Those of us of a certain vintage probably recall Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Mr. Spock and other crew members of the Starship Enterprise. When in a bad situation on some faraway planet, they would ask the ship’s engineer to magically transport them through space to the ship’s safety by saying these four words: “Beam me up, Scottie.”
The transfer portal that is a conduit for college athletes who wish to relocate to a different institution isn’t quite that instantaneous, but it’s revolutionized the college sports’ landscape. Combined with the Name, Image, Likeness program that allows college athletes to generate income through television, radio, digital and print ads, the ability to leave one program and go to another creates a very fluid situation. Whether you think this is a disaster or a dream probably depends on the impact it’s had on your favorite team and college athletic program.
As we wrap up the 2022-23 college basketball season, let’s examine the impact on some of the Division 1 programs with which many are familiar. Due to the nature of the sport and the numbers involved, one or two players can have a huge impact on the success or failure of a college basketball team. A dominant big man, a great shooter, or a savvy point guard can help turn an also-ran into an NCAA Tournament team. There is no question coaches are hired and fired on the success or failure of making “The Big Dance.”
The Atlanta area is kind of the crossroads of the SEC and ACC, so let’s look at some recent developments and individual stories in those conferences. To begin the process of putting his stamp on the Georgia Bulldogs’ program after seven seasons as the Florida Gators’ head coach, Mike White began his first season in Athens by importing eight new faces from other Division 1 programs. As of mid-February, the leading scorer for the UGA men was former Bradley guard Terry Roberts, who started all 31 games during his final season there. Leading rebounder, Braelen Bridges, was already in Athens after playing two seasons at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Seventh-year Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has five players on the Yellow Jackets’ roster who began their careers elsewhere. Former Gardner-Webb guard Lance Terry has become one of Tech’s more reliable 3-point shooters. Javon Franklin, who came to Atlanta from South Alabama, leads the team in blocked shots and has seen his playing time increase after displaying the ability to not only score but also have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Guard Deivon Smith started his college career at Mississippi State and is, without a doubt, the fastest and most explosive player on the Georgia Tech team.
Here are some other examples of high-impact transfers. Nigel Pack from Kansas State has become a key factor for the NCAA Tourney-bound Miami Hurricanes. Grant Basile from Wright State landed at Virginia Tech and, as of mid-February, was the third-leading scorer in the ACC. Ryan Young went from Northwestern to Duke and, alongside freshman Kyle Filipowski, has formed a tandem of tall problems for Blue Devil opponents. Tyree Appleby left the Florida Gators and has led the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the ACC in assists most of the season. Perhaps Pitt is the biggest portal benefactor in the ACC. Six Panthers played elsewhere last season; Coach Jeff Capel’s program has gone from a lower-tier team to conference-title contender.
A list of some SEC and ACC programs and the number of players on the rosters who transferred in includes: Missouri, 7; Texas A&M, 6; Alabama, 5; Louisville, 5; Virginia Tech, 5; Florida State, 4; and North Carolina State, 4. This has created a bit of an identity crisis for fans identifying with a college basketball program. The original “Star Trek” had only a three-season run on television. It’s too early to determine the long-term impact of NIL and the transfer portal. Some coaches and administrators probably view it as a battle with the Klingons, but players who were ignored by Power 5 conference programs initially and now have the chance to go from a small stage to prime time undoubtedly love it.
Randy Waters has been a TV/radio sportscaster since 1973 in Lexington, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Atlanta—WXIA/11 Alive (1984-2013.) He hosted Falcon’s programming on CW69 and is the color analyst for Georgia Tech/IMG basketball radio network, 1994-current.