College basketball players transfer by the dozen every year, leaving one program in hopes of finding a better fit at another. Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com recently wrote that he expects the number of Division I transfers for 2010 to approach 300.
For Mississippi State and Ole Miss, transfers have been happening an awful lot in recent seasons.
Since 2005, MSU has seen nine players transfer out of the program, most recently rising junior Romero Osby, who announced on April 30 he was leaving.
In that same span, Ole Miss has seen eight players exit in like fashion, with rising junior Murphy Holloway announcing transfer plans the same day as Osby.
In a survey of SEC beat writers and sports information directors, the Daily Journal found that 85 SEC players have transferred to another program since the end of the 2004-05 season.
Among SEC schools, the Bulldogs and Rebels rank in the top half in number of transfers out the past five years. Georgia leads the way with 11, and the lists include players who have left of their own accord as well as players dismissed from the team who landed with another program.
“You have coaching transitions and players linked to one coach or another,” Ole Miss Athletics Director Pete Boone said. “You have to look at each individual situation. Usually, they are unique and different. You can’t say there’s a trend or one common problem.”
Players indeed leave for a variety of reasons.
Holloway wants to be closer to his young daughter, who lives in Irmo, S.C. Osby said he wanted to find a system more suited to his game. Another ex-Bulldog, Ben Hansbrough, cited the lack of a proper practice facility as his reason for transferring to Notre Dame in 2008.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury said the seeds for break-ups can be planted early, and that it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault.
“I think it has a lot to do with there are more mistakes made in recruiting,” Stansbury said. “There’s less recruiting time, there’s less evaluation time, and there’s less time to get to know kids.”
And whether a player will admit it or not, playing time is often a big issue.
“I think at our level, everybody wants to play a certain amount of minutes, but only certain guys can,” Stansbury said. “Most kids, the reason they transfer is they wanna play bigger roles than sometimes schools have.”
But a player’s decision to leave isn’t always prompted by the player.
“Our sport is affected most widely by kids leaving for a variety of reasons, some on the floor, some off the floor,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Some of that is created from the player’s side of things, some from the coach’s side.”
If a coach “runs off” a player and does not renew his scholarship, he runs the risk of having that used against him in recruiting by other coaches.
Most of the time, a player’s scholarship release has certain conditions that forbid him from transferring to certain schools, usually within the conference. Osby, for instance, must receive prior approval from MSU if he wants to enroll at another SEC school and play there; he needs no approval for non-SEC schools.
In the case of Justin Knox, those restrictions have a farther reach. Knox left Alabama after this past season, and the conditions for his release do not allow him to transfer to another SEC school, a school on Alabama’s 2010-11 schedule, or a school within the University of Alabama system.
According to the Tuscaloosa News, Knox was strongly considering UAB, but that wouldn’t be allowed under those conditions.
And the NCAA requires that players transferring from one Division I program to another must sit out a year, although they do not lose a year of eligibility.
Yet despite all the hoops to jump through, players continue to leave.
Attrition and APR
Besides leaving a hole in the lineup, where transfers can hurt a program is its Academic Progress Rate (APR). That’s the NCAA’s method of holding its member teams in all sports accountable for nurturing its athletes on to graduation.
Kennedy said he expects his program’s scores to be well above the 925 minimum – that evaluates a four-year period – that must be achieved to avoid the risk of sanctions. This year’s scores are due out later this spring.
MSU had an APR of 913 last year but received no penalty for it. Assuming Osby has a 2.6 GPA or higher and signs with a four-year school immediately, all MSU will lose is a retention point, although it wouldn’t affect the retention percentage.
A player leaving to pursue professional ball does not count against a school as long as he signs a pro contract and leaves academically eligible.
Eniel Polynice of Ole Miss, who entered the NBA Draft, will not count against the Rebels’ APR even if he does not sign a pro contract, because he will graduate Saturday. Another Rebel, Terrico White, has left early to pursue NBA dreams, as has MSU’s Dee Bost.
White is expected to get drafted, Bost is not.
Often, the players can read the writing on the wall. As a season concludes with an exit meeting, a coach can clearly describe to a player a reduced role that he envisions for the following season. Also, players can look around and evaluate in-coming recruits like anyone else. Sometimes those factors play into decisions to leave.
Stansbury said that sometimes, transferring is the best solution for all involved.
“The transfer, it gives him another opportunity to go somewhere, whatever level it is, and maybe find a school where he can play the amount of minutes he wants to play,” he said. “That can be good for a kid. It can be good for a program, too.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571
or firstname.lastname@example.org; Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or email@example.com
Brad Locke and Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal