Has the Transfer Portal Slapped the Sanctity of College Basketball.. or Saved it?

Kel'el Ware, Indiana Men's Basketball
Kel'el Ware, Indiana Men's Basketball / David Berding/GettyImages
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Kel'el Ware
Kel'el Ware, Indiana Men's Basketball / Soobum Im/GettyImages

After a monster high school career was culminated by a stellar showing at the 2022 McDonald's All-American game, the 5-star big man committed to play for Dana Altman at the University of Oregon. With all of the hype surrounding Ware's arrival, it was more or less a foregone conclusion that he would be a crucial cog in the Ducks' rotation.

Unfortunately, the 7-footer from Arkansas was never able to find his footing in Eugene. He started just 4 of the team's 35 games in 2022-2023, and amassed a minuscule 15.8 MPG average. Despite flashing sporadic signs of brilliance, Ware could never quite crack the code to Altman's circle of trust.

Luckily for him, the presence of the portal provided him a chance to make a change. Luckily for Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosiers, the winds of change blew him straight to Bloomington.

And it was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Kel'el Ware
Kel'el Ware, Indiana Men's Basketball / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Once upon a time, Ware was strongly scrutinized for his lack of motor and overall passion for the game. That time was roughly a year ago, but after the season he had at Indiana it seems like ages ago. It was his duty to prove his doubters wrong, and he clearly understood his assignment. Not only did he pass his test, but he flat out aced it. Now, the guy who once "looked bored at times on the court" looks like a lock to hear his name called in the 1st round of the 2024 NBA draft.

Could he have replicated his sophomore success had he returned to Oregon? Possibly. However, it was obvious that he simply did not trust the program. Then Mike Woodson came calling with sales pitches disguised as wise words of wisdom, and obviously Ware liked what he heard. So he entrusted Woody to help him resurrect his reputation, and his trust was rewarded.

Would Ware's resurgence have been possible were it not for the ongoing progressions within the realm of the transfer portal? There is no surefire way of deciphering that answer, but there is no denying how this example reflects the most bold, underlying premise connected to the evolution of college basketball:

This game is now a business, and these young adults now have much more control of their lives. Say what you want about the pros and the cons, but as human beings you have to at least admire that aspect of it.