By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
College basketball is always evolving and teams have to evolve with it.
First, it was the rise of the one-and-done. Now, the addition of the transfer portal has created a brand new dynamic in the NCAA. Graduate transfers are finding new homes on powerhouse teams and spurned recruits are also seeking playing time at other universities.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey has had to learn how to adjust to all the transfer portal brings, even if she was initially skeptical.
“When we took Chloe Jackson [in 2018] that was a positive,” Mulkey said. “It opened my eyes that transferring is here to stay and a grad transfer is more mature, has more experience, and they’re not usually transferring because they were a problem at the previous institution.”
Jackson was indeed a positive for the Bears, averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game in her lone season in Waco. The following season would see Jackson depart for the WNBA, where she now plays for the Chicago Sky.
In her place were two more grad transfers, Te’a Cooper and Erin DeGrate, who were both integral parts of Baylor’s 2019-20 team. Cooper has since gone on to a successful career in the WNBA. The success brought on those transfers opened Mulkey’s eyes to a whole new world of possibility.
“I was open to it after Chloe Jackson and of course Cooper, and now DiJonai [Carrington],” Mulkey said. “The transfer portal’s changed all of our lives. It’s like sitting there looking at free agency.”
Mulkey and Baylor have certainly taken advantage of the changes brought on by the portal, as the team now has three transfers on the roster: Carrington, Kamaria McDaniel and Jaden Owens. McDaniel and Owens will have to sit out this season, as per NCAA transfer rules, but Carrington is set to play a big role within the team.
“[I’m] just doing whatever we need. Whatever that is each night is gonna be different,” Carrington said. “I think we’re going to have to make up a lot of points on offense and this team is always good on defense, so that’s just something that I’m trying to help us continue to do well.”
Carrington comes to Baylor by way of Stanford, where she averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in her last full season with the Cardinals. While players like Carrington have been able to benefit Baylor, Mulkey knows that the transfer portal isn’t just for the Bears.
“Every day somebody new is in the transfer portal, and you’re going to see a lot of elite programs take transfers because of numbers, because of experience,” Mulkey said. “I was talking to someone the other day, and if you go back to Pat Summitt’s early career, go look at how many transfers she took … but now it’s totally different.”
In recent years, athletes have been allowed to receive waivers from the NCAA that clear them to participate in their sport without sitting out the usual one season of play. Those waivers have made high-end transfers an even hotter commodity, as programs can push to have their transfers made eligible immediately.
Despite the harsh reality of Baylor players potentially transferring out of the program, the Bears haven’t had much of an issue with that to this point. Guard Alexis Morris was Baylor’s last high-profile transfer, as she left the team after a strong freshman season.
“You have to adjust and adapt to rules and I hope that I’m able to do that with the understanding that it can be a good thing,” Mulkey said. “We’re going to have transfers come in. We’re gonna have transfers out. That’s just the way it is right now.”