2019 was a transformative year in NCAA athletics. The NCAA Transfer Portal, a database which allows other schools to confirm that a student-athlete can be recruited, was created, granting college student-athletes the ability to publicly declare intent to transfer and desire to speak to other schools. Most importantly, the NCAA Transfer Portal allows college student-athletes to have more control over the transfer process.
During the 2021 season at the Division I level alone, more than 1,700 male basketball players and over 1,000 female basketball players entered their names into the transfer portal.
College basketball student-athletes tend to be more calculating and confident in what they are seeking in a new school after having experienced the recruiting process and spending time playing college basketball. Some of these reasons might include: academics, increased role/playing time, desire to move to a certain location, and wanting to follow a certain coach who is coaching at a new school.
Here are five reasons why the NCAA Transfer Portal is so popular among college basketball coaches:
Limited Baggage For Transfer Athletes
Recruiting, especially at the grassroots level, can be a harrowing and less-desirable experience for many college basketball coaches.
Every great coach enjoys watching film, engaging personally with young student-athletes and showing off their college campus & facilities. But, recruiting often comes with the headache of dealing with unwanted and often time-consuming stress of dealing with additional baggage. A few examples each of us are too familiar with are overbearing parents, AAU coaches, trainers, and handlers. With Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) now into play, it’s foreseeable that college basketball coaches might be dealing with high school student-athletes’ attorneys, marketing agents, and accountants in the near future.
All of these factors are virtually eliminated when coaches recruit current college student-athletes in the transfer portal. Once a college student-athlete is already in college, he or she usually has a sound grasp and foundation in place and is able to take control of the process alone.
Evaluating Play Against Other College Talent
When college basketball coaches are recruiting high school student-athletes, they are evaluating how a student-athlete competes against other high school student-athletes. Due to the nature of recruiting and the pressure of securing commitments as early as a student-athlete’s freshman or sophomore year, projecting how he or she will fare in college competition vs college players can, at times, be a gamble.
When evaluating play of college players, basketball coaches can pull easily accessible games of when a college student-athlete competed. If a Division-II coach wants to see games of a particular Division-I player competing in top-tier games, it’s accessible. If a Division-I coach wants to see games of a specific Division-I player playing in a certain conference, those games are available.
Coaches are able to assess how a player responded to a given coaching style, basketball system, or play against certain defenses. This information is key when college basketball coaches are analyzing rosters, determining current needs, and deciding to recruit a proven player rather than developing a freshman or active player on the roster.
Transfer Athletes Have Experienced College Life
Playing college basketball is a small, albeit extremely important, part of the college experience. College basketball players will already have experience in areas which include: understanding time commitment & time management of a college schedule, receiving college-level coaching, and taking college classes.
Additionally, college basketball players are less likely to deal with factors such as homesickness, distance from family/home, and slow adjustment to college campus life that are often prevalent among college freshmen. Although adaptability and maturity are never a given with any college basketball player, the probability that current college players already possess these traits are certainly higher than an in-coming freshman’s.
Short-Term Eligibility Makes Scholarship Distribution Easier
If a college basketball coach recruits a high school student-athlete, the basketball coach is generally planning for the recruit to play basketball for four years, even though basketball scholarships are renewable year-to-year. However, if a coach gets players from the transfer portal, the student-athlete might have three, two, or even only one year of playing eligibility remaining. Rather than planning to account for four years for one player, a coach can account for fewer years for a player.
This is especially key for programs that aren’t fully funded (have max allotment of basketball scholarships available), might be experiencing budget cuts that impact funding or recruiting budgets, or even programs that are experiencing reduction of basketball scholarships due to NCAA sanctions. Although college basketball coaches might desire and like the idea of signing a recruiting class of five or six freshmen, the reality is that many coaches don’t have the financial means and luxury to do so.
Transfer Athletes Are More Developed Physically And Mentally
When college basketball coaches recruit and sign players from the transfer portal, coaches are getting players who are more than likely already physically developed to play college basketball. This physical development is due to the student-athlete already having spent time and experience in a college-level strength & conditioning program and a college nutrition program.
This is a stark contrast to a high school student-athlete who hasn’t experienced a college-level strength & conditioning program and college nutrition program. As a result, it might take freshmen a full year or even two years before becoming physically ready to compete at and adjusting to the college level. In certain cases, basketball coaches might be in a situation where they need contribution immediately.
Without question, the NCAA Transfer Portal has become a game-changer in college athletics. As the number of players who enter their names into the transfer portal increases, the activity level of college coaches seeking players will continue to increase as well.