Transfer portal a new way of roster building for Missouri, college men’s basketball

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Blair Kerkhoff
·3 min read
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Missouri doesn’t lead the nation in men’s basketball players who entered the transfer portal, but the Tigers made news early in the process by losing some of their high profile talent.

Three days after the Tigers’ season ended in with a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, Xavier Pinson, the team’s second-leading scorer, announced it was leaving. He has committed to LSU.

By the end of the week, another starter, Mark Smith, said he was leaving and wound up at Kansas State. In all, Mizzou lost six transfers, have gained three and are on the prowl for more. Two scholarships remain open.

“It’s the climate we’re in,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I don’t really think it’s a bad thing ... It gives guys the opportunity to do what they want to do. It wasn’t a problem for me at all.”

As of noon on Wednesday, more than 1,360 men’s players had entered the transfer portal, about 30 percent of the 4,500 Division I scholarship players from last season. With 358 Division I programs and a limit of 13 scholarships, that averages to about 3.8 players in the transfer portal per roster.

At least 100 programs have lost as many as five players to the portal, including Kansas and UMKC.

Transfers can make a big difference. Baylor’s NCAA championship team was fueled by players like Davion Mitchell, who started his career at Auburn, and MaCio Teague, a former standout at UNC Asheville.

What has essentially become college basketball free agency is happening because players have been given an additional year of eligibility because of the unique circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players like Smith and Brandon McKissick, who completed his senior season at UMKC and is now headed to Florida, are part of this group.

Also, the NCAA is likely to pass a rule this summer that will allow players to transfer one time without having to sit out for a year.

That means coaches not only are recruiting prospects from high schools and junior colleges, they’re in the transfer business — keeping their own and dealing with others intent on leaving their program. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from having contact with players until they enter the transfer portal.

“With your own guys, it’s about relationships,” Martin said. “I hopeful we don’t get to a place where you’re constantly recruiting your own players.”

Rosters are being reshaped like never before. All 12 players from Missouri’s 2020-21 roster could have returned. Six elected to transfer, including Smith and Drew Buggs, who were honored on Senior Night. Three have signed or plan to sign with agents, according to Martin: Jeremiah Tilmon, Dru Smith and Mitchell Smith.

There are five in the incoming freshman class, and three who have transferred in. So far.

Those three newcomers figure to see plenty of action. Amari Davis led Green Bay in scoring at 17.2 points. Boogie Coleman averaged 13.8 points in 10 games at Ball State. He missed the first half of the season with a foot injury.

DaJuan Gordon averaged 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds for Kansas State last season.

“All three of those guys will help us tremendously,” Martin said.

There’s room to expand. Martin would like to add an inside presence.

“For us that’s not necessarily a four or five (forward to center),” Martin said. “It’s someone who can play on the interior, a physical brand, a level of toughness, experience. But scoring, no question about it, you can always add that.”