If you thought college basketball’s Season of Covid Management was wild, wait until you see what happens next.
Reports of 800-plus players in the NCAA transfer portal for men’s basketball had Dick Vitale and everyone else in the coaching fraternity shrieking in public and shaking an angry fist at the sky.
Minutes after Syracuse saw its Sweet 16 run end with a loss to Final Four-bound Houston, Orange coach Jim Boeheim was already moaning about the roster attrition that lies ahead.
“In the next 2-3 weeks, as things happen, we’re going to have to adjust to it and start recruiting in the transfer portal because we’ll have guys in there,” Boeheim said. “I think we have a great player coming in (6-foot-8 forward Benny Williams) with great potential, but we’re going to get somebody else and I think we’re going to lose players. That’s reality.”
Indeed, by Tuesday afternoon the Orange reportedly had three players in the transfer portal: 6-7 redshirt sophomore Robert Braswell, 6-10 redshirt freshman John Bol Ajak and freshmen Kadary Richmond. A 6-5 guard, Richmond averaged 6.3 points and led the team in steals.
Boeheim, the 76-year-old Naismith Hall of Famer, noted his program lost three guards after last season and “none of those three played” after relocating. But that won’t stop players from taking advantage of the one-time transfer experiment the NCAA Division I Council is projected to pass after the Final Four and running toward the concept of immediate eligibility without having to file for a special waiver.
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“There’s going to be a lot of transfers,” Boeheim said. “We’re not going to be immune to it. Anybody that’s not playing a lot or unhappy — they could be perfectly good kids, perfectly happy — but they think they should play more or shoot more, whatever it may be, and players are going to leave. That’s just the way it is, and there’s going to be adjustments that have to be made.”
It’s not just the players from programs that whacked their coaching staffs, although certainly former Minnesota, Indiana and Texas players are already in play. It’s also Hall of Famers like North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who saw freshman 7-footer Walker Kessler place his name in the transfer portal after an uneven but promising season.
This, despite the fact fellow front-court piece and classmate Day’Ron Sharpe will enter the NBA Draft.
Boeheim was aghast.
“North Carolina’s never lost a player,” Boeheim said. “I remember recruiting against North Carolina (when) they had 13 (high school) All-Americans there. Thirteen! And not one of them ever left and only seven or eight of them played.”
This new landscape of free and open player movement — perhaps a preview of college-level free agency to come — is what leaves the lifers in the coaching business wondering if it’s time to get out.
Never mind the fact coaches can hopscotch from one job to another without ever having to sit out a year.
“It’s amazing,” Boeheim said. “I saw guys leave this year that were starters on teams because the coach tried to coach them.. They didn’t punish them. They just tried to coach them a little bit. That’s what’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen to just about everybody, for sure.”