The transfer portal closed on May 11th with 1,746 DI basketball players seeking greener pastures. With 351 DI programs, teams lost an average of nearly five players to the portal. In DU’s case, they lost promising freshman Justin Mullins to Northwestern and second-team preseason All-Summit league player Tevin Smith to Cleveland State. Both players would have been projected starters for the 2023-24 season. Scores of players remain uncommitted until the start of a new school year.
The Summit League did not fare any better than the Pioneers with a number of outstanding players seeking greener pastures.
League champion Oral Roberts lost their head coach Paul Mills to Wichita State. Then, ORU’s top player Max Abmas exited to the University of Texas. Their 7’5″ center Connor Vanover, is the Golden Eagles’ second highest scorer with 12.7 ppg. is portal-bound or headed to the NBA entry draft. The list goes on for the defending champion Golden Eagles.
Nearly every team in the Summit League has had major defections with the exception of North Dakota, Omaha and South Dakota State. North Dakota State lost perhaps the best player in the conference in 6-foot-11, 235-pound forward Grant Nelson. UMKC is losing their top guard tandem of RayQuawndis Mitchell and Shemarri Allen. St Thomas lost their leading scorer Andrew Rohde. South Dakota lost their top three scorers, highlighted by the exit of Kruz Perrott-Hunt.
In a strange twist of fate, the portal departures may level the playing field in the conference while rewarding teams that retain a core of good but not great players. Team chemistry may trump individual skill in this brave new world of college basketball.
In an article in The Brookings Register, Andrew Holtan cited three factors that explain South Dakota State’s ability to retaining players. In Holtan’s opinion, three factors have allowed SDSU to avoid losing its core roster members to the transfer portal. The first is a tradition of winning. The Jackrabbits, historically, have been the basketball blueblood of the Summit League. Second, they heavily recruit the Midwest and their own backyard- South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The third reason is coaching. SDSU has done a great job of staying consistent with its coaches.