May 25, 2024

If they don’t go pro, elite basketball recruits are more likely to transfer than stay put


The mass exodus of once-ballyhooed freshmen was a major undertone of college basketball’s 2024 transfer portal cycle. Forty-eight of the top 61 recruits from the Class of 2023 are expected to return to the college ranks next season. Over half (25 of the 48) are in the 2024 transfer portal.

The topsy-turvy coaching carousel has its fingerprints all over it.

When John Calipari bolted from Kentucky to Arkansas, former five-stars like Aaron Bradshaw and DJ Wagner hit the transfer portal. Stanford let go of Jerod Haase after a frustrating 14-18 season, which opened the door for both Kanaan Carlyle and Andrej Stojakovic to become free agents. Indiana scooped up Carlyle while Stojakovic eschewed Kentucky and UNC to drive 41 miles north up Cal. The former McDonald’s All-American will have a shot to be Mark Madsen’s next big star.

Coaching changes at Ohio State, USC, Arkansas and Oklahoma State were certainly factors.

In total, 13 of the top 25 players from the 2023 Class are transferring after a coaching change — as is their justified prerogative. IllinoisAmani Hansberry is technically the 14th to leave due to a coaching change. Illinois assistant Chester Frazier was Hansberry’s lead recruiter. When Frazier left for West Virginia, Hansberry was in Frazier’s sidecar.

Prized 2023 recruits in the 2024 portal cycle:

MORE: Dissecting Duke’s mass transfer portal exodus

It’s a jarring amount of change, but it didn’t just start in this cycle. Only 28 of the top 61 recruits from the 2022 recruiting class returned to the college ranks for their sophomore seasons. Sixteen of the 28 entered the portal, headlined by five-stars Kel’el Ware (from Oregon to Indiana), Arterio Morris (from Texas to Kansas) and JJ Starling (from Notre Dame to Syracuse).

It didn’t used to be this way.

Two years ago, 38 of the top 61 recruits from the Class of 2021 returned for their sophomore seasons. Just six hit the portal: Emoni Bates, Tyrese Hunter, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Efton Reid, Jaylon Tyson and Frankie Collins.

Times, they are a-changin’.

Just six of the top-61 recruits from the Class of 2021 are still with the program they signed with out of high school: UConn‘s Samson Johnson, Purdue‘s Trey Kaufman-Renn, Maryland‘s Julian Reese, Baylor’s Langston Love, Texas A&M‘s Manny Obaseki and Oregon’s Nate Bittle.

Former prized 2022 recruits like Duke’s Mark Mitchell and Texas’ Dillon Mitchell stayed with their respective schools for two years, but they won’t be there for a third. Both Mitchell boys (not related) are in the portal. Mark will play at Mizzou in 2024-25. Dillon has not made a decision yet.

Fifty of the top 61 recruits from 2022 haven’t made it to their junior seasons without going pro or hitting the portal. The lone 11? Duke’s Tyrese Proctor, UNC’s Seth Trimble, Houston‘s Terrance Arceneaux, Arizona‘s Henri Veesaar, Indiana’s Malik Reneau, LSU‘s Tyrell Ward, Virginia‘s Isaac McKneely, Ohio State’s Bruce Thornton, Illinois’ Ty Rodgers, San Diego State‘s Miles Byrd and Michigan State big man Jaxon Kohler.

Maybe all of this will stabilize a bit when the COVID-year seniors exit the mix after this current cycle. The raw number of transfers will dip in the cycles to come without the 400-plus transfers using the portal to find a place to play that one extra year.

But it doesn’t feel like it. This is big-boy basketball with one-year roster renovations happening lickety-split.

A few of Duke’s prized 2023 freshmen were blocked by the incoming Cooper Flagg and Jon Scheyer wanted to add some veterans from the transfer portal, so they chose to exit stage left. It was a big deal when Iowa State landed Biliew, the highest-rated recruit in program history during the internet era. But he wasn’t ready to play in Year 1. Iowa State’s raucous faithful got to see just 15 buckets from him, and now Biliew is off to Wake Forest looking for more guaranteed minutes. Iowa State reloaded and owns a top-10 roster. Even if he stayed, Biliew’s path to playing time at Iowa State would’ve been cloudy.

Leaving might be good for both parties in those transactions.

Maybe it shines a light on an impressive offseason for Oregon. Dana Altman kept not one, not two but all three jewels from his top-10 2023 recruiting class. Jackson Shelstad, Mookie Cook and Kwame Evans Jr. will all have a major say in how Oregon handles itself in the new-look Big Ten.

RELATED: Transfer portal deadline retention winners, losers

UNC’s Elliot Cadeau and Michigan State’s Xavier Booker might be the outliers moving forward. Both five-star freshmen came in with lofty expectations and didn’t exceed them in Year 1. Booker struggled to get on the floor, and Cadeau was taken off the floor in the NCAA Tournament loss to Alabama. UNC upgraded its roster with the addition of Cade Tyson, but it didn’t recruit over Cadeau, so he chose to stay. Michigan State filled a need with Nebraska-Omaha transfer Frankie Fidler, but it didn’t recruit over Booker, so he stayed. Both Cadeau and Booker will have every opportunity to be starters next season.

Staying might be good for both parties in those transactions.

But it’s a sign of the times when less than 10% of the top 61 recruits from 2021 make it to their senior season, just 18% of the top 61 recruits from 2022 make it to their junior season and just 37% of the top 61 recruits from 2023 make it to their sophomore season with their respective clubs. 





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