Texas Tech basketball: Red Raider fans should not fear the portal

Texas Tech's forward Robert Jennings (4) looks to pass the ball against West Virginia in a Big 12 basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at United Supermarkets Arena.
Texas Tech's forward Robert Jennings (4) looks to pass the ball against West Virginia in a Big 12 basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at United Supermarkets Arena. /

Unfortunately, Texas Tech basketball fans have found that this March, watching the NCAA transfer portal has been more intense than watching the NCAA Tournament.  Such is the reality for programs that choose to undergo a head coaching change after missing out on the sport’s marquee event.

But while it is natural to keep an eye on which players enter the portal, Red Raider fans should not fear this inevitable process.  In fact, the new version of college football free agency is exactly what this program needs in order to prevent another calamity in 2023-24.

One of the fears that spread throughout the fanbase in the days leading up to the firing of Mark Adams, a time period that included the four days in which Adams was suspended earlier this month, was that a massive exodus from the Texas Tech basketball team was impending.  It was rumored that, on the heels of the disastrous 2022-23 season, numerous players were set to throw their names in the portal and seek other opportunities.

What’s interesting, though, is that only three players from Tech have entered the portal to this point.  What’s more, only one of those was a player of true consequence this past season.

The first player to announce his entry into the portal, Fardaws Aimaq, revealed his intentions just hours after the Red Raiders’ season came to an end at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.  In fact, given that his social media announcement included a professional-looking graphic, it is safe to assume that Aimaq had already made up his mind long before the season ended.

Aimaq’s likely departure would be significant.  In his only season as a Red Raider after transferring in from Utah Valley, the 7-footer averaged 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game despite being far from 100% as a broken foot suffered prior to the season caused his conditioning and agility to suffer significantly.

Appearing in only 11 games this season, Aimaq should be commended for playing despite being far from full health and with the health struggles of fellow big man, Daniel Batcho, Aimaq became a starter for the Red Raiders.  When he played his best basketball, he helped improve Tech’s offensive efficiency with his ability to operate in the pick-and-roll and distribute the basketball from the high post.  What’s more, he managed to score in double figures in seven of his appearances in scarlet and black.

Centers with Aimaq’s skillset are not easy to find.  Thus, his assumed defection will have a noticeable impact on the program moving forward and will require the Red Raiders to find a way to find more productivity in the post this offseason.

However, the other two Red Raiders currently in the portal won’t be even noticeable in their absence.  In fact, it might be a blessing that they are looking to head for other ports of call.

Neither Robert Jennings nor K.J. Allen was a difference-maker in 2022-23.  Neither player managed to score more than three points per game and of the 12 scholarship players on this past season’s roster, Jennings and Allen played the fewest minutes per game with each seeing fewer than 10 minutes per appearance.

A freshman this past season, Jennings has some decent upside and if you squint hard enough, you can see him becoming an average college basketball player. But the reality is that he lacks the type of ball-handling and shooting skills that would be required for a 6-foot-7 player to be a true asset in the Big 12.

As for Allen, he also lacks any semblance of an outside shot nor can he create offense off the dribble.  Essentially, he’s got the game of a power forward but he’s trapped in a 6-foot-6 body.  While both Jennings and Allen are high-energy players who gave their all when called upon, neither is equipped to be a star in the Big 12.  Thus, their willingness to vacate their scholarships should be seen as wins for the Red Raiders.

In fact, how many players from this season’s roster would be considered truly devastating losses should they jump ship?  Not many.  Tech could easily replace the productivity of players such as D’Maurion Williams, Kerwin Walton, Lamar Washington, and Elijah Fisher.   While the potential is there for Washington and Fisher to develop into solid rotational pieces in their careers given the glimpses of quality each showed during their true freshman seasons, the reality is that none of the aforementioned players would devastate Tech hoops by leaving.

The players that would comprise the foundation of a Big 12 contender, Pop Isaacs, Jaylon Tyson, Daniel Batcho, and Georgia transfer KyeRon Lindsey (who sat out the spring semester at Tech after a mid-season transfer from Georgia) have given no indication yet that they are considering other schools.  In fact, Tyson said after the season-ending loss to West Virginia, that his intent is to “get Texas Tech back on the map”.

Ultimately, there should be no fear of the portal by Texas Tech fans.  In fact, if any school in America knows how that avenue can transform a program into a contender, it is good ole TTU.

Remember that just one year ago, a team featuring eight players who arrived via the portal, including Bryson Williams, Kevin Obanor, and Marcus Santos-Silva, reached the Sweet 16 in the first year under a new head coach.  Of course, the run to the 2019 National Title Game was fueled in large part by transfers Tariq Owens, Matt Mooney, and Brandone Francis as well.

This isn’t 2003 anymore when the defection of a prominent player would mean that a program would struggle to find someone to fill those shoes.  Rather, this is the modern NCAA where player movement is the new norm.  So while the fears of a wave of departures were understandable given the turmoil with this program’s leadership, the reality is that Tech fans should view the portal as an opportunity rather than as a death sentence.  In fact, if there was ever a team that needed a quick overhaul, it is Texas Tech because the portal is going to be the only way that the next head coach can build a contender right off the bat.