It is part of the landscape of college basketball now. Moving day(s) are increasingly common for players on the 347 Division 1 schools that compete for the national championship.
Some players - such as each member of national champion Kentucky’s starting five - simply move on to the next level, the NBA. But others move simply because they want a change of scenery, a new opportunity to prove that are not only scholarship-worthy but deserving of a starting spot.
At last count, almost 400 players had announced their decision to transfer.
University of Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, who has been in the game for almost two decades, has seen almost half of his roster from last season depart.
“In my career, I’ve never seen such a number of transfers,’’ said Calhoun.
Some players, such as guard Jeremy Lamb, are testing the waters of the NBA. Others, such as center Alex Oriakhi, are taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows a player to transfer without penalty if a school is put on probation or can’t compete in the postseason.
UConn, which incurred NCAA penalties because of low scores on the Academic Progress Rate, is not eligible for either the Big East or NCAA tournament.
Oriakhi, a 6-foot-9-inch sophomore, is transferring to Missouri and will not have to sit out a season.
But is the number of transfers increasing, or are the moves just getting more attention?
“I think, more than anything, it’s more documentation and people tracking and following what’s going on than anything else,’’ said Boston College coach Steve Donahue, who has lost veteran forward Matt Humphrey.
Humphrey’s transfer was based on getting a chance for more exposure and opportunity at a program other than BC, which is in a rebuilding mode in Donahue’s third season. Humphrey, who transferred to BC two years ago from Oregon, earned his degree and is taking advantage of a rule that allows players who have graduated to play at another program without sitting out a season, provided the new school offers a postgraduate degree not offered at the current school.
Right now, Humphrey is shopping for a place where he can pick up some postgraduate credits, and one that also has a basketball program that will be more of a contender than BC.
“He got his degree,’’ said Donahue, “and he wants to go to a program that will benefit him better. That’s his prerogative. I have no problem with that.’’
Donahue doesn’t see much of a change in the number of transfers.
“I look back 10 or 15 years and I don’t think much has changed,’’ said Donahue, who will continue his rebuilding process this summer when he takes BC on a two-week trip to Spain. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but it’s part of the process. Not just in sports, but in college.
“Kids make mistakes. If you take athletics out of it, I think you will see the same thing in college in general. It’s a time of life when you make transitions. People change their minds. There is nothing wrong with that.’’
Donahue took the departure of Humphrey in stride because BC landed 6-7 sophomore guard/forward Alex Dragicevich, who announced in March that he was leaving Notre Dame.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker sees the same type of uncertainty, although transfers at Ivy League schools are less frequent.
Amaker, who guided the Crimson to their first NCAA Tournament berth in 66 years last season, understands why one of his players, freshman Max Hooper, decided to transfer to St. John’s.
“It was just an opportunity for him to play more,’’ said Amaker. “I understand that. We wish him well. He’s a great kid.’’
Amaker said some things are different from when he was a player and an assistant coach at Duke.
“We are more in an instantaneous mode right now,’’ he said. “Everything has to happen now. Everything is different. It’s a different world.’’
There are other issues as well. Outside influences such as parents, relatives, and AAU coaches appear to have louder voices, telling players that they need to seize the opportunity for success quicker. In other words, if it is not working at one place, it will work at another.
Sometimes there are clashes of systems and personalities, such as the one at Wisconsin, where coach Bo Ryan ran into a public backlash and a media firestorm when it was revealed that he wanted to restrict the number of schools freshman Jarrod Uthoff could transfer to.
Ryan eventually backed off.
Most coaches - who have no restrictions when they switch jobs - simply wish players well when they want to leave.
“You just wish them well and accept that it’s part of the college experience,’’ said Donahue. “And then you make the best of the players you have.’’
Or the ones you can get from another school.