Richie Saunders has entered the transfer portal amidst coaching uncertainty

The sophomore guard announced his entrance into the transfer portal on Sunday.
Richie Saunders in BYU's Big 12 Tournament game against Texas Tech
Richie Saunders in BYU's Big 12 Tournament game against Texas Tech / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

Another Cougar has entered the transfer portal following Mark Pope's departure to the University of Kentucky.

Richie Saunders announced on Sunday that he would be entering the transfer portal due to the uncertainty surrounding BYU's vacant head coach position. He announced his intention via Instagram.

"Due to the uncertainty of the coaching situation, I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal. My heart hurts because of this unanticipated change with the coaching staff. With that being said, I would like to be proactive about exploring what is best for my wife and I as we move forward. I love BYU and am forever grateful for the experiences I have had. I can't thank the coaches, staff, and fans enough for these experiences. Thank you, Cougar Nation, for everything."

Richie Saunders via Instagram

Saunders is the third name to announce his intention to explore transfer options since coach Pope left for Lexington. Dallin Hall was the first to announce, followed by Aly Khalifa, and now Richie Saunders. While entering the transfer portal doesn't guarantee that a player will leave the program, the message from Saunders felt more like a goodbye than a thank you.

Hall reportedly had considered transferring prior to the coaching change, but it's hard to imagine that Saunders planned on leaving the program following his terrific sophomore season. Though his role was coming off the bench, BYU's culture showed that coming off the bench wasn't a position viewed as lesser than a starting role--Jaxson Robinson and Fousseyni Traore were some of the Cougars' best contributors this season.

Richie Saunders
Saunders high fives students following BYU's home win over Baylor / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

A fan-favorite and tough player, Saunders has all the tools a team could want in an energetic, hustling guard. His 3-pointer improved on increased volume this season, and his defense inspired his teammates while he was on the floor. Assuming last season was his final in Provo, we want to thank him for all he gave the program for these last two years.

As with his teammates who entered the portal, we have to wonder if a roster spot with Kentucky has been offered to Saunders. He terrorized Big 12 opponents and proved that he was worthy of playing against the toughest teams in the nation. While I don't see a scenario where Hall could land with the Wildcats, Saunders could be a legitimate addition to a blue blood program, though he may still come off the bench.

A wave of transfers following a coach's exit isn't new in this modern era of college basketball. As a coach is free to leave for a better opportunity at any time, players may search for a fresh start elsewhere. With the total of transferring players building, the Cougars need to find a way to stop the bleeding before we start next season with an entirely different roster.

We're right in the thick of it now. Hold on tight.

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