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Portal Madness: What’s Next for Cooley & The Gang After the Easter Splash?

Georgetown Introduces Ed Cooley Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Ed Cooley has ridden a wave of excitement through his first month as the new Hoyas’ men’s basketball coach. He started his tenure with a scintillating first day as a Hoya, immediately winning over a fan base that has been downtrodden for far too long. Still, he faces the daunting task of rebuilding a bare roster, and the best way to do that in the modern game is through the transfer portal.

With the news on Easter night that Georgetown has secured commitments from Dontrez Style and Jayden Epps, Cooley’s efforts in the portal are off to an exciting start.

What can these commitments, along with Cooley’s history in the portal, tell us about his approach to roster-building? Let’s take a look.

How Has Cooley Approached the Transfer Portal?

Cooley has used the transfer portal frequently and successfully in recent year. Here’s a look at his transfer recruits over his last four years at Providence:

- Jared Bynum (St. Joe’s, sat one year)

- Noah Horchler (North Florida, sat one year)

- Luwane Pipkins (UMass, grad transfer)

- Brycen Goodine (Syracuse, received waiver to play immediately)

- Ed Croswell (La Salle, received waiver to play immediately)

*Immediate Transfers Approved by the NCAA*

- Al Durham (Indiana, grad transfer)

- Justin Minaya (South Carolina, grad transfer)

- Devin Carter (South Carolina, immediately eligible)

- Bryce Hopkins (Kentucky, immediately eligible)

- Corey Floyd Jr. (UConn, immediately eligible)

- Noah Locke (Louisville, grad transfer)

- Clifton Moore (La Salle)

We can learn several lessons from Cooley’s history in the portal. Cooley’s transfer recruits largely fall into three categories:

Mid-Major Stars Moving Up a Level (Bynum, Horchler)

One of the most obvious functions of the transfer portal is that it allows players to seek a move up to a higher-level conference. This type of transfer was prevalent even before transfers could play immediately, and Bynum and Horchler were willing to sit a year in order to move up to the Big East. Both were successful multi-year players for Providence.

Solid Veteran Role Players (Pipkins, Croswell, Durham, Minaya, Locke, Moore)

This seems to be Cooley’s bread and butter in the transfer portal, as each of these players played significant roles in Providence’s success over the past few years. Veteran transfers bring experience and often provide relative certainty in their performance, which is hugely valuable in the world of uncertainty that is college basketball.

Young Players Seeking Bigger Roles (Goodine, Hopkins, Floyd, Carter)

This category is made up of former top-100 prospects who didn’t find the role they were looking for at their first stops. It seems to be a boom-or-bust category, as Carter and Hopkins were PC’s two leading scorers this season, while Goodine and Floyd have failed to earn playing time at Providence thus far (Floyd will return for the 2023-24 season).

Not every five-star that shows up at a blue blood is going to get the minutes they hope for. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a second chance, and so far Cooley has been more than willing to give them that chance.

Key Takeaways:

The first takeaway here is that Cooley is an adept operator in the transfer portal, bringing in players from a variety of situations to fill different roles for his squad. He’s proven to be quickly adaptable in the changing NCAA climate, and has had success with rosters that included multiple transfers playing significant roles.

The Young Players Seeking Bigger Roles category jumps off the page here, as Bryce Hopkins and Devin Carter’s success last season demonstrated the significant multi-year potential of targeting players in this category. The NCAA’s apparent focus on restricting second-time transfers adds another advantage to this category, as players are disincentivized from transferring a second time, meaning transfers may actually be a more reliable source of multi-year production than freshman recruits.

Interestingly, though, Cooley has yet to bring in a Mid-Major Star Moving Up a Level since the advent of the free transfer, instead preferring to bring in transfers from high-major schools.

Cooley’s 2022-23 Providence team also demonstrated his ability to rebuild a roster nearly from scratch, as five of his six leading scorers from 2021-22 departed prior to this season. Rebuilding Georgetown’s depleted roster will be an even larger challenge, as the Hoyas only have six players remaining on their projected roster. But Cooley is as good a candidate as any to rebuild a roster through the transfer portal.

