THE TRANSFER LISTS ARE LONG THIS YEAR BUT IN THE BIG PICTURE WHERE THERE IS 330 OR SO DIVISION 1 PROGRAMS, THE OVER 120 TRANSFERS IS NOT THAT STAGGERING TO ME. WE STRESS TO OUR KIDS THAT THEY NEED TO FIND THE PROGRAM AND COACH THAT IS THE RIGHT "FIT". SINCE PLAYING TIME IS NORMALLY THE ROOT OF THE ISSUE, PERHAPS MORE EVALUATION TIME IS THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM SO THAT COACHES DON'T "MISS" ON KIDS AND PLAYERS DON'T GET IN OVER THEIR HEAD.
Published Friday June 13, 2008
BY LEE BARFKNECHT
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
When major college basketball coaches discuss climate change, global warming isn't on their minds.
The climate they talk about is cultural, and involves the willingness of players to change schools in what seems to be ever-increasing numbers.
"It is just amazing how many players have decided to transfer this spring — over 120 and counting," recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hoopmasters.com and CSTV wrote recently.
The NCAA thought it would reduce transfers and the practice of some coaches "running off" players by instituting academic progress guidelines known as the APR. Programs can be penalized scholarships and practice time for too much roster flipping if those who leave aren't academically on track.
Consider that mission not accomplished.
"The climate in our sport has become such a 'what have you done for me lately approach,'" Iowa State coach Greg McDermott said.
"If things don't happen immediately, not only are the young people not patient enough, but the adults advising them are not patient, either."
Transferring has been common through the years among benchwarmers seeking more playing time or players wanting to escape struggling programs.
But this spring, heavy anecdotal evidence shows regulars at top programs moving on.
NCAA tourney qualifier Georgetown had three players transfer, two of whom played in 34 games each. The Hoyas then got a transfer who played in 31 games for NIT qualifier Florida State.
Purdue, an NCAA team, saw freshman Scott Martin take off for Notre Dame even after starting eight games and playing in 32. Notre Dame also picked up sophomore Ben Hansbrough, who started 28 games at Mississippi State last season and averaged 10.5 points a game.
"I don't understand," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said, "how kids transfer when they are playing quality minutes in a great conference and are doing well in school."
Iowa State was stung last month when sophomore forward Wesley Johnson, a two-year starter and a Big 12 all-freshman pick in 2007, emptied his apartment without telling coaches or teammates, went home to Texas and announced he would transfer.
"It's difficult in May to replace guys you were really counting on," McDermott said. "But it's kind of become the nature of this business, unfortunately."
Is more stability on the horizon?
"I hope so," McDermott said. "This job is hard enough the way it is."
Texas Tech coach Pat Knight isn't counting on happier days just ahead.
"I've had a problem with kids going home and parents getting in their ear and saying, 'Maybe his style of play isn't suited for you,'" Knight said. "It's getting out of hand.
"They all want a quick fix, and they all want to play right away. It's a real pain."
Parents aren't the only adults inserting themselves into college athletes' lives.
Knight said he got an oral commitment from a player this spring, then couldn't reach him for a couple of weeks.
"I find out he has taken two other visits and decides to go somewhere else," Knight said. "His AAU coach got hold of him. Too many people have their hands on these kids."
The reach of others doesn't just start in college, coaches say.
"We're seeing more and more kids in high school change schools," Sadler said. "And we see more and more kids start on one summer team and end up playing on two or three others by the end of the summer."
Sadler said coaches tried to warn those pushing NCAA legislation such as the old 5-and-8 rule and the current APR that such measures wouldn't necessarily stabilize rosters.
"Those things were implemented as if coaches were just running kids in and out of their programs," he said. "It's not so much a coach getting rid of kids as it is kids leaving on their own."
All three coaches interviewed said many players discover transferring doesn't cure all their ills.
Nebraska sophomore guard Jay-R Strowbridge left this spring, publicly saying it was for family reasons. But phone calls from family members made it plain that their desire for him to be a featured player was a key factor.
Strowbridge, who averaged 18.7 minutes a game at NU, hasn't found a new school yet. Those showing the most interest, sources said, are Jacksonville (Ala.) State of the Ohio Valley Conference and Middle Tennessee State of the Sun Belt.
How do coaches move on after players leave?
"You stay committed to the guys who remain," McDermott said. "And you map out a plan early in their career for your expectations — and then try to get the parents or the high school coach or the AAU coach to agree with what you're asking them to do."