The Transfer Study: A look into commitment habits of 700 top players

Thursday August 1st, 2013

In this week's Sports Illustrated, I wrote a feature about the extreme basketball journey of two brothers from Durham, N.C.: Torian Graham, a top-100 recruit from the Class of 2012 who went to five high schools, decommitted from the same college twice and is now at a juco in Florida; and Tyree, a Class of 2008 recruit who fell off the map a bit while playing for four high schools, has since been at five colleges, and is looking for his sixth. I became fixated on the case of the Brothers Graham while doing a study on the commitment and transfer habits of the past seven classes of top-100 recruits* -- every high school (or prep school) they attended, every college commitment and decommitment they made, and every college they attended.

While the Grahams' nomadism demanded an investigation, the study's big-picture data revealed plenty about transfer culture. These are the 10 things you need to know from SI's tracking of the behavior of 700 elite players:

1. A one-high-school career is no longer the norm.

3. A third of top-100 players don't finish college at the same place they first enrolled.

... because a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that 32.6 percent of all full-time college students transfer. Are college students as a whole transferring too much for their own good? Maybe. But are basketball players transferring far more than non-athletes? That's a definite no.

Using the first (not final) commitment dates of each player, I plotted out how each class went from 0 to 100 commitments^^ -- and the chart below shows that the class of 2013 had the most recruits wait until their senior year to make an initial pledge. Is it a coincidence that 2013 also had the lowest rate of decommitment, at 11.8 percent?

Additional research on this study was provided by Chris Johnson.

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