Ins & outs: Transfers prominent in NCAA basketball
TAMPA -- The transactions coming and going pile up across the country, not unlike free agency in pro sports, and NCAA basketball could have more than 500 players transferring from one program to another before a high-traffic offseason is finished.
For all the instability and uncertainty a fluid roster can create, count USF's Stan Heath as one coach who says he understands the fickle nature of young basketball players, and to some extent, has built his success both with the help of such transfers, and also despite them.
"It's not a negative. I look at it as a positive situation where somebody can get better," Heath said of the perception of college transfers. "I have a chance to improve my team with a transfer if it's the right fit. And normally, when a kid is on his second chance, I think he looks at the next opportunity as 'I have to make this work,' so the attitude is different."
Heath has arguably dealt with transfers as much as any coach in the country -- his Bulls team that won two games in the NCAA Tournament in March did so with three starters who began their careers in other major-college programs -- Ron Anderson at Kansas State, Augustus Gilchrist at Maryland and Victor Rudd at Arizona State. At the same time, Heath has lost a high number of transfers, with a dizzying 15 scholarship players leaving the program in his five years as head coach.
Heath said he doesn't take it personally when a player asks to leave after only a season or two, usually seeking more minutes at another program, accepting that it's hardly an attitude limited to college basketball.
"They are extremely impatient. It's the fast-food model. Everybody wants it now. Nobody wants to wait," he said. "That's unfortunate, but that's not a basketball thing. It's the way our youth are being developed. It's a society thing that we have to look into, not just a basketball phenomen."
Most of Heath's transfers have left after a single season, with spare playing time off the bench, and all have left for programs in less challenging leagues, allowing them better success at a lower level of play. Players who totaled mere dozens of points in their USF careers might be double-digit scorers elsewhere, and Heath is glad to see that.
"A high percentage of the kids that left here, I've looked at their career and said 'Man, they made a good decision. They've had success,'" Heath said. "You know you can't play 13 guys. Somebody's not going to be happy, and you have to understand that. I don't take it personally at all. I've never held a kid back."
There can be ramifications for a school with regard to NCAA APR scores, which measure a program's ability to keep players academically eligible and retained in school. A player leaving with a grade-point average of 2.6 can hurt a team's APR, but Heath said he hasn't held players from transferring until they reach that mark, as other coaches have acknowledged doing.
Other state programs have benefited from transfers -- Florida's Mike Rosario came in from Rutgers, and FSU's Jeff Peterson came to Tallahassee after stints at Iowa and Arkansas. Jeff Goodman, who covers NCAA basketball for CBSsports.com, has compiled a national list of transfers each year, with more than 400 players already collected; he expects the number to reach 500 before summer's end.
The trend continues at USF as well -- the emergence of freshman point guard Anthony Collins this season had two other Bulls point guards request their release to transfer elsewhere; Heath has another transfer who could start next seaon in Martino Brock, a forward from South Alabama, and he picked up a commitment this week from Kore White, a graduate transfer from Florida Atlantic who will play his final season with the Bulls.
"The transfer situation, I think everybody looks at it differently," Heath said. "There have been a couple of kids I wish had stayed. I tried to talk them them into staying. But if they really want to go, I would never hold anyone here that didn't want to be here."