On April 11, Mackenzie Mgbako requested a release from his national letter of intent to Duke and reopened his recruitment.

Tuesday, one of North Carolina’s top signees – combo guard Simeon Wilcher – did the same.

Then 2 days later, Trey Parker announced his plan to reclassify and spend an extra season at Overtime Elite Academy before honoring his pledge to play for NC State in 2024.

Three elite college basketball prospects. Three schools located within 30 miles of each other in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Three impactful decisions for both the players, the programs and the ACC.

But those aren’t the only similarities between their situations.   

Their decisions to opt out of or delay their commitments are all directly related to the new landscape in college athletics created by the relaxation of NCAA transfer rules and the ability of players to earn income from their name, image and likeness.

An unintended consequence of these new opportunities for existing players is that there are suddenly fewer opportunities – whether it be available scholarships or immediate playing time – for incoming recruits.

Even those with 4 or 5 stars next to their names. 

The timing of the decisions by Mgbako, Wilcher and Parker speaks volumes.

Mgbako, a 5-star stretch-4 out of New Jersey and the highest-rated Duke commit at the time, announced his change of heart less than an hour after 2023 ACC Freshman of the Year Kyle Filipowski publicly declared he would return for his sophomore season rather than enter the NBA Draft.

Filipowski led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding at 15.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season and may only have begun to scratch the surface of his potential. 

In the pre-NIL days, he would almost certainly have joined his now-former teammates Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead in turning pro – even though he wasn’t exactly a lock to be picked in the 1st round.

But because he can earn more by staying in college than playing his rookie year in the G League, it was worth his while to return for an opportunity at playing his way into next year’s draft lottery.

In addition to helping his team challenge for a national championship.

While Flipowski’s return was good news for the Blue Devils and coach Jon Scheyer, it was bad news for Mgbako, who decided he’d rather try his luck at Kansas rather than backing up the player he was recruited to replace at Duke.

By contrast, the circumstances precipitating Wilcher’s abrupt exit from UNC were caused not by the return of a veteran player – although the continued presence of holdovers RJ Davis and Seth Trimble, along with the addition of transfer guards Cormac Ryan and Paxson Wojcik did complicate matters – but rather the arrival of another newcomer.

The 4-star prospect, who like Mgbako hails from the Garden State, saw his potential role with the Tar Heels diminish greatly when Class of 2024 commit Elliot Cadeau chose to reclassify and join the team for the coming season.

While NIL earnings were not the primary reason for the move, his projected valuation of around $500,000 certainly didn’t hurt.

Cadeau is a 5-star recruit who decided to push up the start of his likely 1-and-done college career after a standout performance on Nike’s EYBL circuit this spring. That left Wilcher, who committed to UNC’s Hubert Davis nearly 2 years ago, as the odd man out.

Although his eventual landing spot has yet to be determined, newly hired St. John’s coach Rick Pitino already has swooped in to try to add him to his rapidly growing collection of talent.

Meanwhile, at NC State, Parker went the opposite route when faced with a similar influx of talent at his chosen school that created a logjam at his position.

He reclassified by falling back a year instead of springing forward.

Parker, a 4-star prospect from Fayetteville, NC, was expected to play a major role as part of a retooled Wolfpack backcourt looking to replace departed stars Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner. 

But rather than being a headliner, he became just another face in a crowd of guards after Kevin Keatts brought in transfers DJ Horne from Arizona State, Jayden Taylor from Butler and Michael O’Connell from Stanford.

Rather than looking for another college team at this late in the game, Parker chose to spend a postgraduate year at his prep school while reaffirming his desire to play for State in 2024.

At least, that’s the plan for now.

As Keatts has learned from painful experiences, though, a lot can change over the course of a year. 

Like previous postgraduates Jalen Lecque and Josh Hall, both of whom went directly into the draft without playing a game for the Wolfpack, Parker also could bypass school and go directly to the pros.

Or he could just as easily be offered a better NIL deal from another program, especially if it’s one that doesn’t rely as heavily on transfer talent.

The coaches aren’t the only ones that have options these days. 

Such is the reality of the new landscape in college athletics.