Keion Brooks Jr. may be on the transfer portal, but don’t ask him which schools are recruiting him. He does not know.
“I couldn’t even say who’s recruiting me or who’s contacting me because I let my parents handle everything,” Brooks told reporters Monday.
Brooks is one of six players at this year’s G League Elite Camp who are also on the transfer portal. A seventh, South Dakota State Guard, Baylor Scheierman, signed Creighton in the days leading up to camp. There are also three players who won NBA draft invites that are still on the portal. These players don’t just have to decide if they want to stay in the draft; they also need to decide where to play next season if they go back to college.
These basketball stars in limbo are the latest illustration of a new world in men’s college basketball, driven primarily by the one-time transfer exception that allows players who log into the portal by May 1 to be immediately eligible at their new schools. With the NCAA deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA draft and remain eligible no later than June 1, several players whose decisions could be made either way have put their names on the portal to keep all options open.
“It would be stupid of me to think that this process is going to happen exactly the way I want it to,” says Pete Nance, who joined the portal just before the deadline. “Literally, all options are on the table. … I wanted to protect myself and be able to make the best decision.”
Nance says he is “100% focused” on the recruitment process, so much so that he is labeled “do not contact” on the transfer portal and has no interest in talking to schools until he decides whether to turn pro this year. And while Nance says that hasn’t entirely stopped schools from trying to get in touch, fellow portal or draft AJ Green joked “smart!” when he learned of Nance’s plan to avoid distractions.
Of course, Green, the current Missouri Valley Player of the Year, would have less luck trying to stop the never-ending barrage of calls and texts from coaches. One of the top college coaches who recruited him: his father Kyle, an assistant at Iowa State.
“Sometimes he’s like, ‘We have a scholarship; if you know someone who can shoot and tag, let me know,’” says AJ Green.
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Being recruited at the highest level can sometimes feel like a full-time job, with constant Zoom calls, FaceTimes and texts from teams in need. And any player good enough to be on the sidelines of the NBA drafts is a potential game-changer at the college level, so it’s no surprise that players’ phones are exploding. But with Elite Camp and the combination essentially serving as an interview for these players’ dream jobs, there’s not a lot of time to focus on the portal. That’s why Nance is saving all potential conversations with college suitors until June and Brooks is letting her parents handle the NCAA coaches they come in contact with. Green has been open with trainers he felt didn’t fit what he was looking for from the start and says he’s only considering two portal options: Iowa State and Duke. And aside from a few jokes from his father, the guard says the teams are understanding his desire to focus on the draft first.
“It wasn’t too bad. I’ve told the teams that I know it’s their job to reach out, call, develop that relationship with me and I understand that, just so we’re on the same page,” says Green.
The distraction of the drafting process is a big reason why Scheierman decided to commit to college for next year before Elite Camp, even though he’s still working on improving his draft stash and turning pro this year. Despite being one of the most coveted transfers in the portal’s history, Scheierman made his decision just eight days after entering his name, choosing Creighton after receiving calls from virtually every blue-blood program in the sport.
“I’m trying to do my best now and ultimately trying to stay in the draft,” says Scheierman. “Obviously, if I have to go back to school, I have to go back to school, but I wanted this to be over before this week so I could fully focus on it.”
Scheierman relied heavily on his agent, Austin Walton of NEXT Sports, to handle the day-to-day of his transfer recruiting, allowing the 6’6″ guard to focus on training for the draft.
“It would definitely have been a lot crazier. [without an agent], I’m not going to lie,” says Scheierman. “It was a lot anyway.”
How many of those portal or draft prospects actually fit back into college basketball will likely be decided by how each player performs this week. But with lucrative NIL deals that can, in some cases, equal or exceed a player’s potential earnings and the one-time transfer exception that’s seemingly here to stay, living in limbo could become the new normal for players on the fringes of NBA life. .
“I wanted to be totally focused on [the draft] because that’s my dream and that’s when I think I’m ready, but at the same time, when June 1st comes around and it’s not where I want to be and I don’t have the biggest momentum, [college] is a great option to fall back on,” says Nance.
More college basketball coverage:
• Within the ups and downs of the Transfer Portal
• The Tale of Cautious Transfer by Josiah Jeffers
• Stay or go decisions that will shape the NCAA season