UNH men’s basketball: Wildcats depleted after five players enter the transfer portal


Cameron Beall, Sports Editor

DURHAM, N.H. – Just six days after clinching the No. 3 seed in the America East Playoffs, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats have been eliminated in the quarterfinals, gutted by the transfer portal and currently roster just four players. 

What UNH head coach Bill Herrion is calling “one of the worst decisions the NCAA ever made,” has finally stormed its way into the Wildcats’ program.  

Debuting on Oct. 15, 2018, the transfer portal essentially acts as free agency within college athletics. The portal is a database of players looking to transfer from their current school that only coaches and administrators have access to. Perhaps the biggest change implemented alongside the portal is the NCAA Division I One-Time Transfer Exception. This exception now allows players who are transferring to a DI school for the first-time immediate eligibility. In the past, players were forced to sit out for a full academic year upon transferring which discouraged the amount of movement being seen in college sports today. 

Herrion says the rule change has “opened up a can of worms.” 

Beginning with senior Nick Guadarrama, the Wildcats have watched as five players entered the transfer portal within three days of being eliminated from the playoffs. Seniors Jayden Martinez and Qon Murphy will join Guadarrama as grad transfers looking to make an impact elsewhere in their final season. Sophomores K.J. McClurg and Marco Foster also entered the portal earlier this week. 

Guadarrama and Martinez will be two of the biggest losses at the mid-major level. Each were named to the All-Conference Second-Team. Martinez led the team with 15.1 points per game to go along with his 5.5 rebounds, 47.2% field goal percentage and 42.4% 3-point percentage. Guadarrama scored 12.7 points per game, recorded 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. 

“This is not a UNH problem, it’s a national problem,” said Herrion. “This is going on everywhere.” 

Herrion cited Binghamton University as a prime example of what’s going on in college basketball today. A season ago Binghamton finished ninth and missed out on the playoffs. This season in the quarterfinals the Bearcats started four transfer students and upset New Hampshire in the first round.  

The team wasn’t all that surprised about players like Guadarrama and Martinez deciding to move on. Herrion doesn’t blame his two stars for trying to reach as high of a level as they can in their final season of eligibility. 

“I think anybody if they think or aspire to want to try and play at a higher level then that’s their choice,” said Herrion. “That’s their decision. You just hope that they make the right decision when they move on.” 

He did say, however, they were a little surprised about the decision from Foster. After transferring from Division II Oklahoma Christian University, Foster quickly ascended into one of the league’s best 3-point artists. Foster averaged 8.3 points per game, 1.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and shot 43.2% from 3-point range this season. According to @HoopScoopMedia on Twitter, Foster has been in contact with Pacific, North Alabama, UT-Martin, Holy Cross and more since entering the portal. 

McClurg’s decision to find a new home was personnel-based more than anything. The four players New Hampshire is currently rostering are all guards, so it was going to be tough for McClurg to carve out a role given the program’s current situation. 

Herrion said he had a conversation with McClurg about a week and a half before the season ended and that he didn’t think it was going to be a good fit moving forward with the guard. This conversation led to his entry into the transfer portal. McClurg gave the team productive minutes off the bench in 2020-21 averaging 4.1 points and 12.0. minutes per game.

According to Herrion, McClurg asked to be redshirted this season – likely because of the number of upperclassmen – which the team granted. The unprecedented jump in sophomore Blondeau Tchoukuiegno’s game, however, widened the gap between McClurg and his potential playing time for next season. George Michalowski has reported on Twitter that McClurg has heard from “a long list of DII programs including West Liberty, UC (WV), Cal (PA), North Georgia, and Newberry.” 

After junior Sloan Seymour and graduate student Josh Hopkins left the team mid-season, sixth-year forward Chris Lester and senior Tayler Mattos graduated, and five players entered the transfer portal, New Hampshire is left with just four players. Sophomores Nick Johnson and Tchoukuiegno will be building blocks for Herrion, sophomore walk-on Jon Willeman will presumably remain on the roster, and first-year guard A.J. Lopez (redshirted this season) headline the new core for New Hampshire. 

The Wildcats have already been hot on the recruiting trail with nine players to replace from this season. Herrion says the team began their work on Monday noting, “we still have a job to do. We still have to move forward.” 

New Hampshire has already conducted at least 20 Zooms over three days and offered five recruits scholarships according to Herrion. 6-foot-1 post graduate guard Christian Moore from Hargrave Military Academy announced on his Twitter account that he has received an offer from UNH.  

Among other players reported to be linked to New Hampshire include redshirt sophomore forward Tyzhaun Claude from Morehead State. Claude averaged 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in nine games. Grad student forward Ivan Alipiev is also said to have been in contact with the Wildcats according to Jamie Shaw. Alipiev is transferring from Loyola Marymount where he missed last season with a torn rotator cuff. The last two seasons he played he scored 7.6 points per game and made 59 total 3-pointers. 

Herrion said he’s excited to be able to have recruits up to Durham for visits as opposed to the virtual recruiting teams have been forced to do over the last couple seasons. He noted how difficult it can be to get to know a player without meeting them face-to-face. 

While the Wildcats work to fill out a depleted roster, the America East Playoffs are winding down. The No. 1 Vermont Catamounts and the No. 2 UMBC Retrievers will fight for the America East Title and a bid to March Madness this Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2. 

Photo courtesy of UNH Athletics