Unprecedented. If there is one word to sum up head coach Dane Fischer’s time in Williamsburg, it is unprecedented. It started in 2019-2020, when all-time great Nathan Knight, now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, led W&M to one of the best seasons in school history. Then it was a global pandemic that was, well, unprecedented. And now we come to this past season, which was unfortunately, unprecedented. The team finished with the worst record in recent memory, and bowed out in the first round of the CAA tournament against last-place Northeastern. It’s been over a month since that last game, but today marks perhaps the darkest day in the Fischer era.
It started exactly one week ago on March 23rd as senior center Mehkel Harvey entered the transfer portal. This move was not exactly surprising, as Harvey did not see much of the floor this season after sitting out the first semester due to a suspension. When he was on the floor however, he was electric on the defensive end, sending back opponent shots left and right. It is tough to see him go, but we certainly wish him the best of luck wherever the transfer portal takes him. Little did we know that this would begin a mass exodus from the program that finished 338/358 in the KenPom rankings.
This past Friday, sophomore guard Yuri Covington announced via his Instagram and Twitter that he was entering the transfer portal after two successful seasons in Williamsburg. The Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania native was among the first freshman class under head coach Dane Fischer and quickly jumped into a contributing role in the COVID-shortened 2020-2021 season. This past season he was the first man off the bench for the Tribe and provided a much-needed energy boost to Kaplan Arena. Covington has a gnarly step back and one of the quickest first steps I have seen in a while. This one hurt, and I know that he will be wildly successful wherever he ends up. So that made 2 in the transfer portal.
Then, on Monday it started to seem like something was up, as all-CAA freshman Julian Lewis also entered the transfer portal. The Michigan native started 24 games this past season and was a contributing factor throughout the conference slate. He hit the game winning layup in the Tribe’s first conference victory at home against Hofstra and followed that up with a stat-stuffing performance in the win over Northeastern. He can hit the three, pull up off the dribble, and get to the rim with ease and his potential is through the roof. I can’t wait to see what Julian Lewis does throughout the rest of his career, best wishes from the Blog. But that made 3 for W&M in the transfer portal.
Yesterday, senior forward Quinn Blair entered the portal, bringing the total to four. While this was not as surprising as Julian Lewis, I still wondered if Quinn might come back for another year in the ‘Burg. After a year in which he missed time due to injuries and then a confusing lack of playing time down the stretch, I can’t say I blame him. He is tough as nails, can knock down the open three, and rebounds like there is no tomorrow. I am interested to see where he lands, and wherever that is I know he will be successful.
With all that, we came to today — already deemed by most to be the lowest point of the Dane Fischer era to date. This afternoon, the cornerstone and heartbeat of the team, sophomore guard Connor Kochera, announced he is entering the transfer portal. The former CAA rookie of the year and lights out 3-point shooter from Arlington Heights, Illinois finished his career averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and it was evident that he was the leader of the team this past season. Kochera can pour in the points from beyond the arc and displayed toughness getting to the rim this season. Wherever he lands, that school is getting a player with elite scoring potential and leadership ability. Best of luck Connor, you deserve it. But that also made it five W&M players in the portal.
Later that afternoon, freshman center Langdon Hatton entered the transfer portal as well, and I can’t say I am totally surprised. Make it six players in the portal. At this point, nothing would surprise me. Hatton had an up and down first season in the ‘Burg, but showed scoring ability with 17 points in the Radford game, as well as plenty of toughness and rebounding ability in the paint. I liked his game and was eager to see his development in the Burg, but it looks like that will not happen. Best of luck Langdon, you will be missed.
The events of the past week have left Tribe fans wondering two things. First, what happened? And second, where do we go from here? With six players (and counting) in the portal, one has to wonder if there is something going on within the program. I am not one to point fingers, but I am certainly concerned about the state of the program given this mass exodus.
With the exception of Blair and Harvey, these were guys recruited by Dane, to play for Dane. Everyone leaving within the span of five days certainly raises some eyebrows. We certainly have no clue what is going on behind closed doors. I know one thing for sure, this team will certainly have its work cut out for them next season.
At this point, the Tribe only has five scholarship players still on the roster: Ben Wight, Tyler Rice, Rainers Hermanovskis, Miguel Ayesa, and Jake Milkereit. Add to that the three incoming freshmen and that gives Coach Fischer and staff eight scholarship players for the 2022-23 season. There is certainly work to be done before the season starts, and that starts with bringing in talent from the transfer portal. It can be done, but it may be another long season in the ‘Burg next year. Either way, I will be in Kaplan Arena cheering on the Tribe. Will you?