FILE - In this March 14, 2012, file photo, a player runs across the NCAA logo during practice in Pittsburgh before an NCAA tournament college basketball game. NCAA basketball administrators apologized to the women’s basketball players and coaches after inequities between the men’s and women’s tournament went viral on social media. Administrators vowed to do better. NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt spoke on a zoom call Friday, March 19, 2021, a day after photos showed the difference between the weight rooms at the two tournaments. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

COVID Aftershocks Continue as Transfer Portal Swells

College basketball’s long-standing principles of structure and order have held many of its student-athletes for the most part in one place. This year, with the NCAA opting to consider the 2020-2021 season of competition a wash for eligibility, that order is shaken.

An influx of men’s basketball players has already taken advantage of the still new NCAA transfer portal this offseason, which was first started in the fall of 2018. The NCAA’s posted goals for this new venture were to “manage the transfer process from start to finish,” to “add transparency,” and as marketing for outgoing athletes “to make their desire known to other programs.”

Gators Locke Dribbles Ball
Florida’s Noah Locke (center) handles the ball during the Gators’ 86-40 win over Stetson Sunday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Gainesville. (SEC Media/Anissa Dimilta)

The impact of COVID-19 on collegiate athletics will enter its second year with plenty of holdovers thanks to the eligibility changes. The potential gains for athletes without a certain pro future could include an increased likelihood of a degree and more of an athletic experience than ever before.

With many Division I conferences relaxing their intraconference transfer restrictions (most recently the Atlantic Coast Conference), gone are the days of looking down on programs that have players transfer in and out on a regular basis. Now, high-profile players across the country will find new suitors in both bigger and smaller schools. Coaches have seen their body of work in a college game and can cater minutes and opportunities to them.

Gator men’s basketball will be no stranger to the transfer portal this year, with Noah Locke, Ques Glover, and Osayi Osifo all choosing to end their time in Gainesville. Locke especially is expected to command a market, but Florida will likely look to help replace them with incoming transfers of their own.

Mid-majors may be hit hardest by the reshuffling of teams. A great season in conferences like the Ohio Valley, ASUN, and the Big South could lead both undergrads and graduates to “greener pastures” in the Power 5, leaving some programs devastated by the constant turnover. They too look to add through the portal on the other side of the process with Power 5 players looking to earn a bigger role in a smaller league.

College athletes now are enjoying a degree of freedom over where they play, unlike any time before the portal. An almost free agency-like institution is starting to take place in college sports’ highest governing body. Here are a few of the transfer portal’s biggest name in college hoops this offseason:

Khristian Lander – Indiana

After a disappointing season for Indiana basketball that ended in an embarrassing exit for Archie Miller, their best prospect also is opting to leave Bloomington.

The most coveted guard in the portal this offseason will be Hoosier freshman Khristian Lander, should he choose to stay in it. Lander “tentatively” optioned for the portal last Friday, although his family has stated that a return to Indiana may be possible.

The 6-2 point guard reclassified from the 2021 class to the 2020 class last year, only averaging 2.1 points per game in his 10 minute average in Miller’s rotation. Lander fielded offers from schools like Louisville, Memphis, and Michigan before signing with Indiana.

Indiana will lose at least two other starters to the portal in Armaan Franklin and Race Thompson as they begin the search for the next Hoosier basketball coach.

Jordan Goldwire – Duke

A familiar face on the college basketball landscape will look for a new home to finish his eligibility. Duke senior Jordan Goldwire will use his final year of eligibility elsewhere, he and Duke announced yesterday.

An All-ACC Defensive team member in 2021, Goldwire has been a contributor for Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils for the past two years. He started in 27 games over that time and averaged just under 6 points per game in 2020-2021.

A former three-star recruit, the 6-2 guard is expected to get heavy interest at the mid-major level. He will look to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball wherever he ends up. Look for Eastern Kentucky to make a push for him as they were a second option coming out of high school.

Jaemyn Brakefield – Duke

Goldwire joins Jaemyn Brakefield as the second Duke player in the portal this season. Brakefield, a 6-8 freshman forward, was announced by Duke to be transferring last Wednesday.

Brakefield appeared in 22 games for the Blue Devils this season, averaging over 12 minutes per game. He chipped in 11 points in a season-high 29 minutes of action in Duke’s Feb. 20 win over Virginia.

A former four-star recruit, Brakefield had offers from Auburn, Louisville, Michigan, and Alabama before settling on the Blue Devils. Expect Kermit Davis and Ole Miss to be a front runner to land Brakefield, who took multiple visits to Oxford while in high school.

Walker Kessler – North Carolina

The top-rated center by 247Sports in the transfer portal is Tar Heel big man Walker Kessler. The 7-1, 245-pound freshman appeared in all 29 contests for Roy Williams this past season, averaging 8.8 minutes per game. He announced on Twitter last Monday that he would be leaving Chapel Hill.

Kessler started hitting his stride towards the latter half of UNC’s season. He had a four-game stretch against Northeastern, Louisville, Marquette, and Florida State in which he scored in double figures every time.  The game against the Seminoles was his best of the season, adding 20 points and 8 rebounds to the Heels’ win.

Kessler had offers from Duke, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Virginia before choosing North Carolina out of high school. He will join fellow Heel Sterling Manley in the transfer portal, leaving a UNC roster that needed to and will retain Caleb Love for his sophomore season.

About Caleb Wiegandt

Caleb Wiegandt is a first-year Journalism student on the Sports and Media track in the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. He has previous bylines in USA Today, Yahoo Finance, and The Louisville Courier-Journal before arriving at ESPN Gainesville. Caleb is a proud graduate of Holy Cross High School in southwest Louisville, Kentucky, where he was born and raised. You can reach Caleb at cwiegandt@ufl.edu.

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