Wichita State’s Kenny Pohto removes name from transfer portal, will return to Shockers

Wichita State starting center Kenny Pohto has removed his name from the transfer portal and will return to play for the Shockers next season, multiple sources told The Eagle. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony first reported the news on Saturday afternoon.

Pohto, a 6-foot-11 center from Sweden, entered the transfer portal on March 13, two days after head coach Isaac Brown was fired following a 17-15 season.

The two-month-long saga came to an end on Saturday after Pohto had been practicing with current WSU players under new head coach Paul Mills for the past month while still in the portal. Pohto, who played three years at Sunrise Academy, kept his recruitment private and never released a list of schools interested.

After an encouraging freshman season, Pohto became WSU’s full-time starting center this past season and averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks in 26.8 minutes while shooting 48.9% from the field, 10.3% on three-pointers and 61.6% on free throws. In American Athletic Conference play, Pohto’s production increased to 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks in 18 games.

Pohto is the lone returner from the Shockers’ starting lineup last season, as the eligibility of Craig Porter and James Rojas expired, Jaykwon Walton is set to transfer to UCF and Jaron Pierre Jr. remains uncommitted in the transfer portal with a return to WSU unlikely. Other returners from last season’s roster include junior guard Xavier Bell, junior center Quincy Ballard, sophomore wing Jalen Ricks and sophomore forward Isaac Abidde.

With Pohto’s return, Mills and his staff are down to their final two scholarships to fill out WSU’s 2023-24 roster. The current 2023 recruiting class for Wichita State includes four transfers in senior center Jacob Germany (Texas-San Antonio), junior wing Harlond Beverly (Miami), junior wing Ronnie DeGray III (Missouri) and junior point guard Bijan Cortes (Oklahoma) and an incoming freshman in guard Joy Ighovodja.

Pohto should provide Mills some flexibility with his big-man rotation, as the potential of his outside shooting could see him share the court with Germany, a fellow 6-11 center, or rotate at the center position with Germany and Ballard, a 7-footer.

WSU is in the market for another point guard for one of its final two scholarships and recently hosted Stanford transfer Michael O’Connell, a 6-foot-2 junior point guard who has three years of experience and 76 career starts. He has been the Stanford starting point guard for the majority of his three-year career with averages of 6.3 points and 3.2 assists. He is deciding between WSU and North Carolina State with a possible visit to Notre Dame later this month.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see WSU pursue a high school player for the 13th and final scholarship, given the team’s unbalanced nature in classes (seven of the 11 players are juniors on the court).