TCU’s Jamie Dixon said something prophetic after his Horned Frogs lost to the Kansas State Wildcats in the Big 12 Tournament last month: “We’re in a whole new world now.”
Dixon was talking about the storm that was coming, the storm that has become the transfer portal.
“There is really no building programs (anymore),” Dixon said.
Dixon couldn’t have been more right, and his program is just one of many programs feeling the pain right now.
April 14 marks the first day of the spring signing period. Through Aug. 1, basketball programs around the country can sign transfers and Class of 2021 players that haven’t already signed for next fall. The transfer market has been a free-for-all, dwarfing the normal recruiting cycle, and it shows no signs of letting up.
More than 1,300 college basketball players have submitted their names for transfer, per verbalcommits.com (that’s the ‘transfer portal’ you hear so much about). The NCAA appears ready to vote on the rule that would assure all student-athletes would be allowed to transfer one time in their collegiate career, to any program, without the traditional one-year penalty of sitting out.
READ MORE: Big 12 Basketball Transfer Tracker
Most anticipate that the new rule will be passed. There was supposed to be a vote in January, but the NCAA pushed it back a few months. But we’re basically out of the box at this point. Time to make it official. There is no going back.
As someone who follows a couple of Twitter accounts that keep up with transfers, I can tell you that it’s nuts. My phone goes off every hour during the day. I’m only keeping up with the Big 12, so only a few of the tweets are relevant to me. But, hour after hour, players are declaring to transfer or making their selection of which school to go to.
That’s cut both ways for TCU the past month.
As of April 13, the following Horned Frogs, who were on the roster at the start of the 2020-21 season, had submitted their names to the transfer portal — Dylan Arnette, Owen Aschieris, Kevin Easley Jr., Terren Frank, Jaedon LeDee, Mickey Pearson Jr., Diante Smith, and Taryn Todd. That’s eight out of 13 scholarship players.
That’s roster churn on an unprecedented level. That’s doesn’t even count R.J. Nembhard, who has submitted his name for the NBA Draft, but is leaving his eligibility open. Dixon has to be praying that he comes back.
But this is exactly what Dixon foresaw a month ago.
“It’s just kind of you’re filling with transfers and stuff and it’s not the same thing,” Dixon said. “So I think it’s year to year now is what you do and we got to get better.”
TCU won’t be able to develop talent to get better next season, at least not in the sense we’re used to. The majority of the Horned Frogs transferring are underclassmen who didn’t play much last season. Those are the players Dixon was hoping to develop. This underscores a couple of trends I’ve seen in the transfers the past few weeks:
High-major backups or young players who are seeking more playing time, and finding it, with mid- or low-major programs, or productive mid- or low-major starters who are seeking a chance to prove themselves at a high level.
The proof is in TCU’s final stat sheet. Noticeably absent from the transfer list are the five players that started most of TCU’s games last season — Nembhard, Mike Miles, Kevin Samuel, Chuck O’Bannon, and PJ Fuller. Arnette, Aschieris, Easley, Frank, LeDee, Pearson, Smith, and Todd combined to start 20 games, with Easley getting the most at 13.
We can debate the merits of patience another time. But these are the trend lines I’m seeing.
Those trend lines relatively hold true for the four players that, as of April 13, have committed to transfer to TCU — Damion Baugh (Memphis), Xavier Cork (Western Carolina), Maxwell Evans (Vanderbilt), and Shahada Wells (UT-Arlington)
Baugh and Evans fit the high-major mold, though Baugh fits that mold more than Evans. Baugh is seeking more playing time after averaging just 3.8 points per game with the Tigers in two seasons. Evans is a grad transfer from a high-major program who averaged 8.5 points last year, but he is a Houston native, so transferring to TCU allows him to get a little closer to home.
Cork and Wells are the mid- or low-major players looking to prove themselves at the high-major level. Cork averaged 12.7 points per game last year for WCU. Wells, a junior college All-American in 2019-20, led UTA with 16.8 points per game last season.
We’re seeing this churn at other programs in the Big 12, too. Much of that churn is being driven by coaching changes. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech are all seeing it..
It’s even hitting Kansas. The Jayhawks have five players in the portal, all of which were backups last year, and all of which are underclassmen. One is Bryce Thompson, a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. It’s rare for the Jayhawks to leak that much young talent in one recruiting cycle.
It hasn’t hit Baylor yet because the Bears are coming off a national title and everyone is happy. Plus, the Bears are expected to lose several players to either the NBA Draft or the natural end of eligibility. So the young players that are there know openings are likely to come.
But this is where we are now, and where we’re likely to go once the NCAA signs off on the transfer legislation.
The future is now. For everyone.
“So I think there is — not one to speculate — there is a whole new world of college basketball coming at us,” Dixon said.
Brace for impact.
You can follow Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard
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