UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
College Basketball

A Trend Revisited: Up-Transferring in college basketball

Last summer, as part of an ongoing project to find the truth about transfer rates in college basketball, I introduced the term Up-Transferring. It was a way to describe players who upgraded Division I schools, either by transferring from a low-major to a mid-major power (such as Gonzaga), or from a mid-major to a major-conference team, or from a major-conference also-ran to a recent national champ. Up-Transfers represent just a sliver of the overall transfer market, but recently, they've become the most interesting sliver.

Why? Because while the overall transfer rate has gradually increased over the past few seasons, it hasn't exploded into the kind of monster that some coaches would have you believe. Here are the NCAA's officially reported D-I men's basketball transfer rates for 2007-12, along with my own estimate for 2012-13, based on the list compiled by VerbalCommits.com:

2007-08 10.8%

2008-09 10.7%

2009-10 10.1%

2010-11 10.6%

2011-12 11.9%

2012-13 12.4% (my estimate)

There were more than 500 transfers last season. That's a large, round number ... that only represents a 1.6 percent increase from 2007-08. The overall transfer market is not markedly different in volume than it was five years ago.

Track the Up-Transfer market during the same period, however, and you'll find something on a much different trajectory. Something that might actually called a trend.

Up-Transferring was once a barely noticeable activity. Among transfers who became eligible in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, only 5-7 per season could be classified as Up-Transfers. And only one of those players (Bassirou Dieng) used the NCAA's graduate-transfer exception to upgrade schools and be eligible immediately. Here are the full Up-Transfer lists for those seasons, with the most notable cases being Syracuse's Wes Johnson (from Iowa State) and Seton Hall's Herb Pope (from New Mexico State).

Up-Transfers Eligible in 2007-08
No. Player Old School New School
1 Maurice Acker Ball State Marquette
2 C.J. Anderson Manhattan Xavier
3 Calvin Baker William & Mary Virginia
4 Trevor Cook Texas State Texas Tech
5 Drew Shiller San Francisco Stanford
6 Jeff Xavier Manhattan Providence
Up-Transfers Eligible in 2008-09
No. Player Old School New School
1 Dan Deane Utah Oregon State
2 Zaire Taylor Delaware Missouri
3 Joe Trapani Vermont Boston College
4 Robert Mitchell Duquesne Seton Hall
Graduate transfers
5 Bassirou Dieng St. Francis (Pa.) Georgia Tech
Up-Transfers Eligible in 2009-10
No. Player Old School New School
1 Josh Bone Southern Illinois Tennessee
2 Mike Gerrity Charlotte USC
3 Wesley Johnson Iowa State Syracuse
4 Todd O'Brien Bucknell St. Joe's
5 Matt Pilgrim Hampton Oklahoma State
6 Herb Pope New Mexico State Seton Hall
7 Zisis Sarikopolous UAB Ohio State

The first known D-I men's basketball player to use NCAA's grad-transfer exception was Kevin Krueger, who moved from Arizona State to UNLV, the team his father was coaching, in 2006. The exemption allows a player who 1) has earned an undergraduate degree, 2) has eligibility remaining and 3) wants to pursue a graduate program not offered at his current school to transfer to a school that offers his desired grad program and be eligible immediately, rather than sitting out the standard year.

Although Krueger's move was a high-profile success -- he was the assist leader on a UNLV team that went to the Sweet 16 -- he did not immediately set off a wave of grad transfers. Great innovations in NCAA loophole-exploitation seem to take a few years to catch on. It became noticeable in 2010-11 and 2011-12, when the rise in Up-Transfers was directly attributable to the grad-transfer boom. There were five graduate Up-Transfers in each of those seasons, including players who had key roles for Michigan State (Brandon Wood) and North Carolina (Justin Knox). Elite teams were using the loophole.

Up-Transfers Eligible in 2010-11
No. Player Old School New School
1 Malik Cooke Nevada South Carolina
2 Seth Curry Liberty Duke
3 Jio Fontan Fordham USC
4 Gerald Robinson Tennessee State Georgia
Graduate transfers
5 Jake Anderson Northern Illinois Iowa State
6 John Fields UNC-Wilmington Tennessee
7 Justin Knox Alabama North Carolina
8 Robert Lumpkins New Mexico State Rutgers
9 Jay-R Strowbridge Jacksonville State Oregon
Up-Transfers Eligible in 2011-12
No. Player Old School New School
1 Anthony Booker Southern Illinois Iowa State
2 Trey McKinney-Jones UMKC Miami
3 Arnett Moultrie UTEP Miss. State
4 Brandon Reed Arkansas State Georgia Tech
5 Mike Rosario Rutgers Florida
6 Travis Taylor Monmouth Xavier
7 Kevin Young Loyola Marymount Kansas
Graduate transfers
8 Olu Ashaolu Louisiana Tech Oregon
9 Alex Johnson Cal State-Bakersfield NC State
10 Sam Maniscalco Bradley Illinois
11 Deirunas Visockas Lafayette Boston College
12 Brandon Wood Valparaiso Michigan State

And then, in 2012-13, came the boom. The Up-Transfer count jumped from 12 the previous season to 30. Fifteen were regular transfers who sat out a season, four (marked by asterisks) earned undergraduate hardship waivers from the NCAA to play immediately, and the other 11 were graduate transfers.

