College Sports: Top programs benefit from the popular transfer portal

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Bruce Pearl and Auburn lost two of their best frontcourt players to the NBA.

In other words, the Tigers did what most college programs do: They turned to the transfer portal. Auburn filled the void left by likely first-round picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler with a former LSU commitment and key NCAA transfer portal pickup. The problem, presumably, was solved.

“Suddenly, the season’s over, and you’re down two first-round picks on the front line,”

PEARL SAID

Coaches can raid the transfer portal for college veterans when top players leave early or unexpectedly instead of being stuck with one of the few recruits remaining.

Today, one program’s loss is another’s gain.

The program had four transfers, including Kessler and Smith – a potential top NBA draft pick – to achieve its first No. 1 ranking and a regular-season Southeastern Conference title last season. The Tigers went from 13-14 to 28-6.

Several other teams use transfers to bolster their rosters or spark similar rebounds to supplement the traditional high school signees.

Some top names haven’t announced a destination yet, despite having until May 1 to enter the portal to be eligible for fall and winter sports.

Late entries include Kentucky’s Keion Brooks, Baylor’s Matthew Mayer, and New Mexico State’s Teddy Allen – assuming none opt to go pro instead.

Keyontae Johnson, who hasn’t played since collapsing on the court in December 2020, has also entered the portal, hoping to make a comeback.

Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who have large social media followings, transferred from Fresno State to Miami Hurricanes in women’s basketball.

The portal can take as easily as it can give.

One of the biggest portal moves was SMU’s Kendric Davis heading to Memphis, which lost one-time top recruit Emoni Bates to the portal. Bates hasn’t announced his new school yet.

After losing Big 12 freshman of the year Tyrese Hunter to the portal, Iowa State recruited Temple point guard Jeremiah Williams.

Emmitt Matthews transferred from Washington to West Virginia, where he was a three-year starter. He has started 98 games at both schools. Three Division I transfers, and two junior college players have joined the Mountaineers.

According to 247Sports, Texas Tech signed Texas forward Jaylon Tyson and Gardner-Webb guard D’Maurian Williams, giving them the top transfer class.

This offseason, Auburn hasn’t been as active in the transfer portal. Still, it has acquired two significant players in former LSU commitment Yohan Traore and Morehead State transfer forward Johni Broome. As a freshman, Broome averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.9 blocked shots.

After one season at Auburn, Smith, and Kessler declared for the draft. After landing a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers lost to Miami in the second round.

Meanwhile, coaches don’t know who will be on their roster next season.

“It’s not changing. The portal’s here for good. NIL’s here for good,” said ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg, who spent two decades as a college head coach. “But the uncertainty of the spring and summer is also here for good, and it’s not going to change.

“There’s going to be constant movement of rosters up to the middle of the summer. Whether it’s good or not, it’s not changing.”

After relying heavily on transfers to reach the Elite Eight, Arkansas made a big splash early.

Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman has added Rhode Island brothers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell and Missouri’s Trevon Brazile, and Arizona State’s Jalen Graham to a recruiting class already ranked second only to Duke in the 247Sports composite ratings with three 5-star recruits.

For several of last season’s top teams, transfers played key roles and will likely do so again in 2022-23.

LSU, poised to lose every scholarship player from last season owing to either the transfer portal or the NBA draft, felt the sting of the transfer portal the most. Coach Will Wade was fired, and NCAA sanctions could follow. New coach Matt McMahon kept some key players and recruited new players while bringing in transfers.

Top programs benefit from the popular transfer portal
Top programs benefit from the popular transfer portal

Last May 17, the Jayhawks added a key piece. Remy Martin transferred from Arizona State after four seasons as an All-Pac 12 guard. In the championship game, he made four of six 3-pointers and scored 14 points.

Kansas coach Bill Self still believes that Power 5 programs must build their rosters with high school recruits, emphasizing the early signing period in November. Freshmen aren’t nearly as readily available to fill unexpected holes in the spring.

“But what the transfer portal does, it allows you not to take a step back whenever you have unexpected things happen during the season,” Self said during the Jayhawks’ run to the national title.

With the signing of Brady Manek, a four-year starter at Oklahoma, North Carolina, the runner-up in the national tournament, got a huge boost. Manek averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds, and he shot 40% from the 3-point range.

According to Greenberg, transfers like Manek, Martin, and Kentucky’s Kellan Grady (from Davidson) fit well with their new teams.

“When you go into the portal as a coach, you need to find guys that fit your core beliefs and your non-negotiables,”. 

the ESPN analyst said

“You’ve got to find guys that you feel are winning players. And you’ve got to find guys that fit your needs and also (understand that) winning is more important than anything else.

the ESPN analyst said

“The guys that went into the portal and were about winning ended up doing well.”

the ESPN analyst said

UConn has lost four players to the transfer portal in the offseason, and two more — guards R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin — chose to turn pro rather than return for COVID-19.

“It’s almost like a different type of sport in terms of your program and how you’ve got to adapt and be agile,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “It’s something that we’ve got to adjust to.”

Pearl views the portal as beneficial for both players and college sports. He’s made plenty of stops in his career before signing an eight-year, $50 million contract with Auburn in January.

“I don’t like that there are three-and-a-half players per team in the portal,” Pearl said. “I’d rather teach them to fight than flee, but that’s OK. I transferred several times in my career.”

Now, it’s about business for the players, too.

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