At any given point during West Virginia’s loss to Oklahoma on Wednesday night, as many as six of the 10 players on the court could have joined their respective teams from the transfer portal.
That polarizing mechanism that has greatly affected the college sports landscape was a necessity for both the Mountaineers and Sooners as they had dire issues to fill. Now that players have immediate eligibility upon a move, teams in need can grab Division I-ready players to fill holes in their lineup or simply upgrade the rotation.
For the most part, it has opened the door for graduate transfers like WVU’s Malik Curry and OU’s Tanner Groves to finish their careers with a big program.
“They did a great job in the portal — had to do a great job in the portal when you only get four guys back,” Huggins said about the Sooners.
The portal has gotten so important now that Huggins says that his team watches it every day. With five fifth years and two seniors on the roster, the Mountaineers could very well go right back to fill the lineup ahead of 2022-23.
Of course, Huggins hasn’t been afraid to grab college talent in the past, as many of his biggest additions at West Virginia have been from junior colleges. Taz Sherman, WVU’s current leading scorer, is a JUCO product, but his class is just the most recent of a whole host of guys like him (Huggins, however, says he hasn’t used JUCO players as much as some might give him credit for).
“I came to love junior college guys,” Huggins said. “Those are guys that come from riding in a van, getting a cheese sandwich and a coke for the ride back….You’ve got to appreciate that, you’ve got to appreciate their willingness to do that, so I kind of liked those guys.”
That’s a big difference from transfer portal products, some of whom — like Groves — even had a shot at the NCAA Tournament before moving on to a bigger program.
In that vein, there are plenty of positives for a team bringing in someone that has experience in those types of environments.
“You’ve played more game in environments that are harder to play in than you do in junior college when you’re playing before 100 people or 150 people,” Huggins said. “Then all of a sudden you walk into Lubbock and the place is full.”
In its practice over the last several years, that experienced addition will likely only be at his new destination for a single season.
So then, of course, there’s the effect it has on fans. Many of WVU’s stars over the years — Huggins specifically cited Da’Sean Butler, Joe Alexander and Kevin Jones — spent their entire careers in Morgantown.
“I think it’s hard on fans. I mean, I really do….As kids, you take those pictures and you put them up on your wall, and you hang them up on your door,” Huggins said.
He looks back on his time growing up as a Mountaineer fan, getting attached to players. Now, he says young fans could miss out on that same experience.
“Maybe you get attached to a guy, and now he’s gone,” Huggins said.