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Binghamton Finding its Niche in the Transfer Portal



When you think of the top academic Division I institutions, of course the Ivy League program’s come to mind. Schools on the west coast like Stanford, Cal, and UCLA are always in the running, followed by other high-majors like Duke, Northwestern, Georgetown or Vanderbilt.

A program many don’t often consider in that academically prestigious conversation resides in upstate, NY and I’m not referring to Cornell, Syracuse, or even Colgate.

In Vestal, NY, Binghamton head coach Levell Sanders, who was promoted to interim back in 2021 before receiving the full-time job in 2022, said the academic requirements at his institution can provide rigorous challenges in recruitment.

“We’re a really good academic institution so it’s hard for us to get a lot of kids in school especially [at the] high school level,” said Sanders. “Our guys joke about it a lot because they’ve been at other institutions and they always say ‘This is nothing like where I was at in terms of academics.’”

Thus, in his first three season’s in charge of the program, Sanders has built his roster from the ground up through the transfer portal.

After leading the program to its most league wins since 2010 in just his first season at the helm, Sanders and his staff were able to bring in Canisius transfer Armon Harried and former EKU forward Tariq Balogun.

Finishing with an even better record following Sanders’ second season allowed the Bearcats to aggressively recruit the portal once again. 

This past offseason marked critical acquisitions of former Rider recruit Nehemiah Benson, Quinnipiac transfer Tymu Chenery, and one of the nation’s top transfer distributors in former Marquette and Syracuse guard Symir Torrence.

“We have such a hard time getting high school kids in just because the GPA’s are not usually what we need and so with the transfer portal, our school is a bit more lenient with being able to get guys in,” said Sanders. “For us, it’s kind of like we found our niche in being able to go and get guys out of the transfer portal.”

But for a school effectively in the middle of nowhere New York, finding the right transfers who might be interested in taking their careers to Binghamton can be difficult.

It led Sanders and his staff to recruit the portal more diligently, searching to find the best players who fit the mold this program needs to continue developing under the schools high standards.

“It’s a lot of work because there’s so much you’re trying to find out about the kids [when] everybody’s leaving or coming and going for a specific reason,” said Sanders. “We’ve [brought in] really good kids first and foremost, but then you’ve got to have guys who are able to compete in the classroom [as well]. So, you’ve got to make sure you’re bringing in kids that compete and then you’ve got to try and get talent in the spots you’re looking for.”

After a 69-55 win over NJIT last week, with Sanders currently bolstering the best winning percentage of his short head coaching career, it’s clear the hard work is paying off.

Leading the effort was Harried with 17 points, four boards, and four assists, followed by Balogun chipping in 14 points and six rebounds to help the Bearcats pull away in the second half.

Following back-to-back losses in which the Bearcats were physically dominated, Sanders thought the win marked a turning point just weeks out from the 2024 America East Conference Championship.

“Wins are always important, I mean [especially after] we lost some close games,” he said. “We’ve been pretty good with coming back after games, having energy, and responding in terms of being able to play well and I thought that we were much better defensively today.”

After a slow start to the first half, Chenery finished with 11 points and two assists while Torrence made his return from injury and came off the bench to contribute eight rebounds and eight assists.

For Sanders, his backcourt duo has been the major catalyst for all the program’s development throughout this season.

“One of the things I talked about with [Torrence] when we recruited him, I told him ‘listen, you’re coming from Syracuse and guys are going to be watching you so we need you to be right out of the gate,” said Sanders. “He really came in [this offseason], had himself prepared physically, and he uses his voice as a leader.”

“[Chenery and I] we just had so much in common,” said Sanders. “He’s come in and he’s been great, I knew he was going to be great defensively but he also does so many other things like he’s probably one of the best cutters in the country.”

Now, with the Bearcats just one game under .500 and fighting for a share of sixth-place in the tightly contested America East, Sanders transfer portal pickups can carry this program to new heights.

While it’ll be an uphill battle for Binghamton to secure its first 15+ win season since 2008-09, the Bearcats are undoubtedly building something special in Vestal.

With Sanders at the helm, it seems Binghamton has found its calling in the transfer portal.

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