Texas Tech basketball: Transfer portal has given Red Raiders more than it has taken

Feb 23, 2019; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Tariq Owens (11) and guard Matt Mooney (13) celebrate after the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2019; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Tariq Owens (11) and guard Matt Mooney (13) celebrate after the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the past week-plus, Texas Tech basketball fans have had to face the harsh reality of living in the transfer portal era of the NCAA as two fan favorites, Kevin McCullar Jr. and Terrence Shannon Jr. have both departed the program.  That has left a sour taste in many a mouth in Raiderland as complaints about the portal from Texas Tech supporters have increased exponentially.  But Tech fans should remember that the transfer portal has given this program far more than it has taken from it.

In all honesty, the departures of McCullar and Shannon mark just the second and third times respectively that established, productive players have jumped ship from Tech via the portal.  (McCullar still may forego his eligibility for the NBA and has not committed to another school but has announced that he’ll either attend Kansas or Gonzaga should he return to the collegiate ranks.)

The only other player of impact that has left Tech via the portal is Kyler Edwards, who transferred to Houston after the 2020-21 season.  In each case, Edwards, McCullar, and Shannon averaged just over ten points per game in the season prior to their entering the portal.  But no other Red Raider who has chosen to transfer in the last six seasons has averaged over six points per game prior to leaving.

In other words, Red Raider fans haven’t been accustomed to losing key pieces of the roster to the portal.  Outside of Edwards, McCullar, and Shannon, the most impactful player to leave Tech via transfer was Micah Peavy who averaged just 5.7 points per game as a true freshman in 2019-20 before transferring to TCU.

Think back to that decision by the Duncanville, Texas native.  There was no weeping nor was there any gnashing of teeth when he decided to head to a conference foe.  No one in scarlet and black was quick to decry the evils of the portal nor did very many consider Peavy to be a traitor.  And honestly, Edwards’ departure was met with similar levels of disinterest given his propensity for disappearing against top-notch teams.

But the decisions by Shannon and McCullar to leave Lubbock via the portal have brought about some surprising responses from Texas Tech fans, many of whom are now spouting off about how the portal is bad for college sports and a small percentage of whom even went to social media to directly criticize the players for their decisions.  It is in times like this that Tech fans would be wise to remember that the portal has been far more beneficial for Tech than it has been detrimental.

Think about the majority of the players that Tech has lost in the portal.  Names such as Vlad Goldin, Russell Tchewa, Khavon Moore, Nimari Burnett, Andrei Savrasov, Joel Ntambwe, Mylik Wilson, Avery Benson, Jamarius Burton, Tyreek Smith, Chibuzo Agbo, Jamarius Burton, Josh Mballa and Malik Ondigo were never destined to be revered as pillars of Texas Tech basketball.  Rather, they were all just bit players on recent rosters and their transfers were met with a collective “meh”.

What’s more, thus far, the only two players from that group to go on to have careers of any significance have been Burton and Mballa.  The former put up 12.4 points per game for Pitt this past season while the latter has averaged 12.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game over the last three seasons for Buffalo.

Now, stop to think about all the fantastic players Tech has brought in via the portal.  Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens were starters on the team that reached the 2019 NCAA Championship Game and both are still beloved in Lubbock.  Meanwhile, players such as Mac McClung, Bryson Williams, Kevin Obanor, Adonis Arms, Brandone Francis, T.J. Holyfield, Marcus Santos-Silva, and Davion Warren all made positive and significant impacts as transfers to Tech.

Thus, the question has to be asked: Would you trade Edwards, Shannon, and McCullar for the players listed in the previous paragraph?  Most certainly. Therefore, there’s no reason to spew venom toward the transfer portal if you are a Texas Tech basketball fan.

The truth is that no program in college athletics is immune from losing players via the portal.  That’s just the way of the modern landscape of the sport.

Baylor just saw starter Matthew Meyer enter the portal this week.  Last season, Duke saw guard Jordan Goldwire transfer to Oklahoma where he would go on to average 10.4 points per game.  On and on it goes and where the portal stops, no one knows but it’s a ride that Texas Tech fans had best become accustomed to.

Perhaps it would be wise to stop thinking of college hoops in terms of a collection of programs that are built and cultivated over the span of several years.  Instead, we might have to start thinking about the NCAA as a year-to-year proposition, especially in basketball where roster turnover and management are now arguably a coach’s most important jobs.  It is similar to what we see in the world of professional sports and few people seem to mind player movement at that level.  So why do we hate it so much at the college level?

Maybe it is because alums have a life-long connection to their schools; bonds that will never be broken.  And we want the athletes representing our schools to be as dedicated to our alma mater as we are.

But the days of the Andre Emmetts, Darvin Hams, Bubba Jennings, or Gerald Myers of the world sticking around a program for their entire college careers and steadily improving until they reach their peak as upperclassmen seem to be over.  Rather, this is the era of college sports speed dating where it is only about the upcoming season and not about the long term.

So embrace it Red Raider fans…or at least come to grips with it because the cows are already out of the barn and they don’t seem interested in coming back.  But just remember, we as Tech fans have no right to lament the loss of popular players via the portal given that our school was one of the first to adapt to the new landscape of the sport and has benefitted as much from the portal as any program in the nation.