Top programs leaning on boosts from popular transfer portal

Coach Bruce Pearl and Auburn lost two stars to the NBA from what he considered college basketball’s best frontcourt.

So, the Tigers did what most college programs are doing: They turned to the transfer portal. Auburn filled the gaping voids left by likely first-round picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler with a former LSU commitment and then a key NCAA transfer portal pickup. Problem, presumably, solved.

”All of a sudden, the season’s over and you’re down two first-round picks on the front line,” Pearl said.

It’s one example among many in a new world of college basketball. Instead of being stuck picking up one of the few recruits remaining when top players exit early and sometimes unexpectedly, coaches can raid the transfer portal for a college veteran or four.

Today, one program’s loss is another’s gain.

Pearl counted on four transfers, including Kessler, and prized freshman Smith – the potential top NBA draft pick – to the program’s first No. 1 ranking and a regular-season Southeastern Conference championship last season. The Tigers went from 13-14 to 28-6.

Other teams are trying to fortify their rosters or spark similar rebounds with transfers to supplement the traditional high school signees.

Players had until May 1 to enter the portal to be immediately eligible in fall and winter sports, but some top names still haven’t announced a destination.

Those include late entries like Kentucky’s Keion Brooks, Baylor’s Matthew Mayer and New Mexico State’s Teddy Allen – presuming none of them opt to turn pro instead.

Florida’s Keyontae Johnson, who hasn’t played since collapsing on the court in December 2020, has also entered the portal hoping to make a comeback.

Among the notable moves in women’s basketball, twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who both have large social media followings, have transferred from Fresno State to the Miami Hurricanes.

As easily as the portal can take away – it can give right back.

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Among the biggest portal moves was SMU’s high-scoring guard Kendric…

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