The transfer portal allows for free agency in college
When it was made public last week four South Carolina women’s basketball players would be transferring from the program, the reaction across the sport was split — yes, that was a lot of players to be leaving all at once, but in an age of increased player movement, maybe it was just the new normal?
That number dropped to three Wednesday when rising senior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan announced she would be withdrawing her name from the transfer portal and returning to the Gamecocks, but for coach Dawn Staley, it’s still just a fact of life that student-athletes are switching schools like never before, one that she expressed mixed feelings about during her end-of-season press conference Wednesday.
Over the past decade, transfers in women’s college basketball have increased nearly four percent between four-year institutions, according to the most recent NCAA data. There are rumored to be 400 or so names in the new NCAA transfer portal.
“The portal is a recruiting tool. It’s modern day college free agency. It’s something that we have to check every day to make sure there aren’t people on there that can help our basketball team, and as you can see, it is a valuable tool. I think players are utilizing it a lot more these days, and how do you fix it? I don’t know. I think the players have an opportunity to go to a place where they can test the market, and if that makes them happy, great. If it doesn’t, great,” Staley said.
Staley’s use of the term “free agency” didn’t seem all that connected to the implications the loaded phrase has acquired in collegiate athletics as the NCAA grapples with rule changes and challenges about amateurism, player compensation and transfers. But she went on to express a view common among coaches about players sticking out tough situations.
“For any coach out there in the country, they want players who wanna be in the fold, they want players who are fully committed to the process. Because everything is a process, and throughout your process, nothing’s gonna be perfectly mapped out, and what makes us stronger is being uncomfortable,” Staley said. “Growth takes place when you’re uncomfortable. And if you’re not willing to go through being uncomfortable, I just don’t think you’re going to be very successful in life. I don’t know if that’s old school. Those are lessons that my mama taught me a long, long time ago.”
That being said, Staley has gotten plenty of help from players transferring into the program over the years — Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis, Alexis Jennings, Lindsey Spann, Te’a Cooper and Nelly Perry have all come to USC from other schools over the past four years.
And with 10 scholarship players currently on the books for next year’s roster, Staley indicated Wednesday that she and her staff might pursue another that could provide Carolina with immediate help in 2019-2020.
“Obviously we want healthy bodies, we want bodies that help us check off some of the goals that we’ll have as a team, so we’re not really looking for a transfer that has to sit out,” Staley said.
Specifically, Staley said the Gamecocks might be most interested in acquiring a guard to help replace the transferring Te’a Cooper, while also balancing the growth and depth of the highly-rated incoming freshman class.
“We’re selective in who we’re going after because we have a pretty good group coming in and people have to understand that. I don’t lay it out, I don’t lay out our depth chart, I don’t lay out how we see our players in the future, and I do that periodically throughout their careers. Some may like it, some may not like it, but I try to paint a picture that’s realistic in how individually things play out and how I think overall it shapes our team,” Staley said. “Obviously guard play is something that we lost and we got to somehow fill a void, fill a void that we need, so we’ll see how that plays out in the next few weeks.”