When then UTEP men’s basketball head coach Tim Floyd held an impromptu press conference in the summer of 2016, he addressed his frustration with the growing number of players in the NCAA transfer portal.
He had lost a pair of players to the portal in a matter of hours and was unhappy with how easy it was for them to leave a college program. That year, 800 players entered the portal with intentions to move to another Division 1 college basketball program.
Five years later, that number continues to grow. More than 1,040 players had entered the portal as of March 30 – shattering the old record of 1,026 players in the portal in 2020.
The Miners recently lost a pair of players to the portal: Backup point guard Vuk Vuliki, the 6-foot-4 21-year-old freshman from Serbia, who most likely wants to find a school where he can get more playing time; and Efe Odigie, the junior forward was once named to the Conference USA All Freshman Team after becoming the first Miner to average a double figure in rebounds since 1981-82.
Miner fans dreamed that Odigie could turn into the best big man UTEP had seen since the days of Vince Hunter, John Bohannon and Derick Caracter.
Instead, he was not able to crack the starting lineup the last two years, and he lost minutes first to Eric Vila and later to Tydus Verhoeven.
When he did play, Odigie struggled at times to use his new leaner frame to position himself under the basket like he did as a freshman. He still scored in short bursts of playing time – something the Miners lacked from their low-post players.
UTEP head coach Rodney Terry received a verbal commitment from Keith Fisher III, who sat out the past season after playing for Illinois State in 2019-20.
Prior to the Cardinals, Fisher played one season at San Jose State. In 2019-20, he averaged 9.6 points and six rebounds per game with the Cardinals. The addition of Fisher could have been a signal to Odigie that his minutes would again be hard to get next season.
After the Miners lost to Florida Atlantic in the C-USA Tournament, Terry stressed continuity heading into the offseason.
So far, UTEP’s top seven players from last season are still on the roster. It is possible that Bryson Williams returns to play for the extra year that the NCAA granted each player due to COVID.
If that happens, then the Miners could have nearly everyone back for next season, as well as Fisher and a combo guard to replace Vuliki.
Since the transfer portal is so large, Terry should have plenty of options to find replacement players. At the same time, it is imperative that the coaching staff re-recruit every player on the roster in order to keep them from leaving, too. One thing UTEP has lacked over the first three seasons for Terry has been continuity. That might change this time around.
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at email@example.com.