Up-Transfers Eligible in 2012-13
No. Player Old School New School
1 Bo Barnes Hawaii Arizona State
2 Keion Bell Pepperdine Missouri
3 Martino Brock South Alabama South Florida
4 Nikola Cerina TCU Northwestern
5 Glen Dean Eastern Washington Utah
6 Evan Gordon Liberty Arizona State
7 Luke Hancock George Mason Louisville
8 *Damarcus Harrison BYU Clemson
9 Ryan Harrow NC State Kentucky
10 *Arsalan Kazemi Rice Oregon
11 Amath M'Baye Wyoming Oklahoma
12 Aaric Murray La Salle West Virginia
13 D.J. Newbill Southern Miss Penn State
14 *Omar Oraby Rice USC
15 Isaiah Philmore Towson Xavier
16 Juwan Staten Dayton West Virginia
17 Gene Teague Southern Illinois Seton Hall
18 Eric Wise UC Irvine USC
19 *Trey Zeigler Central Michigan Pitt
Graduate Transfers
20 Logan Aronhalt Albany Maryland
21 Jarred DuBois Loyola Marymount Utah
22 R.J. Evans Holy Cross UConn
23 Mark Lyons Xavier Arizona
24 Julius Mays Wright State Kentucky
25 Sam McLaurin Coastal Carolina Illinois
26 LaShay Page Southern Miss South Carolina
27 Andrew Van Nest Harvard Boston College
28 Kore White Florida Atlantic USF
29 Charles Carmouche Memphis LSU
30 Kyle Smythe Iona Seton Hall

It was not a one-year phenomenon. The same thing happened this season: 30 Up-Transfers are eligible, with three more waiting on waivers. Thirteen are graduate transfers. Oregon could potentially have three Up-Transfers in its rotation in Jason Calliste (formerly of Detroit), Mike Moser (UNLV) and Joseph Young (Houston, with waiver pending).

Up-Transfers Eligible in 2013-14
No. Player Old School New School
1 Perris Blackwell USF Washington
2 Jordan Clarkson Tulsa Missouri
3 Gilles Dierickx Florida International Washington
4 Justin (Richie) Edwards Valparaiso Arizona State
5 Dylan Ennis Rice Villanova
6 Dorian Finney-Smith Virginia Tech Florida
7 Alandise Harris Houston Arkansas
8 Damontre Harris South Carolina Florida
9 Rodney Hood Miss. State Duke
10 Max Hooper Harvard St. John's
11 Eric McClellan Tulsa Vanderbilt
12 T.J. McConnell Duquesne Arizona
13 Nic Moore Illinois State SMU
14 Rayvonte Rice Drake Illinois
15 Adam Smith UNC-Wilmington Virginia Tech
16 Malik Smith Florida International Minnesota
17 Matt Stainbrook Western Michigan Xavier
Graduate transfers
18 Tarik Black Memphis Kansas
19 Jason Calliste Detroit Oregon
20 Sterling Carter Seattle Purdue
21 Jon Ekey Illinois State Illinois
22 Evan Gordon Arizona State Indiana
23 D.J. Haley VCU USC
24 DeAndre Kane Marshall Iowa State
25 Lasan Kromah George Washington Connecticut
26 Mike Moser UNLV Oregon
27 Errick Peck Cornell Purdue
28 David Pellom George Washington Memphis
29 Allen Roberts Miami (OH) Penn State
30 Coron Williams Robert Morris Wake Forest
Regular transfers waiting on NCAA hardship waivers
31 Eli Carter Rutgers Florida
32 Royce O'Neale Denver Baylor
33 Joseph Young Houston Oregon

Now that you have all the names, here's a visual of Up-Transferring's rise during this period:

What's left is to explain why this boom happened. These are the three biggest factors:

1. The rising popularity of the grad-transfer loophole accounts for some of it, but not all. The majority of Up-Transfers are undergraduates. And although undergraduate hardship waivers -- due to ailing family members, etc. -- have increased across D-I, they don't account for many Up-Transfers.

2. There was a string of big-program precedents. When titans such as Jim Boeheim (with Wes Johnson), Mike Krzyzewski (with Seth Curry), Tom Izzo (with Brandon Wood) and Rick Pitino (with Luke Hancock) have success with Up-Transferring in a four-year period, other coaches are bound to emulate them.

3. When the NCAA altered its recruiting calendar, it may have unwittingly fueled the Up-Transfer market. This is a theory that the Bylaw Blog's John Infante posited after my first Up-Transfer column, and it checks out. The spring recruiting period saw major revisions during this period: In 2007 and 2008, coaches were permitted to attend "live" recruiting events on three weekends following the completion of the college season. These were AAU events, such as the Kingwood Classic in Houston, where early evaluation of high school sophomores and juniors occurred, and coaches would follow up with weekday visits to prospects' high schools. Spring was when the groundwork for future recruiting classes was laid.

In 2009, as an attempt to limit the influence of AAU coaches, the NCAA eliminated college coaches' access to the spring tournaments. The result, as a few recruiters explained to me, is that early evaluation of high-schoolers was curtailed, and coaches had less direction on which players to visit in high-school open gyms.

This was the state of affairs from 2009-2011, until the NCAA reinstated the spring period in 2012. Was it a coincidence that the wave of graduate Up-Transfers started in 2010? Or that the 2012-13 list of eligible Up-Transfers exploded, largely with players who left schools in 2011? All we know is that coaching staffs, who were used to spending spring weekends on AAU-tourney bleachers, suddenly had more time on their hands.

Promoted Stories
Comments

More College Basketball

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.