Transfer trend: Players not interested in waiting their turn

Spate of movement proves instant gratification has become the goal

dcloninger@thestate.comMay 18, 2014 

Desmond Ringer

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

  • SEE YA!

    The SEC’s men’s basketball transfers thus far, including players who left after the first semester of the 2013-14 season

    ALABAMA: Algie Key, Nick Jacobs

    ARKANSAS: Dee Wagner

    AUBURN: Chris Griffin

    FLORIDA: None

    GEORGIA: John Cannon, Tim Dixon

    KENTUCKY: None

    LSU: Anthony Hickey, Shane Hammink, Malik Morgan

    MISSISSIPPI STATE: Andre Applewhite, Jalen Steele, Jacoby Davis

    MISSOURI: Zach Price, Stefan Jankovic, Shane Rector

    OLE MISS: Derrick Millinghaus, Demarco Cox

    SOUTH CAROLINA: Desmond Ringer, Jaylen Shaw

    TENNESSEE: Quinton Chievous, A.J. Davis, Darius Thompson

    TEXAS A&M: Jamal Jones, J-Mychal Reese, Shawn Smith

    VANDERBILT: Eric McClellan

  • More information

    WELCOME!

    Men’s basketball transfers entering the SEC for the 2014-15 season

    ALABAMA: Christophe Varidel (Chaminade)

    ARKANSAS: Dusty Hannahs (Texas Tech)

    AUBURN: None

    FLORIDA: Jon Horford (Michigan), Alex Murphy (Duke), John Egbunu (South Florida)

    GEORGIA: None

    KENTUCKY: None

    LSU: None

    MISSISSIPPI STATE: None

    MISSOURI: Keith Shamburger (Hawaii), Cameron Biedscheid (Notre Dame)

    OLE MISS: M.J. Rhett (Tennessee State), Terence Smith (Tennessee-Martin)

    SOUTH CAROLINA: None

    TENNESSEE: Ian Chiles (IUPUI), Eric McKnight (Florida Gulf Coast)

    TEXAS A&M: Jalen Jones (SMU)

    VANDERBILT: Nolan Cressler (Cornell)

College basketball coaches spend hundreds of hours recruiting players. Whereas the NBA can draft, make trades or scan the waiver wires to upgrade teams, college teams have to make do with what they learn on the recruiting trail.

The current college trend, though, isn’t much different from perusing that wire for immediate upgrades.

The transfer list for college basketball contains more than 500 players, some of whom have graduated from their original institutions but the great majority of which are underclassmen who just want out. It’s a growing problem in the sport; ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who has been tracking transfers for six years, puts this year’s still-increasing list just under the record 550 players who transferred last season.

In the age of social media opening any person to immediate advice or criticism, and the world of high-level recruiting filling players’ heads with dreams that might not be realistic, instant gratification is the goal. If a player doesn’t start as a freshman, or doesn’t believe he’s being used correctly, there are many other options rather than waiting it out, working hard and earning it.

“It’s not 1982 anymore, where everybody gets out of bed and waits their turn,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “It’s microwave. Sometimes when you don’t get your microwave food, and you have to wait for the oven to cook it, people go to McDonald’s and buy a cheeseburger rather than wait.”

Martin lost two of his players in a week, each citing a desire for more playing time. The Gamecocks are one of 12 SEC teams that have seen at least one transfer over the past year. The league also has eight teams who have accepted at least one transfer for next season.

It’s a necessity for college coaches to look at the transfer list. Their last recruiting class might have just taken a hit, and they have to fill the void. There are so many college-ready players looking for new homes that it’s a disservice if a coach doesn’t look at the list.

Tennessee lost its entire recruiting class when coach Cuonzo Martin accepted the California job. New coach Donnie Tyndall has begun to replace it, but he also lost returnees A.J. Davis and Quinton Chievous (Darius Thompson is still deciding whether to stay). Part of the fix? Finding Eric McKnight and Ian Chiles on the transfer list.

“Every year, you have 50 people getting fired or changing jobs,” Martin said. “That’s part of it. The contact person that these young people trust with their future is the basketball coach. The coach leaves, there’s a void there.”

But it’s not just college where players wish to start over. It starts at the level before. Tim Whipple has been a teacher and coach for 37 years, the past 33 at Irmo High. His program has become a model for stability.

“We do a really, really good job of helping kids understand where they are, and the level that they can play, and the expectations necessary,” Whipple said. “They have to choose to accept that or not, and for the most part, they do.”

Yet he recognizes the struggle college coaches face when dealing with today’s high-schoolers, as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago. Martin, a former high school coach, pointed out that he often has to sort through four or five high school transcripts for one player to make sure he can get into college. Why? The player transferred several times in high school.

“Because of the one-and-dones, everyone wants to be a star immediately,” Whipple said. “When they’re not, they’re not mature enough to handle it, because the grass is always greener somewhere else, in their minds. They believe everything they hear and, all of a sudden, they get in a situation and it’s not that way.”

At Irmo, players are taught what to expect in middle school. They have plenty of time – and plenty of examples of how it works – to decide if it’s for them. There aren’t a lot of players who leave for prep schools or new starts, because they’ve been in the system and have seen how it can produce.

In college, it’s not that way. Even longtime coaches have players transfer in and out, and a coach just taking over a program will almost always deal with many departures within his first two years. That starts the vicious cycle of not having time to build relationships while recruiting, so they look to transfers, which causes more players to think they can also transfer since it worked for the first guy.

“You can’t blame the coaches. They’ve got to do it, they’ve got to play the game,” Whipple said. “They’ve got to do what’s necessary to get these kids in. They end up taking talented players that really don’t fit their systems, just because they’re the most talented players.”

Each of the state’s two major programs have been on the transfer wire, giving and taking, in the past year. Clemson lost Adonis Filer and Devin Coleman this year and picked up San Francisco’s Avry Holmes. The Gamecocks have had six players transfer in two seasons but landed transfers LaShay Page and Ty Johnson, and are in the mix for Houston transfer Danuel House.

College coaches were forced into playing AAU and recruiting battles to keep up with each other, and are now dealing with the transfer epidemic. Stability in a program can be attained, but it becomes more difficult with every player who decides a new school and new team is preferable to waiting his turn at the old one.

“It’s kind of the culture that’s been created in the grassroots level,” Martin said. “You try to build a program, you try to find people that fit your views, your values and are willing to help you. When you start building that culture, maybe you haven’t won enough, so they get rid of you, and here comes the new guy. It’s hard to have a stable culture, because it’s always a different vision.”

And the vision for many players is to succeed now, no matter when or where they have to go to do it.

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