The transfer portal exists as one of those oft-argued entities within college sports. Like most topics, it’s had its positives and negatives.
“You’ve seen how the transfer portal impacted teams for the better, for the worse,” said Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby.
At Delaware, transfers have impacted the team for the better with the additions of leading scorer Nate Darling, versatile Justyn Mutts, and big man Dylan Painter.
Painter’s transfer differed from that of his teammates, however, as he joined the Blue Hens midway through the campaign. Painter left Villanova a few games into the 2018-19 season, landing at Delaware before the spring 2019 semester.
His NCAA-mandated yearlong transfer redshirt extended into the fall, leaving the 6-foot-10 forward on the sideline for Delaware’s first 11 games.
Finding a spot on a new team can be challenging enough: Doing so within the framework of a squad that started the season red-hot
“There were already a bunch of guys who were established in their roles. When I came in, I had to figure out my role,” said Painter, who heads into the Colonial Athletic Association averaging 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the 21-win Blue Hens. “They had a flow going. After the first couple games, though, it was pretty seamless.”
Painter’s choice of word -- seamless -- is an interesting one. In February, his coach used the word, but rather in addressing the challenge of roster management when integrating a player with the upside of someone like Painter, particularly when a team is clicking.
“I don’t know if there’s a right answer to make it seamless and smooth,” Ingelsby said. “Especially with how we play on the offensive end, it takes time.
“I think you saw a little bit of our growing pains,” Ingelsby added.
Delaware opened the season at 9-0, with Painter contributing albeit as a member of “Blue Team;” the Hens’ scout team. He went head-to-head with Mutts and Collin Goss, his front-court mates since joining the rotation.
“Practice the first half of the year was pretty fun,” he said. “I had a bigger role because I was one of the older guys in the group.”
In Painter’s first eight games after gaining eligibility, the Blue Hens went 3-5. So there were indeed some growing pains.
But amid that underwhelming streak, Painter said he had his revelatory game -- and Ingelsby agree. Both cited the Jan. 9 win over James Madison in which Painter shot 8-of-11 from the floor for 23 points with 10 rebounds as the moment that he fully meshed into the lineup.
Painter has a pair of double-doubles since, including a 15-point, 12-rebound performance in the Blue Hens’ win over Hofstra.
Ingelsby said Painter’s given Delaware “an unbelievable presence on both sides of the floor,” and the big man could be a key contributor to a potential push to the NCAA Tournament -- both statistical, and in terms of experience.
When it comes to positives of the transfer portal, Ingelsby noted the process of building Delaware as a program.
“I was a little tired of guys winning Rookie of the Year. That’s great for recruiting,” he said with a chuckle, referencing Ryan Allen claiming the honor in 2018, and Ryan Daly the year prior. “But we want to get guys who are juniors and seniors, who understand the rigors of college basketball. Those guys know you deal with some adversity.”
In the one-and-done atmosphere of March, Painter experience that cannot be replicated. He was a freshman at Villanova in 2016-17, a season removed from the Wildcats’ first run to the national championship in 31 years.
Villanova was a favorite to repeat, but suffered an upset exit in the Round of 32. A year later, Painter was on the roster for the Wildcats’ second national championship in three seasons.
He’s seen firsthand both the heartache and pinnacle of playing in March.
“Being on teams that made deep runs in March before really helps out. If you win one game, you’re excited, but you’ve got another game a day or two days later,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to turn the page.”
The same can be said for transitioning in a career. The transfer portal may be source of debate for some. For Dylan Painter and Delaware, it’s provided a positive way forward.