Using fund, transfer travels with Duke team during year off

NEW YORK (AP) Former Maryland point guard Lexie Brown is settling in at Duke, and the school has decided to make an unusual investment to help her transition.

Brown, who led the Terrapins to the Final Four in her first two seasons, transferred to the Durham, North Carolina, school this summer to be closer to her home in Georgia.

NCAA rules prohibit schools from paying transfers - who have to sit out for a year - to travel to road games. Brown, however, can travel with the Blue Devils, because Duke asked if it could use money from the student assistance fund to pay for it.

''I told our director of basketball operations that I wanted her to travel with us as much as she can,'' Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ''She went to work with the compliance people as for what the rules were and we got it approved. To me that was a no-brainer. We don't have a lot of transfers at Duke, and she's such a good student.''

The fund is administered by conferences and used to help athletes with a variety of needs, including fees for summer school or graduate school exams, medical expenses or tickets fly in family members if an athlete gets hurt.

Duke wanted transfers to travel so they would feel like part of the team. Last season, the men's team used the fund to bring transfer Sean Obi to the Final Four and to see coach Mike Krzyzewski win his 1,000th game.

The ACC allows this use of the fund as long as the student-athlete doesn't miss class and doesn't practice with the team during the trip.

''I'm glad I got to be part of the first road trip,'' said Brown, who accompanied the Blue Devils to their opener at Penn. ''I think the rule is, as long as I don't miss class, I can go with them. When spring time rolls around, I won't be around as much as my schedule is more packed.''

Brown will also be able to join the team on its Thanksgiving trip to Mexico.

''The Thanksgiving trip is an invaluable time for her to be with us as we're a close-knit group. It gives her exposure to our team,'' McCallie said. ''We only have a short period of time with Lexie and getting her around our team and culture is a really good idea for her to see how we think. Transfer year is a very challenging year mentally on her and being around her teammates more will help her adjust better.''

Brown had good things to say about her time at Maryland, but the school's decision to leave the ACC and join the Big Ten after her freshman year played a huge role in her choice to leave.

Brown - the daughter of former NBA player Dee Brown - is close with her family, and changing conference limited their chances to see her play in person.

''I didn't expect a lot of people to understand why I decided to leave,'' Brown said. ''As long as everyone here understands. My mom's been up here four times. That's so important for me. She's even in the stands when I'm not playing. She'll be at the South Carolina game. It's worth it to me to see her and my little siblings in the stands.''

While Brown is able to travel, most transfers don't. The NCAA says it's up to the conferences to decide how the student assistance fund is used. More than half the conferences surveyed by The Associated Press either didn't know that was an option or said they didn't think they'd approve that use.

Ohio State transfer Stephanie Mavunga paid her own way to the seventh-ranked Buckeyes opening game at South Carolina. She's not the first to do that. UConn center Natalie Butler paid for her own ticket to the Huskies' game at Notre Dame last winter. She also paid for her own ticket to the Final Four to see Connecticut win its third straight championship.

Brown is just the latest in a series of high profile transfers that the sport has seen. Diamond DeShields left North Carolina for Tennessee and Alexis Jones went to Baylor from Duke last season.

In 2013-14, 9.2 percent of women's basketball players transferred according to the NCAA. That's up from 6.8 percent a decade ago.

''It's going to get worse as years go on, because there's tampering going on,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ''Tampering by players, tampering by coaches. ... There's a sense of entitlement that kids grow up with now. Play on an (AAU) team with five other kids, they go to three different schools, and now they are on their cellphone communicating with each other. Are they doing it on their own? Or doing at the behest of their coaches. If you're not happy there we'd love to have you.''

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