Kansas sophomore Zach Clemence becomes third current Jayhawk to jump into transfer portal

Kansas forward Zach Clemence (21) chases a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 79-75. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas forward Zach Clemence has joined teammates Cam Martin and Bobby Pettiford in entering the transfer portal, a source confirmed to the Journal-World on Wednesday afternoon.

All three players just finished their second seasons with the Jayhawks and all three will be looking for new teams next season.

Clemence’s departure is one that almost no one would have seen coming a year ago at this time. Although he played limited minutes as a true freshman, the expectation, both outside the program and within it, was that Clemence would make the jump from role player to major contributor between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

It never happened.

Not only did Clemence not climb into the starting role at the 5 made available by the departure of David McCormack but he also quickly found himself buried on the bench.

“He’s a great kid,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Clemence midway through the season. “The expectations for him, in my mind, were pretty high going into the year. It hasn’t worked out to this date in terms of what the expectations (were). I thought it’d be a 50-50 coin flip whether or not he’d start for us this year.”

An in-game blow to the head early in the season caused him to miss three games — and valuable practice time — and Clemence also suffered a knee injury midway through Big 12 play, which kept him from making much of an impact down the stretch.

In all, the 6-foot-10 forward from San Antonio played in 44 games for the Jayhawks, with 20 of them coming this season in 5.6 minutes per game.

After injuring his knee at Iowa State on Feb. 4, Clemence appeared in just three games the rest of the season for a total of nine minutes in the final 13 games of the Jayhawks’ season.

A former four-star commitment who played with KU freshman Gradey Dick at Sunrise Academy in high school, Clemence was the No. 31-ranked player in the 2021 class and known for his outside shooting prowess, high motor and athleticism for his size.

While he showed flashes of all of that during his time at Kansas, limited minutes and the injuries, along with KU’s style of play, kept him from filling a big role.

Despite that, Self and Clemence’s teammates remained high on him as a person and a player.

“Zach wants to play. He wants to help us. He loves KU. He wants us to win,” Self said midway through the season. “But let’s call it like it is. We are not going to change how we play to fit him. He knows that. He is not expecting that. If we said we are going to play two bigs regardless or we’re going to play zone, that would benefit Zach. That’s not what we’re going to do. He understands that. It’s nobody’s fault.”

Instead, Kansas maintained its one-big-man lineup, with undersized 5 man KJ Adams playing the lion’s share of those minutes, and that left Clemence on the bench most nights.

Now, he’ll leave Lawrence looking for a place and program that better fits his skill set and he should have no problem finding another team to give him an opportunity.

With Jalen Wilson, Kevin McCullar Jr. and now Clemence, Martin and Pettiford leaving this offseason, Kansas now has room for the four incoming freshmen who will join the roster this summer — four-star guards/wings Elmarko Jackson, Jamari McDowell, Chris Johnson and Adams.

However, while they normally are allowed 13 scholarships per season, the Jayhawks could be down to 12 for the 2023-24 sea-son because of the self-imposed penalty tied to the Jayhawks’ NCAA infractions case that remains ongoing. The penalty, which was announced last November, indicated, among other things that KU would face a “reduction of three total scholarships in men’s basketball distributed over the next three years.”

It’s entirely possible that Clemence, Martin and Pettiford will not be the last of the current Jayhawks to look for opportunities elsewhere this offseason. Sources close to the program have told the Journal-World that they expect at least a couple of other current KU players to look to enter the portal, which has become a routine and popular part of the college basketball calendar at schools across the country in recent years.

If that happens, Kansas will be able to replace them — most likely with players through the portal — up to the scholarship limit for next season.

In addition, freshman guard Gradey Dick has to weigh the decision of returning to KU or turning pro, as well.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.