MISSOULA — This time of year in college basketball is full of movement.
The creation of the NCAA transfer portal in 2018 made finding a new spot a bit more streamlined. Plus the passing of new rules helped.
Gone are the days when transfers had to sit out immediately now that the NCAA is one year removed from passing legislation that allowed all college athletes a one-time transfer without penalty of sitting out a season.
When it comes to the Big Sky Conference, as of a Monday afternoon count of the verbalcommits.com transfer list, there are 46 players from the league who have dipped their toes into the transfer portal pool. The Big Sky makes up a measly 3% of the 1,300-plus names in the transfer portal.
Northern Arizona and Idaho have the most at seven, followed by Eastern Washington and Idaho State at six each; Montana at five; Portland State, Montana State and Sacramento State all at four; and Weber State and Northern Colorado have the least at two each.
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So, let’s take a deeper dive into some of the notable outs and ins from the Big Sky:
Let’s start off with the Montana Grizzlies. Just one of the five out-going Montana men’s basketball players from last season’s team has found a new home. Given we are just a month out from the season that shouldn’t be a major surprise.
Kyle Owens, who put his name into the transfer portal March 14, announced on April 11 he will play for UC Riverside next season.
As of publication, Robby Beasley III, Cameron Parker, Freddy Brown III and Jack Wetzel have not publicly announced their next stops. Technically, players who have entered their names into the transfer portal can return to their original schools, but it seems unlikely any of the Grizzlies in the portal would opt to do that.
Unlike this time last season, which saw a swath of all-league players leave — Tanner Groves, Kim Aiken Jr., Jacob Davison and Cameron Shelton, to name a few — the most notable players who are leaving the league are arguably Owens, Beasley, Kur Jongkuch (graduate transfer, Northern Colorado) and Idaho guard Trevante Anderson, who finished second on the Vandals in scoring and 11th in the league at 14.4 points per game.
Just about all the major stars and all-league players who had eligibility remaining are still with their teams. In fact, the biggest departure isn’t even a transfer and technically isn’t a full departure — at least not yet.
Northern Colorado star guard Daylen Kountz, the Big Sky scoring champ last season, who averaged a blistering 21.2 points on 51% field-goal shooting, announced on Twitter in early April he is testing the NBA Draft waters but is retaining his college eligibility.
Montana has filled its outgoing spots with two transfers — both forwards — in Dischon Thomas (formerly Colorado State) and Laolu Oke (formerly MSU Colorado), who is the most recent to commit announcing his transfer last Friday.
Perhaps the team making the splashiest of news early in the offseason is Sacramento State.
The Hornets brought in a new head coach, announcing David Patrick as the skipper on April 5. He comes to the Big Sky with years of college and pro basketball experience — 17 years to be exact — as he replaces one-year interim coach Brandon Laird, who replaced longtime head coach Brian Katz.
Patrick has landed three splashy additions in his short time with a program that has finished with a winning league record since 2016-17. Sac State added some beef with 7-foot, 1-inch, 295-pound center Callum McRae (formerly UC Riverside), athleticism with 6-9 forward Hunter Marks (Hartford) and Pac-12 experience with former Oregon State point guard Gianni Hunt.
Reigning Big Sky regular season and tournament champ Montana State bolstered its backcourt with the addition of former Cal State Northridge guard Darius Brown II, who will get to Bozeman with two years of eligibility left after he medically redshirted last season due to a tibial plateau fracture.
Northern Arizona landed former South Dakota guard Xavier Fuller, who played his high school basketball for current NAU coach Shane Burcar at Mesa High School in Arizona. NAU also brought in former Arizona Wildcat, and son of UA head coach Tommy Lloyd, Liam Lloyd.
Ten players have joined the Big Sky has transfers so far.
While the offseason still has plenty of time to change things, the 46 outgoing Big Sky transfers is lower than last year’s total mark of 55, but is already higher than the 2020 and ’19 totals of 41 and 35 players to enter their names into the portal.
Montana lost three players to the portal in ’19, ’20 and ’21, and now in ’22 five, its highest since the portal was created. Comparatively, UM rival Montana State has lost two in ’19, five in ’20, five in ’21 and so far four this cycle.