Transfers vs Homegrown Talent

The landscape of college basketball obviously changed with the opening of the transfer portal. Success in the portal can change a program’s trajectory quickly. I think Musselman at Nevada was an early poster boy for this dynamic. Now, without the requirement to wait out a year after transferring, there were nearly 1,500 kids in the portal: Successful mid-major players moving up to P-6 conferences and now P-6 players moving to mid-majors for more playing time.

Filling your roster with the best talent is one part of the successful formula. And it is easy to simply look at the caliber of players added through the portal as a forecast for achievement.

But success is also determined by the cohesion of the team. So called “social issues” like creating a culture of winning, players buying into the system, selflessness, teamwork, etc. can have an outsized impact on the game. It is the reason less talented squads beat better teams pretty frequently. It takes time to foster these qualities and I would postulate that a coach has a better chance to build this type of program with freshman recruits and strong, veteran leaders over talent via transfer.

I know the obvious answer is “it’s not one or the other, it’s both”, but I’m curious what this board’s feeling is on this. And if you reevaluate the WCC teams based on this metric (years the core team has been together, culture driven by the coach and veteran players, etc.), how would you rank the league?

Steve Lavin awaits your answer. Ha!

I understand your point, but I don’t agree with the contention that a program built on freshman recruits (and, of course, upperclassmen that have been with the program as those freshman recruits mature) is somehow better than transfers. I could make the argument for the opposite. I think that transfers are more realistic about their own talents. Freshman all too often were elite in high school, and many I believe think that they will easily continue their success once in college and of course, NBA dreams. Transfers may have already learned that perhaps they aren’t elite at the college level, or aren’t going to be the centerpiece, and may be more likely to accept that they are role players. I think that good-to-great coaches (not KK) can successfully address the continuity concerns with transfers to which you allude in your post. Exhibit A: PJ Pipes did a pretty darn good job for the Broncos.

Ultimately, each situation has nuances that make them unique. I think it is hard to make a blanket statement when there are so many things that contribute to the success or failure of each individual recruit.

Just my two cents’ worth.

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Dooger- you answered your own question with ‘it’s not one or the other, it’s both’.
The vast majority of successful programs are relying on transfers to some degree…Brady Manek for UNC, Baylor with multiple transfers in their rotation the past 2 seasons, Johnny Juzang at UCLA and so on. Same for the WCC…every decent team had at least 1 transfer in their starting 5…Bolton for GU, Logan Johnson for SMC; Barcello, Lucas, George for BYU. Shoot, USF had 4: Shabazz, Massalski, Tape, Stefanini…where would they have been without those guys???..and three of them were 1st year guys, didn’t appear to hurt their chemistry or culture.
The adage that’s gone around in recent years…‘get old and stay old’…you do that by supplementing with at least a transfer or two each year. Experience and maturity matters…transfers that you can plug in immediately bring that.

The other thing to keep in mind…players these days have grown up in an environment where there they move from AAU team to AAU team from year to year, sometimes multiple teams within a year. Same thing with their HS teams. They are used to teammates coming and going and they don’t see that roster jumping as lack of loyalty and they’re accustomed to adapting to playing with different guys, under different coaches and learning new systems as needed…just the way it is these days.

Last summer Texas was generating a serious buzz after acquiring Chris Beard and amassing a ton of talent from the portal. Considering their preseason expectations, it was a dud of a season for the longhorns. On paper it was a lot of talent, largely new talent by way of the portal, but that component of continuity, a culture of winning, and a team identity were missing. Being Beard’s first year at UT certainly had something to do with it, but considering his resume and his skillset as a coach, it highlighted to me the importance of continuity and chemistry amongst a group of athletes.

I think the portal is best used to plug holes. Bolton for the Zags. Pipes for SCU. Massalski for USF. BYU and USD will both be largely new rosters because of the portal, and I’m curious to see how that plays out, especially in Provo. I’m not sure how I’d rank the league, but those two schools specifically will be most telling, in my opinion.


I agree with all above. I suppose that if, in not fighting the hypo, I had to choose one, I would definitely choose four-year players. All of our best players in recent memory with a couple exceptions (Tahj, maybe Pipes) were recruited to SCU as frosh (Foster, Tras, Jared, Feagin, Josip, Jalen, Justice). The problem is that in the past 10-15 years, SCU has basically recruited one All-WCC caliber player every two years. So you get, maybe, one season with two (or at best, three) excellent players in the starting lineup, only one of whom is at his peak.

You need the transfers to surround the homegrown stars with as much talent as possible. But I don’t think being Transfer U is sustainable. Gonzaga has reloaded each year with transfers, in part, but it has usually been their original recruits that developed in the system whose stars shined the brightest and whom the team was built around.