As the athletic offseason enters full swing prior to fall camp kicking off for Virginia Tech football, I'm taking a look back at the transfer portal era that has signified one of the most notable changes in roster management across collegiate athletics.
Transfers, especially grad transfers, were already on the rise prior to the formalization of the transfer portal in October 2018. The move was simply a move to simplify the compliance side of transfers along with make it easier to know who actually was available to transfer.
While it was a small move in the grand scheme of one of college sports' recent transformations, it also is a landmark that dignifies that transfer era. Over the next two weeks, I will release my ranking of the top 25 transfer additions of the transfer portal era at Virginia Tech.
Prior to that countdown kicking off, we're going to rank the top 5 pre-transfer portal era transfers at Virginia Tech which will include some players who became major stars during the transfer portal era at Virginia Tech.
One thing to note is that former women's basketball star Taylor Emery came to Virginia Tech via a JUCO after starting out at Tulane. Because she arrived via the JUCO route, she will not be included in this list but would be otherwise.
Editor's note: This story was updated after release and further sports review to include Essence Henderson at #2.
Honorable Mention: Damon Hazelton
Damon Hazelton was one of the first double transfers, but in his two seasons at Virginia Tech, the Baltimore native became a productive lead receiver for the Hokies who showed plenty of potential.
Hazelton was the lead receiver replacement in 2018 that Virginia Tech was looking for after the graduation of Cam Phillips as Hazelton had 51 receptions for 802 yards and 8 touchdowns. He followed that up with a quieter 2019 that showed signs of the beginning of the end in an era where lots of offensive talent transferred out as well, but still finished with 31 receptions for 527 yards and another 8 touchdowns.
Though he transferred after his second season to Missouri, the former Ball State freshman standout proved to be the type of big physical receiver fit for the Justin Fuente era that leaned a lot on 50-50 balls. He proved to be a productive offensive player for Tech even if it came on a team that was trending the wrong way.
5. Seth Allen
Seth Allen comes in at #5, but could easily be argued to be higher on this list after transferring from Maryland to Virginia Tech along with former South Florida PF Zach LeDay at the beginning of the Buzz Williams era. Allen would play a big role in beginning the revival of Virginia Tech men's basketball to launch a golden era of Hokie hoops that continues on.
After a redshirt year, Seth Allen and Justin Robinson began forming a strong backcourt duo with Allen being able to work more and more off-ball on his way to a strong first season averaging 14.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 28.1 minutes per game while shooting 39.4% from the field and 77.6% from the free-throw line on an impressive 6.3 free-throw attempts per game. His success helped the Hokies reach the postseason after a few tough years with a NIT appearance.
He followed that with a strong second season in 2016-17 averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game while shooting an efficient 53.4% from the field including 44.1% from three-point range plus 73% from the free-throw line. His great season led him to earning ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors while helping lead the Hokies to their first NCAA Tournament in a decade and the launching of what is now five-straight contested NCAA Tournament appearances.
Seth Allen played a big role in the revival and transformation of Virginia Tech men's basketball into a respected ACC program that has become a golden era of Hokie hoops.
4. Korbin Myers
Korbin Myers has primarily shined in the transfer portal era, but he arrived prior to it from Edinboro and though he dealt with plenty of injuries, he also became a star wrestler for Tech who finished his career as strong as possible.
Myers immediately arrived and became the Hokies' starter at 133 with some talk at times that he might bulk up to 141. However, Myers stayed at 133 even after injuries led to a medical redshirt for the shortened 2019-20 season before breaking out the following year.
Myers finished his career with back-to-back All-American honors for Virginia Tech while also winning back-to-back ACC titles in those two seasons as well. His 2021-22 season was particularly strong and though Myers crashed out early in the NCAA Tournament, Myers finished strong through the consolation bracket to ensure Tech finished in the top 10.
Tony Robie has brought in multiple talented transfers over his tenure, but none have been as good as Myers who became a staple in Virginia Tech's lineup helping the Hokies maintain their status as a national power.
3. Jacob Labovitz
The gap between the top four is extremely thin with Jacob Labovitz also getting consideration for the #1 spot though the impact of the #1 player on this list has proven to be greater on his program than the #2 and #3 guy who helped enhance Virginia Tech Men's Soccer.
Labovitz was among the last pre-transfer portal era transfers with the forward transferring to Virginia Tech after an impressive freshman season at Fairleigh Dickinson and earning Northeast Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2017.
Labovitz became a star during his three seasons on the field at Virginia Tech as the Great Falls, VA native put up 5 goals in 2019 before putting up a team-high 9 goals in the 2020-21 season. His final season this past fall proved to be his best with another team high 9 goals along with 4 assists on his way to earning All-ACC First Team honors for his impressive season.
Jacob Labovitz proved to be a dynamic forward at Virginia Tech who helped VT Men's Soccer reach the NCAA Tournament all three years including a pair of Round of 16 or deeper appearances.
2. Essence Henderson
Essence Henderson is one of multiple transfers on this list who arrived just before the transfer portal era, but shined during the portal era for the Hokies as one of Tech's best throwers in school history.
Henderson is a three-time First Team All-American across discus and shot put during the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons over the past two years. She also won multiple ACC championships in both shot put and discus during her time at Virginia Tech on her way to an impressive career.
As a former discus thrower in high school who earned All-District honors two times, I know quite well that throwing isn't just about strength whatsoever, but loads of technique that even the slightest bit off can send a throw wayward. Henderson was big on the biggest stages while breaking multiple school records in two very different throwing disciplines and being ready to shine both in the winter indoor season and spring outdoor season.
Henderson was a star for the Hokies that many likely don't know about, but in about a decade or so, she'll be someone lots of Tech fans know about when she enters the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
1. Zach LeDay
Zach LeDay earns the #1 spot though no one could have imagined what he was going to become for Virginia Tech after struggling to find his spot at South Florida. However, LeDay and Virginia Tech proved to be the perfect spot for each other with LeDay becoming a transformative player for the VT men's basketball program.
He somehow didn't earn All-ACC honors either season, but he was at that level both seasons after his redshirt year averaging 15.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 assists in 30.8 minutes per game while shooting 47.8% from the field including 35.6% from three-point range plus 76.2% from the free-throw line.
He took his game to the next level as the lead star of Virginia Tech's first NCAA Tournament team in a decade averaging 17 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.0 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game while shooting 53.8% from the field including 27.5% from three-point range plus 77.2% from the free-throw line.
LeDay may have been undersized, but he played with great toughness, energy, and intensity while being the type of modern big who could stretch the floor on the offensive end. Combine all that together and LeDay was a complete star for the Hokies who should definitely be a future Virginia Tech Hall of Famer.