Photo credit: Sam Roberts, Freeze Frame
The portal giveth and taketh
Today it stripped away the core of Charlotte’s Men’s Basketball team from Ron Sanchez and company. First, Aly Khalifa entered the transfer portal, and later in the morning Brice Williams did the same. Williams was 2nd team all-Conference USA, while Khalifa was an honorable mention (and the Freshman of the year last season). Both entries into the portal were released first by Verbal Commits on Twitter, a must follow.
Undoubtedly Brice and Aly were core foundation pieces of the moving forward, and now Ron Sanchez and company will have to turn to the portal to replace his top players, again. After last season Jahmir Young entered the portal, ultimately returning home to Maryland, and making the NCAA tournament this season.
Brice Williams was Charlotte’s go-to scorer this season, while Aly Khalifa facilitated Charlotte’s offense while he was on the court and provided a unique skill-set for someone his size. Both will assuredly be in high-demand and likely end up a program’s that have been performing at higher levels than Charlotte has recently. You can argue who will be tougher to replace, but either way, losing both players is a massive hit to the program.
These losses sting, even more so after Charlotte played in a pay-to-play event, the College Basketball Invitational where the Niners went 4-0 and brought home a trophy. Many viewed this event as a way to develop more chemistry and allow Ron Sanchez the opportunity to further develop his players, preparing the core to take a leap forward next season in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Now Charlotte has suffered major losses to the portal and could conceivably lose more pieces to the portal before things settle down.
The portal is a way of life for programs across the all sports, but losing your top players in back-to-back seasons is a worrisome sign for Charlotte faithful. Patience has been preached by the administration and staff in an effort to give Ron Sanchez time to get the program out of the basement of C-USA. Sanchez has achieved that, but with the trend of losing of top-end talent and a complicated system that takes time to learn and execute, it still leaves fans with a myriad of questions as they move up a weight-level into the AAC this fall.
The roster will have Igor Milicic Jr, Rich Rolf and Nick Richart as players with size. While Milicic is 6’10, he’s an outside player who doesn’t have the physical tools to bang down low. Rich Rolf redshirted this season so it remains to be seen what he can bring to the table, and Richart is a 6’10 big man coming in from the high school ranks. Given the situation in the front court, Charlotte likely needs to add two big men for next season.
With Robert Braswell returning after missing most of this season due to injury, I can see him absorbing some of Brice’s minutes, as well as a potential return of Musa Jallow (likely needs a medical waiver), though it’s hard to count on contributions from Jallow due to his injury history.
There’s much work to be done on the roster front over the upcoming weeks, they need to replace 3 starters (Wiliams, Khalifa and Mon’tre Gipson). Stay tuned for updates as Charlotte is connected with more players in the portal as we move forward into the spring, and potentially more departures.