Dust settles on wild first year of basketball transfer portal

All-AAC forward Jayden Gardner used the NCAA’s new transfer rules to leave the Pirates and go to Virginia in the ACC. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

In NASCAR, it’s called the Silly Season. In the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, it’s free agency.

Thanks to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, college basketball’s new era of player movement has been given a name of its own.

“It’s going to be like the Wild West,” he said of the NCAA rule change that allows players to transfer from one school to another once during their careers without having to sit out a year.

More than 1,500 basketball players took advantage of the opportunity by entering the transfer portal this offseason, creating an environment that has led to an unprecedented number of comings and goings throughout the country.

It’s a changing reality that has affected all but one of North Carolina’s 16 Division I teams and forced coaches to drastically change their approach to recruiting.

“I can totally understand why the transfer portal would cause fans to be uneasy,” Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said during an offseason Zoom conference. “It’s a new era. It’s a new way of building a program.

“I think there’s going to be two phases now to the recruiting process. In the fall, we’re going to sign the very best high school players we can go get, and in the spring, we’re going to chase the ones that are left and we’re going to have to look in the transfer pool because there’s going to be no other way to fill your roster.”

Forbes speaks from experience on the subject.

After having seven players from last year’s team leave via the transfer portal, he had no choice but to turn to the free agent market just to be able to field a team for his second season with the Demon Deacons this coming season.

The extreme roster turnover began with the departures of senior guard Jalen Johnson (to Mercer), junior guard Isaiah Wilkins (Longwood), sophomore forward Ismael Massoud (Kansas State), sophomore guard Jahcobi Neath (Wisconsin), sophomore forward Ody Oguama (Cincinnati), freshman center Emmanuel Okpomo (Temple) and freshman guard Quadry Adams (St. Bonaventure).

To fill the void, Forbes has brought in 6-foot-10 senior forward Khadim Sy from Ole Miss, 7-foot senior center Dallas Walton from Colorado, 6-foot-5 senior guard Alondes Williams from Oklahoma, 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Jake Laravia from Indiana State and 6-foot-6 freshman forward Damari Monsanto, last year’s Southern Conference Rookie of the Year at East Tennessee State who will miss this season after undergoing recent surgery.

As Forbes and his fellow coaches have learned, recruiting players out of the transfer portal is a much different exercise than anything they’ve done in the past.

“We don’t get to go out and see them, so we’ve got to do a lot of background checks on these kids,” Forbes said. “It’s just patience. In a normal setting, the process would take weeks, many a month to do. Sometimes (now) it has to happen in days.”

Wake Forest isn’t the only state school that has seen its roster go through an extreme makeover this offseason. UNC Greensboro lost seven players to the transfer portal, including two that followed former coach Wes Miller to Cincinnati. HBCU rivals North Carolina Central and NC A&T each had seven players move on.

The most significant losses were suffered by Davidson, which lost leading scorer Kellan Grady to Kentucky, and East Carolina, which saw All-AAC forward Jayden Gardner leave for Virginia. The blow to the Pirates was softened by the arrival of three Power 5 transfers — Alanzo Frink from South Carolina, Vance Jackson from Arkansas and Wynston Tabbs of Boston College.

The most interesting transfer involves graduate guard Jaylen Fornes, who started his career at UNC Wilmington, left for Nicholls State and has now decided to return and finish his college career with the Seahawks.

Here’s a look at the comings and goings at the state’s three other ACC programs.

UNC

Incoming: Brady Manek, Sr., forward (Oklahoma); Justin McKoy, So., forward (Virginia); Dawson Garcia, So., forward (Marquette). Outgoing: Garrison Brooks, Sr., forward (Mississippi State); Walker Kessler, Fr., center (Auburn); Walker Miller, Jr., center (Monmouth)

Duke

Incoming: Theo John, Gr., forward (Marquette); Bates Jones, Sr. forward (Davidson). Outgoing: Jordan Goldwire, Sr., guard (Oklahoma); Patrick Tape, Gr., forward (San Francisco); Henry Coleman, Fr., forward (Texas A&M); Jaemyn Brakefield, Fr., forward (Ole Miss)

NC State

Incoming: Casey Morsell, So., guard (Virginia); Greg Gantt, So. forward (Providence). Outgoing: Braxton Beverly, Gr. guard (Eastern Kentucky); A.J. Taylor, Jr. guard (Grambling); Shakeel Moore, Fr., guard (Mississippi State); Max Farthing, So., guard (Grand Valley St.)