East Carolina has been affected by the ebb and flow of talent in the transfer portal since the NCAA ruled that student-athletes can have immediate eligibility the first time they switch schools.
Pirates baseball coach Cliff Godwin said the new regulation is not “real life,” allowing athletes to seek greener pastures rather than adjust to circumstances at their first program.
ECU basketball lost Jayden Gardner to Virginia for his senior year after Gardner earned All-American Athletic Conference first-team honors as a junior. Gardner didn’t jump the fence by himself. Bitumba Baruti, Charles Coleman, Edra Luster, Miles James and Noah Farrakhan also exited after the COVID-complicated 2020-21 season.
The wanderlust certainly has not been limited to the Pirates. ECU coach Joe Dooley noted recently that 25 percent of the scoring in Division I basketball last season had entered the transfer portal.
Dooley announced the completion of a signing class on Wednesday that included three transfers from major programs. The trio has some solid numbers.
Vance Jackson Jr. is slightly bigger than Gardner at 6-9 and 240 pounds. He went over 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career last year at Arkansas. He made the All-AAC Rookie unit at Connecticut before averaging 12.2 points in two seasons at New Mexico, hitting 33.6 percent behind the arc.
The well-traveled Jackson emerged from the portal along with another big, Alanzo Frink, a 6-8, 265-pound forward, who played the past three seasons at South Carolina. He played in 57 games with the Gamecocks, averaging 4.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 12.2 minutes per game. As a sophomore in 2019-20, Frink saw action in 30 games with 12 starts, putting up 5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 14.3 minutes per contest.
Guard Wynston Tabbs will be coming to Greenville from Boston College, where injuries and protocols limited his time with the Eagles. He was averaging 13.9 points as freshman before an injury cost him the final 14 games of the 2018-19 season as well as the entire 2019-20 campaign.
Tabbs returned last year and averaged 13.3 points in 12 games. That span was highlighted by a 24-point effort against Minnesota and a 23-point performance against St. John’s. Tabbs shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc last season.
“Vance and Wynston are both proven scorers and have both played well at a high level,” Dooley said. “They’re each very mature with strong work ethics and have the ability to shoot the basketball. They’ll both add a lot from a scoring standpoint.
“Alanzo has obviously also played at a high level in the SEC,” Dooley continued. “He’s a physical player with a strong body who is a really good passer. He’s got a very high basketball IQ and he’s proven to be a guy that we can throw the ball to in the post to score.”
J.J. Miles was the Pirates’ second leading scorer last season at 9.8 points per game and did not jump ship.
Perhaps Miles was wise to look before he leaped. Gardner averaged 13.5 shots per game at ECU last season. Virginia’s top scorer last season, Sam Hauser, averaged 11.7 shots per game. Gardner should hope to get enough looks with the Cavaliers to successfully market himself for the next level.
ECU’s biggest losses in football were not to the portal but to the NFL draft as receiver Blake Proehl, kicker Jake Verity and offensive lineman D’Ante Smith departed with eligibility remaining.
Coach Mike Houston and staff may have accumulated more assets than liabilities in relation to the newfound frequency of transfers.
The portal has produced 11 new Pirates including inside linebacker Wistar Allen (Richmond), safety D.J. Ford (North Carolina), tight end Aaron Jarman (Temple), inside linebacker/receiver Ryan Jones (Oklahoma), safety Devon King (Marshall), wide receiver Jhari Patterson (Marshall), edge rusher Jasiyah Robinson (Michigan State), wide receiver Ray Rose (North Carolina), wide receiver Tyree Saunders (Virginia Tech), offensive tackle Rob Van Der Laan (Oregon State) and running back G’Mone Wilson (Marshall).
Former coach Scottie Montgomery invested in several graduate transfers, including quarterback Thomas Sirk from Duke, in 2017 without transfiguring results. The difference with the current crop of transfers is that the have multiple years to develop at ECU.
The three newcomers from Marshall will return to Huntington, WV, on Sept. 18, when the Pirates take on the Thundering Herd.
“It’s certainly going to change the landscape of college football pretty drastically,” Houston said earlier this year regarding the ease with which players can change addresses.
The landscape certainly has changed in recent months, but the Pirates appear to be adjusting effectively with the times.