PITTSBURG, Kan. — Since 2018, the landscape of college athletics, specifically, student athletes transfers, has completely changed.

With the addition of an extra COVID year of eligibility and the transfer portal, college athletes have more freedom to play where they want than ever before. Though this change has undoubtedly benefitted individual athletes, it has also complicated the recruiting process, which former Pittsburg High School basketball standout Marque English knows a thing or two about.

English says, ” Out of high school, I went to Link Year Prep in Branson, Missouri. From there. I went to Butler Community College, to JUCO for a year. And then while I was there, COVID hit. So after that I had gotten an offer from Northern Colorado. I took that offer, and went there and then didn’t really feel like a great fit for me, left Northern Colorado, got a COVID free year, went back to Butler, just for another year to open my recruitment.”

Despite the freedom of moving from school to school, the transfer portal and the extra year of COVID eligibility has made it tougher, in some cases, to land on a college roster. There are currently over 1,000 names in the transfer portal, and not enough scholarships to go around.

“A lot of these guys that are transferring out of these Division I’s, the juniors and seniors are getting taken,” says Jeremy Jackson, NEO A&M men’s basketball head coach. “But the freshmen and sophomores, they’re having to go either to the junior college level or look at maybe the Division II or NAIA levels, which creates a logjam, in my opinion at the high school level, at the post-grad level and then at the junior college level with all these kids kind of being second or third options, when in years past they would be a first option.”

Then, when coaches do construct a roster, cultivating those players and maintaining them poses its own set of problems.

Jackson says, “This will be the third year that we’ve literally started over with a brand new team, not bringing back more than three guys. Like right now we’re we’re bringing back three players and it’s hard to put those teams together and it is frustrating that you can’t hold on to these kids and and keep them in your program for a long time right now.”

English says, however-, that the fluidity of the transfer portal makes players appreciate programs that are the right fit, even more than before.

“At the end of the day, you want to play your sport and you want to be able to have fun you want to compete you want to go make history make changes. So I think that the right fit for the school is always better than what if you’re trying to reach a certain level.”

But he still recognizes that getting there is harder than ever before.

“It is tough. And I wouldn’t necessarily say fair or unfair, because that’s neither here nor there. But I think that should be used as more of a fueling to try to push you to work hard,” English says.

After switching schools three times, English is giving it one last shot. He believes he’s found his permanent landing spot for his last two years of eligibility: Pittsburg State University, where he’ll be part of head coach Jeff Boschee’s inaugural season with the program.

“It’s an opportunity that I definitely feel like I couldn’t turn down, one that I’m excited for, especially with Coach Boschee and his staff,” English says. “Just to kind of, start, I guess you could say, Pittsburg High School success. They’ve had six, seven league titles these last few years and have been winning consistently ever since. So I mean, just having the opportunity to do that with a college, that’s something I can’t beat. I mean, I’m excited and I want to go get it done.”