The top scorer in the Southern Conference is headed to Georgia Tech.
The league's basketball freshman of the year is gone to Texas Christian — the third SoCon freshman of the year in a row to transfer out of the league. Keve Aluma, a starter on Wofford's SoCon championship team, is now a hot commodity on the transfer market.
In the Big South Conference, the third and fourth-leading scorers from last season are gone, including Charleston Southern's Christian Keeling to North Carolina.
Whatever the pros and cons are of the "transfer portal" and the relaxed rules regarding transfers adopted by the NCAA last summer, the effects on mid-major leagues such as the SoCon and Big South are glaring.
"It's a big talent drain," says Citadel coach Duggar Baucom. "And it's very frustrating as a coach. We've basically become like a farm system for bigger schools."
Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said the transfer portal "has become a real challenge for college coaches."
According to Watch Stadium's Jeff Goodman, more than 700 Division I players across the country have decided to transfer since the 2018-19 season began. The list of transferring players at verbalcommits.com includes 26 from the SoCon, 24 from the Colonial Athletic Association and 15 from the Big South.
“It’s the most transfers I’ve seen in my 19 years in coaching,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “Depending on the kid and the circumstances, it can be a good situation or a bad situation. It depends on which side you’re on.”
Players leaving the SoCon include VMI guard Bubba Parham, the league's No. 1 scorer who is bound for Georgia Tech, and freshman of the year Kevin Easley of Chattanooga, headed to TCU.
Parham, a sophomore, averaged 21.4 points per game for VMI, and showed off when he hit 10 3-pointers and scored 35 points against Kentucky. Unless granted a waiver, he'll have to sit a year at Georgia Tech before playing two seasons.
Easley averaged 14.2 points as a freshman at Chattanooga, and then immediately set sail for Texas Christian. He's the third SoCon freshman of the year in a row to transfer, joining The Citadel's Preston Parks and VMI's Parham. Parks transferred to Tennessee-Martin, and is back in the transfer portal, headed for his third school in three years.
Wofford's Aluma was a starter on the Terriers' NCAA Tournament team, averaging 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore. Now, he's in the portal and getting interest from North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Nevada, VCU, Houston and Rhode Island.
"That's the frustrating thing for coaches at our level," Baucom said. "We try to do our best in evaluating talent, and you find guys that fit your style and culture and can help your team.
"A lot of times, we are their only offers. We do a good job of evaluating them, the kids come and flourish and then we're left empty-handed when they leave."
In the Big South, High Point's 6-3 guard, Jahaad Proctor, was the No. 3 scorer in the Big South and has committed to Purdue as a grad-student transfer, the third college of his career. And North Carolina has added a second grad-student transfer to a class that already includes CSU's Keeling in shooting guard Justin Pierce of William & Mary, a CAA member.
Of course, the portal runs both ways. New Mercer coach Greg Gary just signed 6-9 forward Felipe Haase from South Carolina. Haase played two years for the Gamecocks and will have to sit out a season before playing for the Bears. And another SoCon school, Chattanooga, has a commitment from 6-8 Vanderbilt forward Matt Ryan, who will be at his third school in four years.
Charleston Southern's Radebaugh draws a line between graduate transfers such as Keeling and some other cases. Keeling played three seasons at CSU and will graduate in three years before moving on to North Carolina.
"He did it the right way," Radebaugh said.
But Radebaugh and Baucom both believe the transfer portal and the new transfer rules have made it too easy for players to bail on their schools, whatever the reason.
"It has taken away some of the value in relationships, and I'll tell you why," Radebaugh said. "You can go to the portal and fill out a form and press a button, and you're in. Part of growing into adulthood is having tough conversations; adults have tough conversations.
"One of the things we try to do in our program is communicate through face-to-face conversations, not through texts or e-mails. Being able to go to a transfer portal and press a button, and never involve your coach, is not healthy for college basketball."
Before transfer rules were relaxed, players had to ask for and receive a release from their coaches and schools. Sometimes, coaches blocked players from transferring, or restricted them from moving on to certain other programs.
The pendulum may have swung too far, The Citadel's Baucom said.
"We've made it so easy for the players," he said. "They don't have to approach their coach. They just go to compliance, and then you get an e-mail from compliance. It's a horrible precedent that's been set."
College of Charleston's Grant thinks the NCAA will act to slow the flood of transfers.
“I think they’ll tweak things here and there,” Grant said. “I don’t know if that will slow it down or not, but they’ll look at things and make some tweaks in the next few years.”
But in April, the NCAA Division I Council voted down a proposal that could have put the brakes on graduate transfers in football and basketball. The proposed rule would have required that such transfers count against a team's scholarship limit for two years instead of just one.
Radebaugh suggested that graduate students must earn their graduate degree from their new school, or that school's program should be penalized through the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate system.
"They have to graduate with their graduate degree, or the place where they transferred to gets docked an APR point," he said. "I would like also to see that there has to be conversation with a coach before there is an actual transfer."
Baucom also is in favor of a face-to-face conversation with a potential transfer, even if a player does not have to request a release.
"We're teaching kids they don't have to man up to their decisions and at least go face-to-face with their coach and explain the reasons," Baucom said. "We ought to be able to at least have a conversation and weigh the pros and cons. Now, all they hear is the noise from the outside world, and they don't even have to speak to their coach."
Radebaugh says coaches have to work harder than ever to keep their teams together.
"In this climate today, it falls back on the coaching staff," he said. "As of today here at Charleston Southern, for example, we have 11 of 11 who aren't graduating and are coming back. So our APR will be 1,000.
"That's of today, and I know how things can change in the summer, and I pray they don't. But we have a really unique and good group, and it has become imperative for coaching staffs across the country, and the head coach in particular, to have real, honest relationships with their players full of communication."
Baucom cited words of wisdom from his mother.
"The grass might be greener on the other side," he said. "But you still have to mow it."
Andrew Miller contributed to this story.