IOWA CITY, Iowa – Call me Old School, I don’t care. And when it comes to men’s college basketball, I live for the good old days.
It goes beyond the demise of the midrange jumper. I’m talking about the time when a player transferred from one school to another had to be absent for a season. But the sport changed overnight. Free agency is alive and well. Watching players and teams grow and mature from season to season, one of the unique pleasures of sport is life sustaining.
On Wednesday, the NCAA Council approved a single transfer rule for all college athletes without having to miss a game. It will be interesting to see how this rule affects other sports, especially football.
But varsity basketball’s revolving door policy is already operating at peak efficiency. There are nearly 1,300 male college basketball players in the transfer portal, and that number is likely to increase with Wednesday’s action. The NCAA board of directors is expected to formalize the rule on April 28.
For 25 seasons, in Lehigh, NC-Greensboro, Siena and now in Iowa, Fran McCaffery has built his basketball teams from the bottom up. He only made two transfers in his first 11 seasons in Iowa. The first was Jarrod Uthoff, from Wisconsin. He then added Bakari Evelyn, a transfer graduate from Valparaiso.
“I wouldn’t say I’m not a big transfer fan,” McCaffery said. “Normally, we recruit our team, then we graduate and recruit players (to replace them). So you don’t have a lot of space. Now it’s a little different, because you are approaching 1,500 names on the transfer portal, all of which are immediately eligible. ”
McCaffery’s strength has been finding under-recruited talent like Aaron White in Strongsville, Ohio, and helping him become a Big Ten first team player. You wonder how many great stories like White will be affected by this new rule.
“It will change the way we build our program so much,” McCaffery said, referring to the new rule that’s just around the corner. “It will be a game changer for the fan base who really enjoys watching a player go into freshman year and keep improving. We will do our best to continue
to build that way. But then again the guys can go and you have to replace them. Do you replace them with someone from the school or someone from the portal? We sometimes recruited guys from college. Your team will fluctuate a lot more than it has in the past. This is where we are. ”
McCaffery is not totally against the portal. In fact, he’s looking for a postman or two to fill an immediate need for his squad with the departure of National Player of the Year Luka Garza and the transfer from Jack Nunge to Xavier.
Riley Mulvey, a 6-11 forward from St. Thomas More in Albany, NY, has moved back into the class of 2021 and will sign with the Hawkeyes. And there’s Josh Ogundele, who played a total of just 17 minutes after eight games in 2020-21. He has been playing catch-up all season after joining the program late because he couldn’t leave his home in London, England due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But the potential won’t cut it in the black and blue Big Ten, especially in the paint. And that’s why the portal could provide McCaffery with an important room for his team.
“There are players in the portal that we would love to have,” said McCaffery. “But we have people in these positions here. Storing players in a certain position is not something that
did not interest me and should not interest any player. But when you have a need, it’s different. We have a need in the post, and that’s what we’re going to meet. ”
Before, players knew the structure of a team when they signed a letter of intent. They knew the upper class men in front of them and could make an educated guess as to what it would take to get down. Now, with the lists changing in the blink of an eye, it’s not as easy to assess. And adding to the fog is the fact that the NCAA decided to give every athlete another season of eligibility if they wanted to use it due to the pandemic. Brad Davison of Wisconsin and Eli Brooks of Michigan have announced they will use this bonus season. Jordan Bohannon of Iowa is thinking about it.
If Bohannon doesn’t return and Joe Wieskamp chooses to make the NBA Draft, McCaffery could be in the portal market again to fill his roster at such a late date.
Asked what he would say to players now, McCaffery replied, “What do you say to any of your players at any given time? You tell them the truth. They came with the hope that the players would leave before a while. At the same time, they all got an extra year of eligibility. It’s an adjustment. It’s not exactly how everyone imagined it. I hope it will eventually return to normal. But in the short term, that’s where we are. ”
Minnesota, Texas Tech, and DePaul all had nine players entered the portal. Only three Power Five schools – Michigan, Alabama and UCLA – did not drop a player. The NCAA also announced that normal recruiting rules will be back in place on June 1.
But recruiting, as we once knew, will have gone the route of the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars in some schools by then. The Bluebloods in the game will always tap into the richest talents. But there is a belief that some schools will use the portal to resupply teams each year, instead of harvesting prep talent.
When asked whether to rely on the portal to fill lists from top to bottom instead of the old-fashioned recruiting approach, McCaffery said, “It’s horrible. I spoke to a friend of mine (Tuesday). He lost three of his best players and signed five guys out of the gate. He said it was like putting together an AAU team. He is expected to do this every year, and a lot of coaches are. The new rule may also make non-Power Five schools look like development programs. One example is second-year point guard Joseph Yesufu. He was playing behind Roman Penn in Drake. Yesufu had his chance when Penn broke his foot at the end of the season. Yesufu has been impressive in both Bulldogs’ NCAA games against Wichita State and USC. And the big boys came calling. Yesufu entered the portal and engaged in Kansas over USC and Georgia. It’s safe to say that Drake’s coach Darian DeVries didn’t have to compete with these schools in the recruiting process two years earlier. The year before, DeVries had lost starting center Liam Robbins to Minnesota.
McCaffery saw nothing wrong with the previous transfer rule, where sitting down for a season was the price to pay for a change of scenery. He was a transfer, leaving Wake Forest for Penn after his first season. He missed the Quakers’ race to the Final Four in 1979. “There is nothing wrong with the old rule, but everyone was in a rush to change it and that’s what we have,” said McCaffery . “The rules change, the laws change. We adjust. So it will be a different look for just about everyone.
And for an old-school fan of college hoops, it’s a tough pill to swallow.