College notes: WMU hoops still feeling sting of transfer portal, but gets some good news

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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It was a little bit of hello, goodbye for Western Michigan men's basketball Friday.

The Broncos, feeling the sting of the transfer portal all offseason following head coach Clayton Bates' first year on the job, got some good news at week's end when 6-foot-8 center Titus Wright decided to withdraw his name from the transfer portal and return to Western Michigan for his junior season. Wright had entered the portal March 10, five days after the Broncos' season-ending loss to Eastern Michigan.

Last season, Wright averaged 8.7 points, third on the team, and 5.4 rebounds, second.

Western Michigan's Jason Whitens entered the transfer portal Friday.

Just moments after Western Michigan announced Wright would be returning, another Bronco was leaving — with Jason Whitens, who finished third in the Mr. Michigan Basketball voting back in 2017, entering the transfer portal. Whitens, a 6-4, 185-pound guard who won three state championships at the Upper Peninsula's Powers North Central, averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds this season.

Whitens took the scholarship offer at Western Michigan out of high school over a walk-on opportunity at Michigan State. He played limited minutes as a freshman, redshirted as a sophomore because of a knee injury, and has played in 51 of 53 games for Western Michigan the last two seasons.

Whitens was the 10th Western Michigan player to enter the portal since the season ended, with Wright the only one withdrawing his name. That list includes forward Greg Lee (13 points, 7.2 rebounds), guard Rafael Cruz Jr. (6 points, 3.4 rebounds) and forward Patrick Emilien (5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds).

Western Michigan, which was 5-16 in Bates' first year but with two wins over rival Central Michigan, has nine players for its 2021-22 roster, including Wright.

"It's just part of basketball now," Bates told The News earlier this year, speaking of the portal — which has been home to over 1,400 basketball players amid new NCAA rules that now allow a one-time immediate-eligibility waiver for athletes moving from one Division I school to another. "It's here to stay."

In other transfer news, Detroit Mercy guard Marquell Fraser made it official and entered the portal Friday. He now is on the hunt for his fifth school, having arrived at Calihan Hall after stops at Idaho, Midland College and VCU. Fraser is expected to be joined in the portal in the coming days by guard Matt Johnson, the reigning Horizon League sixth man of the year who also could join a fifth school (St. Bonaventure, Howard College, Pensacola State). Swingman Bul Kuol, another impact player last season, left to turn professional in his native Australia. Those three players were among several who declined to accept an offer to play in the CBI tournament.

Detroit Mercy did get a commitment last week from Jordan Phillips, a guard from University of Texas-Arlington. He previously had a stop at Arkansas.

Moving forward, eventually the portal madness won't be a never-ending cycle. Starting with the next academic year, the deadline to enter the portal for basketball players and other winter sports athletes will be May 1 for immediate eligibility at their next stop.

Draft, eh?

The football draft train rolled on this week.

Three state players were taken in the Canadian Football League draft, including Central Michigan defensive lineman Mohamed Diallo (third round, No. 19 overall, Hamilton), Michigan defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (third round, No. 25, Toronto) and Eastern Michigan kicker/punter Jake Julien (fourth round, No. 31, Ottawa).

Last month in the CFL's global draft, Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Steve Nielsen, of Denmark, was selected No. 2 overall by Edmonton.

The 2020 CFL season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials plan to play the 2021 season, albeit with a target start date of Aug. 5. The season was scheduled to start in early June.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the season can only go on if teams can have substantial amounts of fans in the stands. The league's revenue is greatly tied to tickets.

Title town

NCAA championships return to Michigan this month, including the women's Division II golf finals, set for TPC Michigan in Dearborn, starting Tuesday.

Grand Valley State is the only local team to make the final field, having finished third at its regional in Carmel, Indiana.

The Lakers were led by Plymouth senior All-American Katie Chipman, who was 4 over for the three rounds and finished second. She shot a final-round 74, on the strength of birdies on three of her first four holes. She had 11 birdies for the week.

Northwood senior Sydni Harding (Goodrich) made the finals as an individual.

Other NCAA championships coming up in Michigan include the Division III women's golf finals (Forest Akers, East Lansing), and the Division II men's and women's outdoor track and field finals (Grand Valley State).

This and that

►The Division I NCAA Tournament for tennis was getting under way Friday. On the women's side, Michigan beat Rice in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to advance. On the men's side, Michigan lost to No. 15 Arizona in Lexington, Kentucky, while Western Michigan fell to No. 34 Notre Dame in Champaign, Illinois.

New Central Michigan men's basketball coach Tony Barbee has landed his first three recruits: Albany transfer guard Cameron Healy, Illinois-Chicago transfer guard Brian Taylor and Kevin Miller, a point guard from Victory Rock Prep in Florida.

►Former Detroit Country Day and Western Michigan basketball star Carrie Moore has joined the Michigan women's staff as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, head coach Kim Barnes Arico announced Friday.

The Oakland men's golf team will start its first-ever NCAA appearance in regional play at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, on The Champion Course. The first round is May 17.

►In women's water polo, Michigan opens the NCAA Tournament on May 14 against Arizona State in Los Angeles.

►Stu Fritz, head baseball coach at Hope for 28 years, collected his 600th win Friday.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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