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Why did Markquis Nowell transfer to Kansas State? Recruiting snubs led to start at Little Rock

By Zac Al-Khateeb,


No player has had a greater impact on their team through the 2023 NCAA Tournament than Markquis Nowell has on Kansas State.

The 5-8 guard from the Harlem area of New York City has put the Wildcats squarely on his back en route to the Elite Eight: in three games, he is averaging 21.3 points, 14 assists and 3.7 steals, with 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

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No single-game performance was more impressive than Nowell's in Kansas State's Sweet 16 overtime victory over Michigan State. He scored 20 points and set an NCAA Tournament record with 19 assists. His overall play has been among the most impressive in NCAA Tournament history.

Considering Nowell's play through March Madness this year, it may surprise some to know he hasn't spent his entire collegiate career in Manhattan, Kan. In fact, the driving force behind the Wildcats' Elite Eight run played his first three seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock before transferring to Kansas State.

Here's everything you need to know about Nowell's decision to transfer to Kansas State, his stats at Little Rock, recruiting rankings, and more:

Why did Markquis Nowell transfer to Kansas State?

Nowell transferred to Kansas State in April 2021 after the Wildcats themselves lost four players to the transfer portal. Former Wildcats coach Bruce Weber described Nowell's decision to transfer to Manhattan as being largely informed by his relationship with former assistant coach Shane Southwell.

In announcing Nowell's transfer to Kansas State , Weber said Southwell's familiarity with Nowell and his family — both are from the New York area — played a significant role in securing the guard's commitment.

"Markquis is another outstanding addition to our team, and we welcome him to K-State," Weber said in a statement. "Shane has known him and his family, growing up in New York City, for quite a while. And so, we already had a relationship with him.

"When we lost Rudi (Williams) to the (transfer) portal, we knew we needed to add some depth and scoring at the point guard position. Markquis is a great fit for that need. He's a dynamic young man who can make plays and is a strong defender. He brings a whole different dynamic to our program."

MORE: How Kansas State star's Harlem roots led him to Manhattan and back

Southwell, also a Harlem product, starred at Kansas State from 2010 through 2014 and served as a graduate assistant at K-State from 2016 through 2018 before taking on the role of director of student-athlete development.

"Markquis is such a dynamic player who can galvanize others around him," Southwell said in a 2021 article by the Salina (Kan.) Journal . "He is such a prolific scorer who has almost 1,000 points in three seasons.

"He will fit in perfectly with our guys because of his energy and playmaking, his ability to get to the free-throw line and getting his teammates involved."

BENDER: Nowell becomes King of New York with transcendent Sweet 16 performance

As for why Nowell transferred from Little Rock, it was due partly to a contentious final season there. He was suspended for the team's first two Sun Belt Games in 2021 and came off the bench following his return.

UALR coach Darrell Walker told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Nowell had opted out of the remainder of the season on Feb. 10, 2021, and was no longer a part of the team.

"Markquis didn't want to be part of the team," Walker told the Democrat-Gazette. "So at the end of the day, he has opted out. That's the best thing for him, and it's the best thing for us, and we are definitely happy to be moving on."

During his three seasons in Little Rock, the Trojans went 10-21, 21-10 and 11-15.

MORE: Patrick Mahomes, Kevin Durant, other stars react to Markquis Nowell's historic Sweet 16 performance

Markquis Nowell Little Rock stats

Nowell played three seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock, from 2018 through 2021. He enjoyed his best statistical season as a sophomore when he averaged 17.2 points and shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

Nowell played in just 15 games as a junior before opting out. Two months later, he transferred to Kansas State, where he was afforded another year of NCAA eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Season PPG APG RPG FG% 3P%
2018-19 11.1 4.2 3.1 38.2 35.4
2019-20 17.2 4.9 3.0 42.7 39.1
2020-21 14.3 6.0 3.9 34.4 33.3

MORE: Kansas State's undersized guard looks to carve NBA path

Markquis Nowell recruiting rankings

Nowell was considered a three-star recruit in the 2018 class by 247Sports' Composite rankings . He also was considered the 47th-ranked point guard and 223rd overall player in the class. He had just two Division I scholarship offers out of high school, likely due to his height.

His recruiting profile indicates he had several offers once he entered the transfer portal, including from George Washington, Rutgers, Saint Joseph's, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, VCU, Washington and Western Kentucky.

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