It all started with Tarik Black.
The 6-foot-9, 260 pound forward had respectable numbers at Memphis (9.3. points, 4.9 rebounds, 60 percent from the field for his career), but felt he had become less of a focal point for the Tigers last season and he was looking for a fresh start for his final collegiate season. So he decided to transfer to Kansas, where he will replace Jeff Withey and serve as the defensive stopper that coach Bill Self traditionally has featured in the middle.
It was a great pickup for Self, but Black wasn't the only player on the move since last April. Black’s transfer set in motion one of the most significant domino effects of the 2013 offseason and created a prime example of what some have called “free agency” in college basketball.
Black's departure left Memphis coach Josh Pastner with a hole in the post. That was quickly filled by David Pellom, a 6-7 forward out of George Washington who was looking for a new home after spending last season on the bench with a wrist injury. After the NCAA granted Pellom with a medical redshirt for 2012-13, he transferred to Memphis with one season of immediate eligibility remaining. A stout big man who can do the dirty work in the post –- he averaged 10.4 points, 6.1 boards and shot 68.1 percent from the field in 2011-12 -- Pellom is an able replacement for Black.
Because of Pellom's move, George Washington now had a scholarship to fill. Fortunately, Indiana’s Maurice Creek was looking for a place to play. The 6-5 Creek was a reserve swingman at Indiana when he wasn’t injured. Creek averaged just 1.8 points and 7.8 minutes in 24 games last season after battling Achilles and knee injuries his whole career. He won’t fill the exact role that Pellom played for George Washington, but when he’s on the court, Creek can be a serviceable player.
With Creek leaving and a host of other players transferring and going pro out of the program, Indiana needed a guard to play behind Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, Evan Gordon was looking for a new home. The former Arizona State guard transferred to Indiana.
Gordon, who has averaged 12.1 points per game in three seasons between two schools –- Liberty before Arizona State –- will follow big brother Eric (a former Hoosiers star now playing in the NBA with New Orleans) in Bloomington. An athletic 6-1 guard with the same explosion as his big brother, the younger Gordan is an improvement over Creek.
All four players found their way to new schools through arguably one of the most controversial rules in college sports today. A rule that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has said was intended for academic purposes and ended up being used for “a playing situation” (Boeheim has never had a graduate transfer player on his roster).
The graduate transfer rule has become increasingly popular in college basketball. If a player completes his undergraduate degree program and wants to find a new school that doesn't have the graduate program the player wants to enroll in, he can transfer without having to sit out a year. Recruiting will always stay the same. Coaches will raid the AAU and junior college scene to find players they can develop. However, with the boom in graduate transfers in full force, college basketball fans can expect to see more and more coaches and players taking advantage of this loop hole.