PROVO — Another BYU guard has entered the transfer portal.
Less than a week after former Davis High sharpshooter Jesse Wade made himself available to a potential transfer, Connor Harding has joined him in the portal, a source confirmed to KSL.com and the Locked on Cougars podcast. Verbal Commits was the first to report the move.
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound wing guard from Pocatello, Idaho, came to BYU with high expectations but has found limited playing time lately in Mark Pope's offense. Harding, who was the Idaho Player of the Year as a senior at Highland High by Gatorade, USA Today and the Idaho Statesman, averaged just 5.4 points in 20.9 minutes per game as a junior in 2020-21, including 12 starts.
But Harding's playing time and production have gradually decreased since his freshman season. Originally committed to former BYU head coach Dave Rose prior to serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Atlanta, Harding started 14 of 32 games as a freshman in 2018-19, averaging 6.2 points and 1.2 rebounds on 46% shooting.
Harding came strictly off the bench as a sophomore, but found a key role in the rotation as a sophomore, when he averaged 22.4 minutes per game. But that number gradually dropped over the past two years, even as his contributions to the team never waned, and Pope frequently praised his junior guard for his defense, poise and leadership — things that aren't often reflected in the box score.
Adding to the intrigue is Harding's wife, Paisley (nee: Johnson) was set to return to the BYU women's basketball team for a second senior season after the NCAA granted a blanket waiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic for all seniors in 2020-21. Paisley Harding is on track to graduate in April with a degree in sociology, but the Cougars' 5-foot-9 second-leading scorer (12.3 points per game) and best charge-taker told KSL.com just prior to the West Coast Conference Tournament that she has no plans to depart the program.
Paisley Harding decided immediately at the start of the season to take advantage of the NCAA's waiver. Even if it had not gone through, she said she had approached BYU coach Jeff Judkins about joining the program as a graduate assistant or practice-squad player while her husband finished his career in Provo.
"I want nothing but success for Connor; and if that means staying here through his senior year, I'm his biggest supporter," Harding said. "I definitely wanted to be here, even if it was as a grad assistant or just getting a job."
More power to the players if they want a new school to reignite their college careers.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 27, 2021
It'll be interesting to see how all this impacts the sport in the next year and who winds up benefitting or not. No idea how coaches can keep up with this stuff, though. Wild times.
Of course, Connor Harding won't be the only player in the transfer portal this offseason. In addition to the five players recently declared for the portal from the University of Utah, there are over 1,000 players estimated in the portal across the country, according to CBS Sports' Matt Norlander — already a record.
"CBB is going to have insane roster turnover next year," Norlander pontificated. "This is a combo of exhaustion from a COVID season and the bonus year + immediate transfer eligibility. Good teams are seeing, or will see, major defections. Mid-majors getting strafed. April will be chaos."