Mike Woodson leaned on his NBA experience when evaluating and recruiting transfer portal targets for IU basketball – The Daily Hoosier

The Indiana men's basketball team had a busy offseason in the transfer portal.

The Hoosiers had to rebuild about half their roster due to a large group of departures through graduation and transfers. And they've succeeded, bringing in the second-best transfer portal class in the country according to 247Sports. That group includes the top player in this year's transfer portal, big man Oumar Ballo, long-range shooters Kanaan Carlyle and Luke Goode, playmaker Myles Rice and frontcourt backup Langdon Hatton. IU still has one scholarship open, but it's unclear if and how it might be used.

Indiana has had success in the transfer portal under Woodson in recent years. Kel'el Ware transferred last season and is now a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. But IU left some holes open after failing to acquire some key players they had been linked to. The roster rebuild this season looks more robust.

“We had no choice. We had guys leave. We had guys graduate. This is the new norm now, folks,” head coach Mike Woodson said at IU's annual event at Huber Winery and Vineyards. “This isn't like the days of Bob Knight, when you could build your team over three, four years and trust the process. Our process changes every year now because you don't know who's coming and who's going. And it's been a busy summer because we've had to fill a lot of gaps based on who's leaving and who's graduating.”

Woodson then explained the process he and his team go through when evaluating players in the transfer portal.

He has shown his skill at short-term recruiting in the past, using late turndowns to bring Malik Reneau and Mackenzie Mgbako to Bloomington in consecutive offseasons. That ties into what Woodson is more familiar with: NBA free agency.

He sees the transfer portal in a similar way.

“We sat down at the end (of the season) … I approached it the same way I did when I was back in the NBA. I let our guys list the 10 best players at their position. Then I decide who I want to get. And if it's the best player, we have to go for it. Because then all they can do is tell us no.”

Ballo is the top player Woodson was alluding to, saying Indiana committed as quickly as possible when he and his staff heard rumors that the former Arizona center might enter the portal and continued that recruitment when he officially entered the portal.

This type of recruiting is different from the traditional recruiting of high school players at IU – and everyone else in college basketball. The Hoosiers are still in the mix with top players from the class of 2025, Trent Sisley, Malachi Moreno and Braylon Mullins, as well as other top prospects from that class. But he acknowledged there's only so much he can do while those high school kids weigh their options.

“We have to keep recruiting them. I'm not going to stop recruiting them. I think they're talented enough to help us here in the future. So we're still knocking on their doors, we're still going to AAU games and I'm constantly on the phone contacting them because we'd love to see them here in state. But again, it's up to these guys. They've been offered the scholarship. I don't know what else we can do. We could keep hammering and saying, 'We want you in uniform,' 'Come visit us,' 'Can we come visit you?' and they still tell us no,” Woodson said. “These guys have that opportunity (to wear an IU uniform) because I've offered them scholarships and I want them here. I just have to keep recruiting them. I can't stop.”

Woodson and his staff didn't change the way they recruited through the transfer portal this year compared to previous offseasons. But he said it felt more open this year, perhaps due to the increasing number of players in the portal and the number of scholarships Indiana had available.

Whatever the root cause was, or whatever subtle adjustments IU made to actually introduce itself to players in the portal, it has allowed the Hoosiers to assemble a more complete roster than last season.

Woodson, like many college coaches, would ideally prefer to build his team from high school players who will stay and develop for multiple years. He may not want to bring in three, four or five new players from the transfer portal, as he has done over the past few offseasons. But he knows that's the reality of the current college sports landscape.

“It is what it is. You just don't know. I would love to build a team with high school kids that will stay with me for four years. But those days are over,” Woodson said. “You get a player who is unhappy and says, 'Hey, I want more minutes.' I try to put together a team where you don't have to worry about minutes. It has to be about the team and you have to be committed to the team because then everything else falls into place.”

Complete coverage of IU basketball can be found HERE.

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