Coach Bruce Pearl and Auburn lost two stars to the NBA in what he thought was the best frontcourt for college basketball.
So the Tigers did what most college programs do. They turned to the transport portal. Auburn filled the void left by potential first-round picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler with previous LSU appointments and major NCAA transfer portal pickups. The problem has probably been resolved.
“Suddenly at the end of the season, I missed two first-round picks on the front lines,” Pearl said.
This is one of many in the new world of college basketball. Instead of being tied down to picking one of the few remaining recruits when top players leave early and sometimes unexpectedly, coaches can raid the transfer portal of college veterans or four.
Today, the loss of one program is the gain of another.
Pearl made four transfers, including Kessler and valuable freshman Smith, a potential first-choice pick in the program, making the program’s first-ranked number one spot and last season’s regular season Southeastern Conference Championship. The Tigers went from 13-14 to 28-6.
Other teams are trying to trigger similar rebounds through transfers to bolster their rosters or supplement traditional high school signers.
Players must enter the portal by May 1 to immediately join the fall and winter sports, although some celebrities have yet to announce their destinations.
This includes late entries like Keion Brooks from Kentucky, Matthew Mayer from Baylor, and Teddy Allen from New Mexico State.
Florida’s Kiyontae Johnson, who has not played since collapsing on the court in December 2020, also entered the portal hoping to make a comeback.
Among the notable moves in women’s basketball are twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who have lots of social media followers, from Fresno State to the Miami Hurricanes.
Portals can be easily taken away. You can return it right away.
One of the biggest portal moves was when SMU’s high-scoring guard Kendric Davis said he was headed for Memphis. The portal lost its once chief executive, Emoni Bates, to the portal. Bates hasn’t announced her new school.
Iowa State landed Temple point guard Jeremiah Williams after losing Tyrese Hunter’s Big 12 freshman of the year to the portal.
Graduated Emmitt Matthews returned to West Virginia after a season in Washington, where he started as a three-year starter. He made 98 starts at both schools. The Mountaineers signed three Division I transfers and two junior college players.
Texas Tech received another appointment, signing Texas forward Jaylon Tyson and Gardner-Webb guard D’Maurian Williams, giving the Red Raiders the best transfer class according to the 247Sports standings.
Auburn hasn’t been very busy on the transfer portal this offseason, but has added two big offseason additions from previously five-star LSU appointments Yohan Traore and Morehead State transfer forward Johni Broome. Broome averaged 16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in his freshman year.
Smith and Kessler were drafted after one season at Auburn. The Tigers lost to Miami after seeding the 2nd round in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, coaches are still unsure who will be on the roster next season.
“It does not change. The portal is here. NIL is forever,” said Seth Greenberg, ESPN analyst with 20 years of college head coaching. “But the uncertainty of spring and summer is also here forever, and it will not change.
“There will be constant movement of the roster until mid-summer. For better or for worse, it doesn’t change.”
Arkansas started early after relying heavily on several transfers to run their Elite Eight.
Razorbacks manager Eric Musselman has added Rhode Island brothers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, Trevon Brazile, Missouri and Jalen Graham of Arizona State, with a recruiting class ranked second only to the Dukes, already with a three-and-a-half star prospect in the 247Sports Comprehensive Assessment. I did.
The transfer has played a major or key support role for several top teams last season and will continue to do so in 2022-23.
No team has felt the pain of the transfer portal like LSU, which is poised to lose every scholarship player from last season to the portal or NBA draft. LSU has fired coach Will Wade and NCAA sanctions are imminent. The new coach, Matt McMahon, has retained and brought in some key players and recruits as well.
National Champion Jayhawks added a key piece on May 17th. Two-time All-Pac 12 guard Remy Martin joined Arizona State after four seasons. He mainly played the key reserve, but made four out of six three-pointers, scoring 14 points in the championship game.
Kansas manager Bill Self still believes the Power 5 program should focus on an early contract term in November and build a roster with high school students. Few are the best freshmen to fill unexpected holes in the spring.
“But what the transfer portal does is make sure you don’t take a step back whenever something unexpected happens during the season,” Self said while Jayhawks challenged for a national title.
North Carolina, second in the nation, was boosted by the arrival of fourth-year starter forward Brady Manek from Oklahoma. Manek averaged 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and a 3-point shot percentage of 40%.
Greenberg cites players like Manek, Martin and Kentucky’s Kellan Grady (from Davidson) as well-suited transfers for the new team.
“When you enter the portal as a coach, you have to find someone who fits your core beliefs and non-negotiable,” said ESPN analyst. “You have to find the player you think is the winner, and you have to find the player that suits your needs and also understand that winning is the most important thing.
“The guys who went into the portal and tried to win did well in the end.”
This offseason, UConn lost four players on the transfer portal and two (guards RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin) have decided to turn pro instead of returning for an additional COVID-19 year.
“It’s almost like any other type of sport in terms of program and adaptability and agility,” said Dan Hurley, UConn’s coach. “It’s definitely something we have to adapt to.”
Overall, Pearl finds the portal suitable for athletes and collegiate sports. In the end, he made many stops in his career before signing a new eight-year, $50 million contract with Auburn in January.
“I don’t like having 3.5 players per team in the portal,” Pearl said. “I’d rather teach you to fight than run away, but that’s okay. I’ve moved around several times in my career.”
Now it’s also a business for players.
AP Sports writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.
Additional AP coverage on March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25