Last week, forward Alperen Kurnaz (6’8″, 220 lbs.) announced his intention to transfer from DU. Kurnaz was a positive force on the squad but his overall contributions on the floor were modest last season with 3.4 ppg. and 2.8 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game. Then, this week, center/forward David Nzwekwesi (6’9″, 240 lbs.) joined Kurnaz in the transfer portal. He scored 5.7 points last season with 3.3 rebounds in 16.6 minutes. Kurnaz and Nzekwesi mark the third and fourth Pioneers to transfer this offseason, as the first transfer was sophomore shooting guard Joe Lanzi, and the second was little-used freshman forward Owen McGlashan. None of the four have announced a destination after leaving DU.
What started as a promising five-man freshman class two years ago has now shrunk to two: guards Taelyr Gatlin and Jase Townsend. Kurnaz was a good teammate who always put his best effort on the floor despite lacking top tier skills. On the other hand, Nzekwesi was never able to scratch the surface of his vast potential and talent while at DU. And, no doubt, losing these two juniors-to-be leaves the DU team short on experience and depth. Denver will have only one senior next season, seldom-used guard Ray Kowalski.
At last season’s Summit League preseason coaches meeting, Billups stated that David Nzekwesi has the tools to be “the best player in the Summit League”. Unfortunately, Nzekwesi came into the season overweight and unprepared to play for extended minutes. His play regressed during the season, losing his starting job and leaving freshman Robert Jones as Denver’s sole low-post presence. His regression last season clearly exasperated the coaches — as a Freshman, Nzekwesi scored 8.1 PPG in only 13 minutes, but could not reach six PPG in 16 minutes per game this past season. Had Nzekwesi stepped up this season, ala Daniel Amigo, and added a third reliable defender and scorer, the Pioneers would have been much better. This transfer marked an unfortunate end to what should have been a promising sophomore season for Nzekwesi. David’s brother, Emmanuel, a starter for Oral Roberts, has maximized his talent and physical tools, graduated last year averaging over 16 points per game as a senior.
Nzekewsi follows in the footsteps of former DU players like Drick Bernstine, Cam Delaney, and Rosey Bankhead who never achieved their full potential at Denver. The Denver frontcourt now includes big man Frank Ryder at 6-’10” who just transferred in from CU, up-and-coming 6′-10″ sophomore Robert Jones, 6′-9″ junior Tristan Greene and 6′-8″ wing Javonni Bickham.