There was a time when finding a transfer on Billy Donovan's Florida men's basketball roster was rare. But for Donovan and many other Division I coaches, transfers are more of the norm than ever.
Since 2009, the Gators have had nine transfers enter the program, and Florida's 2014 roster will include six transfers. It is, Donovan said, evolving into just another element of the college game.
"I think it's something for everybody, it's just kind of turned out to be something that's going on a lot right now …" Donovan said. "Over the last five years we've had a record number of kids constantly making changes and going to different schools. … I think for us we've had some successes."
As the SEC desperately seeks to become more competitive, transfers are becoming more commonplace in the league.
First-year Auburn coach Bruce Pearl recently landed Antoine Mason, a former Niagara star and the son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, who was the nation's second-leading scorer last season. Mason joins Marshall transfer Kareem Canty and New Mexico State guard K.C. Ross-Miller, who have transferred since Pearl was hired.
"You can't avoid it," Pearl said. "It's like the one-and-done. We didn't create the rule. The NBA created the rule. You know, oftentimes transferring has got a negative connotation. I think there's too much transferring going on. But I transferred from Southern Indiana to Wisconsin-Milwaukee (as a coach) and that was a great thing. I transferred from Milwaukee to Tennessee and it was a great thing. I transferred from Tennessee to Auburn and it's a great thing. It's an opportunity. You don't want to deny people the opportunity."
People like Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith and guard Eli Carter. Carter left Rutgers after coach Mike Rice was fired amid allegations of abusing his players. When Seth Greenberg was fired at Virginia Tech following Finney-Smith's freshman season, he wanted out. He chose the Gators over Louisville, Iowa State and Memphis.
"When the situation changed, I felt like it was the best thing for me to look elsewhere," said Finney-Smith, who sat out one year before becoming the SEC Sixth Man of the Year this past season. "I wanted to go to a place where I could get better and play for a national championship and I felt like Florida was that place for me. It's one of those things where everybody has to make the decision that's best for them."
Familiarity with a player from past recruiting or familial ties often factor into a player's decision to move on. Florida's roster will include Jon Horford, a Michigan transfer who is the brother of former Gator Al Horford, and Duke transfer Alex Murphy, the brother of former Gator Erik Murphy.
"I think Coach Donovan having a relationship with our family and me playing for him, to him, it made sense," Al Horford said.
Donovan said other factors — not always positive — are contributing to the high transfer rate.
"I think it's a society of instantaneous success," he said. "There is this attitude sometimes that kids go in and think that they are going to be a pro in one or two years. And when that does not happen, a lot of times there's disappointment. They maybe a lot of times haven't had any adversity in their life and they think the situation is wrong and they think if they go somewhere else they're going to be a pro quicker. I think that has a big factor to do with it. I also think another major factor sometimes, more often than not, is how a player's being used or (whether he's getting) playing time."
While the growing number of transfers is causing some concern, the reality seems to be it's now just a part of the game.
"Would I like there to be more uniformity? Yes," Pearl said. "If they sat out a year would there be a little bit more academic integrity? Yes. Would there be less pilfering off of other teams on fifth-year guys? Yes. Would I like to see it calm down a little bit, and be more loyalty and less kids transferring? Yes. But we can't control it, we can't change it, we can't fix it, we've got to deal with it. And so therefore, you look at some programs that have done awfully well. Billy's benefited from it, Iowa State has benefited from it, Oregon. … I don't think, there's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with it."
Contact Antonya English at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Gators.