It’s a brave new world in college basketball

Published 7:48 am Wednesday, April 7, 2021

John Calipari is used to players taking the one-and-done route when leaving Kentucky. He’s just not accustomed to players throwing their names into the transfer portal after just one season.

Earlier this week, guard Devin Askew announced plans to transfer to another program following a roller-coaster ride with the Wildcats this season. Askew probably should have waited another year before beginning his collegiate career earlier after declassifying. The decision to enroll early gave Askew time to ponder where he will finish the rest of his collegiate career.

It’s not known where Askew will enroll, but he could take the route Johnny Juzang took after he left the program last year and return closer to home in California. Juzang enrolled at UCLA and helped lead the Bruins to the Final Four this season. Based on what Askew has said in past interviews, playing close to home isn’t a major consideration, but that could change once he consults with his parents and family members regarding his next destination.

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The transfer portal is the collegiate version of the free-agent market used by professional players and is becoming more and more popular for players to use and explore when it comes to selecting options after deciding to leave a program. Most of those players are influenced by outside sources, while others are simply unhappy with the current situation.

While the transfer portal — much like free agency — has its perks, it gives unhappy players an easy way out when it comes to leaving a program or an organization. The free-agent method, especially in Major League Baseball, has destroyed a player’s loyalty to a given team. For the past two decades or more, it’s rare to see players pull a Barry Larkin, where they play for the same team from the beginning of their career until the very end. Larkin played his entire 18-year career with the Cincinnati Reds.

The increase in graduate transfers has given college players the opportunity to play — in reality, a fifth or sixth season — in the collegiate ranks and Calipari has latched on to players such as Reid Travis, Nate Sestina, and Davion Mintz as short-term solutions to remedying immediate issues. Those players bring at least four years of experience to a program, while they pursue a graduate degree.

Because of the transfer portal and the rise of graduate transfers, the landscape of college basketball has changed and at a fast pace. The recruitment and development of four-year players are becoming less frequent and that’s a shame for college basketball.

Those teams that nourish freshmen from the first semester to the last one in a four-year cycle have proven to be successful and it has shown over the past few years. It really showed in this year’s national championship game between Gonzaga and Baylor, two of the most experienced teams in the tournament.

Much like our world, college basketball is changing rapidly, but sometimes going back to the basics is the best way to maneuver change.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or Twitter @keithtaylor21.