The transfer portal and NIL continue to transform college athletics, creating new challenges for coaching staffs as they try to keep their rosters together year to year. It’s pretty much a given at this point that you’re going to lose players, one way or the other, as athletes now hold all the power to move freely to another situation if they choose.
Tennessee has lost four players to the portal this season, but really just one of true significance. Former five-star power forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield opted to enter the portal after just one season in Knoxville, despite having a significant role lined up for next season.
Rick Barnes wasn’t surprised with his decision.
“We wish Brandon the best,” Barnes said this week at a Big Orange Caravan stop. “We really do. We worked really, really hard as a staff with every player, not just Brandon. But that’s where we are today. If players feel like, whatever they’re looking for, they can get it elsewhere, they’re going to do it.”
It was a bumpy start for Huntley-Hatfield. As a five-star prospect, you probably expect to make an instant impact. That didn’t happen in the first couple of months of the season. It was only after Olivier Nkamhoua suffered a season-ending injury that BHH came on and became a starter. He flashed on the floor a time or two, but still failed to become a consistent part of the offense.
Even with John Fulkerson moving out of the picture and a top three spot in the frontcourt essentially guaranteed, Huntley-Hatfield chose to move on.
Tennessee now has a guard spot and a frontcourt spot in the rotation to fill. Barnes has been working the transfer portal, while also circling back to the high school ranks to fill those needs. The Volunteers currently have four open spots on the roster.
“The most important thing, and we’ve said this and will always stick to it, we think we have a great situation,” Barnes said. “We think we have a great program, a great university and the best fanbase in the country. And there’s a lot of people that want to play at the University of Tennessee.”