The 2023-24 Portal:

Now, how could Cooley’s history at Providence influence his approach at Georgetown? Let’s start by taking a look at Georgetown’s confirmed targets in the 2023-24 portal:

C - Kadin Shedrick – UVA

C – Jason Jitoboh - Florida

F - Zach Hicks – Temple

F - Graham Ike - Wyoming

F - Dontrez Styles - UNC – Georgetown commit

F - Darren Buchanan - VTech

F - Jalen DeLoach - VCU

G - Jayden Epps - Illinois – Georgetown commit

G - AJ Storr - St John’s

G - DJ Horne - ASU

G - Hunter Sallis - Gonzaga

G - Chance McMillan - Grand Canyon

G - Zach Austin - High Point

G - Keyshawn Hall - UNLV

G - Javian McCollum - Siena

G - Aaron Estrada - Hofstra

G - RJ Luis – Umass

G - Bobby Pettiford - Kansas

Unsurprisingly, these transfers largely fall into the three categories that Cooley has targeted:

- Mid-Major Stars Moving Up a Level: Ike, Hicks, McMillian, Austin, McCollum, Estrada, Luis

- Solid Veteran Role Players: Shedrick, Jitoboh, DeLoach, Horne, Hall

- Young Players Seeking Bigger Roles: Styles, Buchanan, Epps, Storr, Sallis, Pettiford

Again, the Young Players Seeking Bigger Roles category jumps off the page, as Styles and Epps, Cooley’s first two transfer commits, fit in here. Epps’ recruitment has a lot of parallels with Devin Carter’s, as both were top 100 combo guard recruits out of high school who played significant roles at high major schools in their freshman seasons, but transferred to pursue a more guaranteed starting spot.

Styles, meanwhile, again demonstrate Cooley’s willingness to give new opportunities to talented players who failed to crack crowded blue-blood rotations. In my view, these are good gambles – immediate production is not guaranteed with these players, but they do offer high upside and the potential for significant multi-year production.

I would also expect Cooley to add multiple players in the Solid Veteran Role Player category, whether they appear on this page or not. This has been Cooley’s focus in the era of the immediately eligible transfer, and that becomes even more true on a barren roster in desperate need of veteran experience.

How Can Cooley Adjust his Approach at his New Job?

While Cooley is likely to use many of the same recruiting principles that he’s used historically, he may tweak his approach to fit his new program.

The first adjustment he may consider is to increase Georgetown’s focus on bringing players from the DMV back to their home area. In the modern era, more teams have focused on recruiting nationally, meaning that the Hoyas have a tremendous amount of competition for local high school recruits. However, for players whose first situation doesn’t work out, returning closer to home may present renewed appeal.

In addition, though Providence fans will not like to hear it, Cooley may be able to leverage Georgetown’s resources and history to aim higher in the portal and target some of the bigger names in the portal.

This is where I will finally mention the name at the top of many Hoyas’ fans minds right now: Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson doesn’t fit into any of my three categories of Cooley transfers, but he does fall into both of my potential new buckets: DMV Recruits Returning Home, and Top Tier Transfers.

These are the two new categories that I think Cooley may look to target as he aims to kick things off on the Hilltop. Dickinson in particular would represent a huge coup for Cooley in several ways – beyond the obvious benefits of bringing in a superstar, he could also attract more talent to play with him, bring more eyes to the program, and help stabilize a roster that is very much in flux.

Beyond Dickinson, though, keep an eye on Cooley’s local efforts and whether he takes aim at any more top-tier transfers. Locally, it’ll be important to watch whether Cooley aims to bolster connections with any particular local AAU or high school programs. Ivan Thomas, one of Cooley’s assistants, previously worked with Boo Williams, one of the top DMV-based AAU programs. Not coincidentally, Jayden Epps is a Boo Williams alumnus.

Boo Williams is the obvious connection on Cooley’s staff, but it’ll be interesting to watch if the new Hoyas’ staff aims to build relationships with any other local programs. As Cooley’s full staff isn’t finalized yet, this is a dynamic to watch as he fills out the last few spots – will any potential new hires bring connections to other local programs?

Ed Cooley’s rebuild of the Georgetown program won’t happen overnight. But his first 60 days will tell us a great deal about his approach to roster building, and could provide a window into his vision for success on the Hilltop.