Transfer portal complicates next season for Rams

Fred Jeter | 4/4/2024, 6 p.m.
With the calendar spinning toward the 2024-25 season, what now for VCU hoops?
With an almost completely rebuilt lineup from the previous season, Rams go 24-14 and reach NIT quarterfinals under first-year Coach Ryan Odom.

With the calendar spinning toward the 2024-25 season, what now for VCU hoops?

In the “old days,” it was easy … three or four seniors moved on, three or four freshmen moved in and the beat went on.

It’s not so simple anymore. The lenient NCAA transfer portal, allowing for multiple transfers with no penalty, and the Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) revenue has flipped the script.

Another complicating factor is the fifth season of eligibility the NCAA granted for anyone playing in 2020-21 during COVID-19 restrictions.

Free agency abounds: Already, more than 1,000 Division I players have placed their names in the portal as possible transfers. Hundreds likely will follow before the May 1 deadline. Athletes can officially change schools right up

to fall enrollment.

It’s likely VCU won’t be immune to the comings and goings that have radically changed the sport.


Coach Odom

Salty tears in Utah: First-year Coach Ryan Odom guided the Rams to a 24-14 overall record that included a trip to the A-10 finals, and two NIT road wins before a 74-54 loss against Utah in Salt Lake City.

Starting over: Due to a mass exodus the season before fueled by Coach Mike Rhoades leaving for Penn State, Coach Odom began this season with only 9% of the scoring and 12% of the minutes logged from the previous season.

VCU had six seniors on this year’s roster, but just three, Kuany Kuany, Sean Bairstow and Max Shulga, were honored on Senior Night. Shulga is eligible to return.

Joe Bamisile, who is now playing for his fourth college) is likely to return. Zeb Jackson, having played four seasons at Michigan and VCU combined, also has the option to return along with Connor Odom, the coach’s walk-on son.

Comings and goings: Common sense would suggest Shulga (14.0 points per game), Bamisile (13.1) and Jackson (11.4) would have the black-and-gold carpet laid out for their return. But this is 2024, not pre-2020.

The return of Shulga, Bamisile and Jackson, who likely would eat up 75 minutes of playing time per outing, might discourage impatient portal travelers from seeking immediate front-line duty. Shulga, Bamisile and Jackson all would be grad students in their fifth season of play.

Other Rams eligible to return are juniors-to-be Tobi Lawal (7.7), Christian Fermin (5.2), Jason Nelson (4.9) and Roosevelt Wheeler (0.6); and sophomores Michael Belle (3.2) and Alphonzo Billups (4.9).

The only announced incoming freshman is touted 6-foot-3 Brandon Jennings from St. Christopher’s School.

The lengthy list of portal transfers includes 5-11-foot Jhamar Brickus, who averaged 14 points and five assists this past season for LaSalle, earning third-team All-A-10. Brickus would be a grad student if he chooses VCU among his suitors. Other portal prospects might have multiple years of remaining eligibility.

Many more names are likely to focus and/or fade out before the Rams’ next roster is


Basketball by the sea: Like the VCU roster for next season, the schedule for now is hard to get a handle on. The only announced nonconference games will be in the Charleston (S.C.) Classic — a strong, three-day event that Houston won this past season.