Central New York has been hit hard by an exodus of transfers this spring. Both the men’s and women’s basketball programs lost a number of key players, the women way more than the men.
Quentin Hillsman’s squad lost a staggering 12 players due to transfer in the month following the conclusion of its season. The list of players exiting is obviously lengthy, but also substantial. ACC Rookie of the Year Kamilla Cardosa is the biggest blow. Only Priscilla Williams returns from the 2020-21 starting lineup. The totality of this turnover is hard to understand. Certain schools have thrived on the ability to seamlessly replenish every year without too many hiccups. It’s a task that is easier in theory than in practice.
To Hillsman’s credit, he has already begun to fill the gaps. USC’s Shalexxus Aaron, Texas Tech’s Naje Murray, Arizona State’s Eboni Walker, and Howard’s Jayla Thornton will all be suiting up for the Orange this year. Hillsman also locked in four four-star recruits in this recruiting cycle. It is going to be a lot of new faces.
Jim Boeheim is not facing quite as large of a rebuild, but there is still significant turnover on the men’s roster. Two players have already turned pro and Quincy Guerrier is still on the fence. Four players wound up leaving via transfer and there are still more that could follow. Kadary Richmond is the biggest transfer loss by far. His departure has been picked apart already. Boeheim should have started Richmond and given him more minutes. The mishandling of Richmond’s playing time undoubtedly played a large role in costing the Orange their best ball-handler.
Much like Hillsman, Boeheim has turned to the transfer portal to start rebuilding his rotation. Cole Swider arrives from Villanova, Symir Torrence returns home after a year at Marquette and Jimmy Boeheim is joining the family business after four years with Cornell. However, the men’s team only has one recruit joining the program. It helps that Benny Williams is a five-star prospect, but that is a lot of pressure to put on him.
College basketball is entering a new normal, and early on, you can see how Hillsman and Boeheim are keeping up with this new wave of recruiting. Some of the movement is fueled by COVID. However, it is unlikely we see college hoops return to the more rigid system that existed previously. Players have be pushing for great mobility for a long time. It seems like the NCAA is willing to grant them that freedom going forward.
No longer is it enough to attract the next group of freshman to the program. Hillsman and Boeheim, and whoever eventually replaces Boeheim, also need to recruit from other programs. It would be an oversight to ignore players already in the program as well. In college football, some of the most important recruiting victories come by coaches convincing their own draft-eligible players to return to school. It seems like that trend is going to be amplified in college basketball as well, but with the focus falling on transfer candidates.
There is an argument to be made that Syracuse could benefit from this type of atmosphere. Very often, both programs miss out on prospects who could have found success with the Orange. Increased player movement would give Hillsman and Boeheim the chance to re-recruit some of the top players they miss out on. SU’s prominence has always been enough to lure smaller school transfer. This development could see them more involved in landing Power Six (can’t forget the Big East) transfers as well.
However, I think it is safe to say that Hillsman has failed his initial run through this wild era of college transfers. There is no doubt that the women’s team is worse off at this stage. No one will be able to replicate Cardoso’s presence in the paint. Returning just one starter and none of the key bench players that starred a year ago is going to make it very difficult to find any continuity. Hillsman might be able to restructure his program, but it seems like it lacks the high-end potential it had heading into last season.
Boeheim’s grade is still a bit incomplete at this stage. If Frank Anselem leaves and Guerrier stays in the draft, Boeheim will almost definitely be forced to explore the transfer portal again. It would leave the men’s team incredibly thin at forward. Benny Williams and Jimmy Boeheim could help fill the void left by Marek Dolezaj. Swider gives the Orange another three and very little D player, which is great for spacing the floor, but really limits a team already lacking quality defenders.
Time will tell how successful this offseason was for both programs. Hopefully, with a full training camp and fewer, or maybe no COVID restrictions will allow both coaches to get their teams up to speed. That preparation period looks more important than ever. Here’s hoping that Boeheim and Hillsman are up for the task.