Alijah Martin was in Chicago when he answered the phone, about to work out for the Bulls. Johnell Davis was in Sacramento to work out for the Kings when he did the same. Both Florida Atlantic stars are testing the NBA Draft waters. This is normal for any player with pro aspirations, but at the mid-major level, players in their shoes are often giving themselves an extra option and money-making opportunity in this new age of college hoops. They’re also entering the transfer portal.

Last Thursday was the deadline to enter the transfer portal, and Florida Atlantic was one of five Division I schools not to have one player go portaling.

“I think in the back of everyone’s minds, we all expected each other to come back,” Dusty May told The Athletic last week. May, too, put himself in a position to cash in on FAU success, and he instead signed a 10-year extension. “I think deep down they expected me to come back. They expected the staff to come back, and I deep down was hopeful — I didn’t expect them to come back — but was hopeful that they would all want to come back.”

The Owls, fresh off their Final Four, will likely be in the top five of everyone’s preseason rankings. They graduated only one player. Why wouldn’t the players want to run it back, right?

Well, it’s all about the money.

At every level, coaches are re-recruiting their rosters each offseason, thanks to the bidding wars stemming from the one-time transfer exemption and NIL. Mid-majors can’t compete with what the high-majors have to offer. In Conference USA, among the 13 players on the three all-league teams with college eligibility remaining, eight transferred. All landed at high-major schools. Among the five who didn’t transfer, three of those players (Martin, Davis and Vladislav Goldin) attend FAU. (The Owls will move to the American Athletic Conference before next season.)