Since last spring, the world of college sports has completely changed, and the West Virginia senior class embodies those changes more than ever.
In April of 2021, when the NCAA granted a one-time transfer waiver to college athletes, it turned a sport in which recruiting high school kids turned into recruiting current kids in college. Look no further than name, image, and likeness (NIL) to see the impact money has on these kids. Now more than ever, athletes are leaving schools — some to chase more playing time, some to get closer to home, but some have left because it is the easy thing to do.
On Saturday, West Virginia recognized seven seniors, and their paths to senior day at West Virginia shows the new landscape of collegiate athletics.
Gabe Osabuohien, Malik Curry, Pauly Paulicap and Dimon Carrigan all started their careers at other Division I programs. Osabuohien came to Morgantown from Arkansas — but unlike the other three, didn’t use the transfer portal. Osabuohien transferred prior to the 2019-2020 season, but unlike the other three had to be granted a waiver by the NCAA in order to not have to sit out a year.
Carrigan, Curry, and Paulicap all came to West Virginia via the portal. Carrigan from Florida International, Curry from Old Dominion, and Paulicap from Depaul all came to West Virginia last summer by using the transfer portal.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins lamented on how the situations between Osabuohien and the rest — the then and now of college basketball is so different.
“That is so different from what the portal is today and that’s what I grew up in coaching — if we had a transfer that’s pretty much was what it was,” Huggins said on Jan. 28 about Osabuohien coming to West Virginia. “It was a high school coach or an AAU coach bringing those people to us. We weren’t out there trying to recruit them. That is so far removed from what is going on with the portal today. I wasn’t getting complete strangers. I was getting kids who I had in camp or I knew their coaches extremely well. Totally different deal.”
The other three seniors set to walk the carpet one last time on Saturday come from a different route. Johnson, McNeil, and Sherman all came to West Virginia from junior college, or as most people know — JUCO.
Johnson and Sherman came from small colleges in Texas, while McNeil came from a small community college in Ohio.
Looking at West Virginia’s 2018 recruiting class, the transfer portal has also defined the majority of those guys.
Out of the six signees to the class, one left for the NBA, one graduated at West Virginia, while the other four all transferred out of the program.
Jermaine Haley used the remainder of his eligibility after leaving Odessa Community College to play for the Mountaineers, while Derek Culver left to play professional basketball after last season.
Andrew Gordon and Trey Doomes left the program earlier in their careers before playing college basketball elsewhere.
The remaining two: Emmitt Matthews and Jordan McCabe both used the transfer portal following last season. Matthews transferred back home to the University of Washington, while McCabe left for UNLV.
All in all, West Virginia will not have one true senior in this year’s class that started and ended their career at West Virginia. They did not have that last season, and will not have that be the case next season either.
The landscape of college sports is changing rapidly and West Virginia’s roster construction as well as their senior class reflects that. The debate that is sparked is what is better; high school kids who stay for four (or five) years, or kids you get in the transfer portal who you get as more of a rental.
Huggins points to Kansas who on Saturday sent six seniors off, with four of them spending their whole careers in a Jayhawk uniform.
“You look at Kansas in my mind, they have the best players in the league and they don’t have many portal guys,” Huggins said. “Majority of those guys were high school kids that they recruited, that they brought in, that knew the system, that knew what their role was.”
The transfer portal is here to stay; and with that, the era of having a kid grow in your program for four years is becoming more and more rare as each season passes. And on Saturday, the seven seniors who said their goodbyes to West Virginia reflect just that — they’re all transfers.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography