Following college basketball these days is like a never-ending game of “Where’s Waldo?” — except every player is dressed as Waldo.
With new transfer rules and the allowance of name, image and likeness deals, college athletes, especially basketball players, are hopping from program to program at record rates, and it’s nigh impossible to keep track of it all.
For fans of D.C. area teams, it’s the new reality. Local programs such as Brenda Frese’s Maryland Terrapins and Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas have seen an exodus of players leaving — followed by an influx of transfers.
It doesn’t appear as if NIL deals have played a major factor for the local teams, but the explosion of endorsement money now available to players is certainly playing a role elsewhere, in both college football and basketball.
Miami guard Isaiah Wong’s agent recently told ESPN that he would transfer if his NIL compensation wasn’t increased, something that was later walked back by Wong. Pittsburgh’s Jordan Addison, winner of the 2021 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wideout, is currently weighing his options in the transfer portal as the country’s top programs bid for his services — a situation that has caused a tampering controversy and questions about whether the NIL rules have gone too far.
“It’s like the wild, wild west,” Archie Manning told Sports Illustrated. Manning’s grandson, Arch, is a five-star prospect whose NIL value is projected at $3.1 million, according to the On3 NIL Valuation.
The changes, proponents argue, have given more power to players to seek out situations that best suit them. The one-time transfer rule that took effect last April allows athletes to move to a different school one time and play immediately, ending the previous policy that forced many athletes to sit out a season if they transferred.
On the other hand, the NIL rules have given outsized power to some programs — creating an unlevel playing field depending on each state’s laws — while also potentially hurting the fan experience.
But most can agree that NIL and relaxed transfer rules likely aren’t going anywhere — forcing coaches, players and fans to adjust to the rapidly changing college sports landscape.
“We have got to stop complaining,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told reporters at the ACC’s men’s basketball spring meetings. “This is the world we’re in, and last time I checked, we make pretty good money. So everybody should shut up and adjust.”
It’s arguable that no program has seen a more impactful amount of transfer-related turnover than the Maryland women’s basketball team.
Five players, including stars Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu, entered the portal just two weeks after the Terrapins’ season ended. Reese was an Associated Press third-team All-American after averaging a double-double, while Owusu was the team’s second-leading scorer. Reese is joining legendary coach Kim Mulkey at LSU; Owusu is transferring to Virginia Tech.
But Frese quickly reloaded, stacking the roster with experienced transfers like Princeton guard and AP All-American honorable mention Abby Meyers (17.9 points per game), Vanderbilt’s Brinae Alexander (15.2 points), Towson’s Allie Kubek (14.6 points) and South Florida’s Elisa Pinzan (9.3 points).
“Every team has been impacted by the transfer portal on both ends of it,” Frese said in April. “Maryland basketball is bigger than any one lineup or person.”
For Ewing, the offseason has been just as hectic — though with the added cloud of the dreadful 2021-22 campaign.
The Hoyas are coming off one of their worst seasons in program history, including a 21-game losing streak to end the year. But that didn’t prevent Ewing, who still has his basketball bonafides, from bringing in one of the nation’s top transfers in LSU’s Brandon Murray (10.0 points). Ewing also brought in Bradley Ezewiro (LSU), Akok Akok (UConn), Jay Heath (Arizona State), Primo Spears (Duquesne) and Wayne Bristol Jr. (Howard).
The added depth is important considering a total of eight Georgetown players hit the transfer portal during or after the Hoyas’ 6-25 season. The most notable players to enter the portal were starters Donald Carey and Collin Holloway, though neither has found a new home.
As Frese’s Terrapins and Ewing’s Hoyas have dealt with a rollercoaster offseason, the past few months for the Maryland men’s team have been relatively quiet in comparison.
Coach Kevin Willard, who was hired in March, hasn’t lost too many players to the transfer portal — a positive sign for someone new to the program. The only contributor from last year’s team that entered the portal was big man Qudus Wahab.
Willard has only gained one transfer, but it was a big one. Former Charlotte guard Jahmir Young, considered one of the top players in the portal after scoring 19.6 points per game last season, has committed to play his senior season in College Park.
“I think everybody forgets that kids transferred all the time before,” Willard told the Baltimore Sun. “I think the only difference is you brought three transfers in, knowing they were going to replace three seniors. Now, you’re bringing kids in that can play right away for the kids you just lost.”
The smaller programs in the area have also been impacted by the movement.
George Washington, under new coach Chris Caputo, has lost Joe Bamisile (16.3 points) and Brayon Freeman (10.3 points) to Oklahoma and Rhode Island, respectively. George Mason lost six players to the portal — most notably Xavier Johnson (7.7 points), who landed with Southern Illinois — but added Victor Bailey Jr. (Tennessee) and Saquan Singleton (New Mexico). Howard, meanwhile, added Kobe Dickson (Cornell), Jelani Williams (Penn) and Marcus Dockery (Maryland).
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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