Transfer gate causing hoops recruitment impact

Eric Musselman was one of the best in the country to dive into the Arkansas transfer portal and during his previous stop in Nevada.

Musselman is still adept at landing elite high school recruits — his class of 2022 was second nationally — but adding quality transfers has been a big part of the Razorbacks’ back-to-back Elite Eight runs.

“Veteran players through the transfer portal can make an immediate impact both as starters and as role players,” he said. “Like NBA free agency, with college transfers there is a body of work and less projection into a player’s potential impact. Transfers have gone through the rigors of college basketball and can add experience both from a game perspective and from a cultural perspective.

Musselman is not alone in his thinking; most top programs have used the transfer portal to their advantage.

The thought process has created a ripple effect in the recruiting world.

The transfer portal was created in 2018 to facilitate transfers from one school to another. Now that players no longer have to take time off a year after transfer, a college version of free agency has emerged, enhanced even more by pay-per-name, image and likeness opportunities.

With more programs choosing to add experienced players from the portal, opportunities for non-five-star recruits to play in major programs have diminished. Players lower in the recruiting rankings – usually past the top 75 – don’t get the same major interest as before.

Before the transfer portal, players who were perhaps fringe major prospects could wait until the spring recruiting period and see their stock increase. Top programs desperate to fill their rosters would often tempt a rookie, but now it’s no longer necessary when they can add a proven transfer.

In 2017, the year before the portal opened, three players ranked between #75 and #125 in the 247Sports composite committed to mid-major programs. Flash forward to 2022 and seven players from the same lineup found themselves mid-majors.

As these players descend through mid-major programs, the players behind them descend further down the college hoops hierarchy.

“You see a lot of under-recruited kids,” said Travis Branham, national basketball analyst for 247Sports. “A kid used to wait until spring and, oh, the majors will come calling – that’s not the case anymore.”

The ease of the portal has also pushed coaches towards transfers.

With high school recruits, there are often multiple levels of involvement, from coaches to family and friends. Coaches must also spend months or years keeping in touch and traveling to observe recruits who eventually choose to go elsewhere.

The portal speeds up the process. Players are more mature, generally know what they want and a decision usually comes quickly.

“Coaches actually seem to enjoy recruiting from the portal more than they enjoy recruiting high school kids,” Branham said. “You have a lot less (hassle), recruitments are fast and you can figure things out quickly.”

Recruiting ripples from the top of the rankings spilled over into college basketball.

Mid-majors who were losing players to high-majors who had to fill rosters are now getting higher-quality – or at least higher-ranked – players that weren’t available to them in the past. The shift continues to smaller Division I schools, which suddenly find themselves in the conversation for recruits who would never have even looked at their direction in the past.

“We’re trying to get a few high school kids that we wouldn’t even talk to until the transfer gate because they’d be signed by those mid-majors getting (surveyed) votes,” said the Northern Arizona coach, Shane Burcar. . “Top 75 and under, Dukes, North Carolina and Michigan States are holding these guys. Absolutely, it has an impact on high school students.


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