and junior forward Antoine Walker were the only front-court players back with experience. Six-foot-seven forward D.J. Johnson sat out last year and profiles as more of a wing player anyway. Makhel Mitchell stands at 6-foot-10 and Makhi checks in at 6-foot-9, and their presence gives URI one of its biggest frontlines in recent memory.
"In Makhi and Makhel, we are talking about two young men who can have an immediate high impact for us," Cox said. "These are Top 100 recruits out of high school who are coming to us from the BIG 10. Makhi and Makhel are versatile talents who bring so much to both ends of the floor. We just added significant depth for this year."
The duo departed Maryland midway through their freshman season, then picked URI in late March. Players who leave a program after one semester can typically gain eligibility for the second semester in the next season, but the scenario was different for the Mitchells, who were not enrolled at URI for the spring semester. The waiver clearance changes that timeline and gives the Mitchells the go-ahead.
Out of high school, both were four-star recruits. Makhi was rated as the No. 2 player in the Washington, D.C., hoops hotbed. Rivals ranked him as the 11th best center in the nation. Makhel was ranked as the 18th best center in the class.
Makhi Mitchell played in 12 games for Maryland this past season, starting five of them. He averaged 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 9.3 minutes per contest. Makhel Mitchell saw action in 10 games, playing a total of 68 minutes, and scored 10 points while grabbing 23 rebounds.