Analysis: Can Maryland lure transfer target away from home amid pandemic?
Utah transfer Both Gach now has a manageable list of suitors to choose from. The 6-foot-6 guard, who announced his decision to leave the Utes program last month, cut his list down to five schools Monday and included Maryland among his finalists.
The list provided potential insight into Gach’s thinking. The Terps are an anomaly among a group that includes only one other schools not within driving distance Gach’s hometown in Austin, MN. The Gophers are the presumed favorite due to being the homestate school, but the Cyclones are also located within about a two hour drive from where he grew up. Creighton, meanwhile, was the third-closest school among the 20-plus programs that initially reached out to the dynamic slashing guard, indicating that while location may not be a deciding factor, it could play a meaningful role in what he decides to do.
There’s been discussion on whether the pandemic will influence recruits to stay closer to home with their college selection due to the understandable desire to be closer to family during this unprecedented time, in addition to the belief that the NCAA is more likely to grant hardship waivers to players opting to transfer closer to home. The pandemic has also prevented transfers from visiting schools in person, making pre-existing familiarity another advantage for local programs. The Terps are believed to have benefitted from this line of thinking themselves on the football side of things as all but one of the 12 members of Michael Locksley’s top-15 recruiting class are from Maryland or neighboring states.
It would take a leap of faith for someone like Gach to commit to a program on the other side of the country without getting a chance to visit the area, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Maryland has been a better program than Minnesota, Iowa State and Creighton in recent times by most measures, making more NCAA Tournament appearances (four) over the last six years than any of Gach’s other finalists. They also have sophomore center Chol Marial, who shares Gach’s South Sudanese roots, helping their recruiting efforts as the two are currently training together in Arizona.
At Maryland, Gach would likely have to sit out a year before potentially joining a trio of battle-tested seniors in Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Jairus Hamilton, along with Marial and fellow underclassmen Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Aquan Smart and Marcus Dockery. He wouldn’t be guaranteed to be the top option or even second in the pecking order, but the odds of playing meaningful basketball in March -- something he never did at Utah -- would be high.
The same can’t be as easily said for the Gophers, who have struggled through most of Richard Pitino’s seven year reign in Minneapolis, or the Cyclones who won just 12 games in Year Six of the Steve Prohm era last season. The Blue Jays might represent the best of both worlds, but would Creighton -- which is five hours away from his hometown -- be close enough to increase the chances of the NCAA granting him a hardship waiver?
That’s something Gach could hope to receive more clarity on before making a decision.