Loren Tate: Players should stick around

Loren Tate: Players should stick around

Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State compose their basketball squads the old-fashioned way.

These perennial Midwest powers disdain transfers for the most part, having built a culture in which they recruit high school products and retain them until the pros call.

That seemed to be working on Jan. 1, when The Associated Press poll had all three ranked among the nation’s Top 5.

But since the end of 2013, when the Big Ten was universally deemed No. 1, the basketball world has turned upside down. The Big Ten has no one in the AP’s top dozen. We see outsiders unrelated to the five power conferences — teams like Wichita State, San Diego State, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Creighton — filling those slots.

The makeup of their squads is different, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs showing five transfers among his top six players, including Josh Davis, who originally attended N.C. State and Tulane. This brings back the year-old comments of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who discussed “diva athletes ... who attend college as an extended-stay hotel.”

Krzyzewski said “high school kids play here, there and everywhere” and their summers emphasize “which player blew up and made the biggest name for himself — not for his team.”

Coach K, who now faces the immediate loss of freshman star Jabari Parker, was quoted: “You see it sometimes with a one-and-done type of thing. A kid can enter school and just be thinking he’s in a sort of extended-stay hotel instead of unpacking his bags and being a part of the culture.

“Where is my home? Who am I? Who am I playing for? Usually themselves.”

On the move

Let’s analyze two streaking members from the Great Plains, the representatives from Wichita and Omaha.

After reaching the Final Four last season, Wichita State is unbeaten and breezing through the weakened Missouri Valley.

Coach Gregg Marshall’s top eight scorers include five junior college transfers, one of whom — 6-foot-9 Canadian Chadrack Lufile — played in the busy juco ranks of Kansas (Coffeyville).

If Kadeem Coleby put stickers on his suitcase for every stop, it would be smothered with them. He went from the Bahamas to Odessa College, then Daytona State, then Louisiana Lafayette and sat out 2013 for a final season with the Shockers.

And then there’s Nick Wiggins, son of NBA star Mitch Wiggins and brother of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. Nick moved from Toronto to Tallahassee, Fla., to complete high school, enrolled at Vincennes, moved to Wabash Valley (Mount Carmel) and landed at Wichita State.

With top scorer Cleanthony Early hailing from a New York juco, the Shockers could field a lineup from New York, Georgia, Toronto, Nassau and Rockford (sophomore Fred VanVleet). The only member of the top eight who prepped in Kansas is redshirt sophomore Ron Baker, who returned from injury just in time to help last year’s Final Four run.

From near and (mostly) far

Creighton is unique because Doug McDermott, who’ll wind up as one of the nation’s top 10 career scorers, is the son of coach Greg McDermott. Having averaged 22.9 and 23.2 points the last two seasons (he’s been above 30 nine times this season, averaging roughly 26), he would surely have turned pro but for the familial connection.

Minnesotan Ethan Wragge, who is challenging .500 in three-point marksmanship, is a fifth-year veteran who sat out his sophomore season with plantar fasciitis and subbed behind McDermott the last two seasons.

Older yet is 6-5 starter Grant Gibbs, who originally enrolled at Gonzaga in 2008, and was approved for a sixth (yes, sixth!) season of eligibility in July.

Key Bluejays have flown in from all directions, from Texas to Ontario and from Washington to New York (Harlem’s Devin Brooks stopped off at Iowa Western).

Of 12 players who have participated in at least 10 games, only one hailed from the home state of Nebraska.

Pro prospects

The term “student-athlete” doesn’t work under these circumstances. Many of these athletes aren’t looking for an education. They’re looking for the best place to enhance their basketball skills.

Teenagers already are lining up for the NBA. Mock drafts feature a long list of freshmen and sophomores starting with Duke’s Parker. Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden are pegged high. Kentucky has three more first-rounders. Having watched the trials and tribulations of Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, others aren’t going to wait.

Michigan State and Michigan are likely to take major hits.

Face it, the college game is on a downhill slide. Soon after this season concludes, we’re likely to see 40-plus early departures. Don’t be surprised if transfers creep up toward 500.

The new statistic is that 40 percent of the nation’s scholarship basketball players will move by the end of their sophomore season.

Is there anything about those numbers that reflect positively?

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Illini '73 wrote on February 23, 2014 at 10:02 am

Some want to stick around, but the coaching staff decides they won't be of any use to them and cuts them loose.  We have seen this up close.

PortlandIllini wrote on February 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm


C'mon Coach Krzyzewski,  you gotta be kidding me.    You recruit Mr Parker knowing that he is certainly is going to stay exactly one year in school,  then you complain about students who don't stick around?     A basketball player needs to be academically eligible for only ONE semester in order to play for his entire freshman year.  Because the BB season is over before the second semester grades are posted.  The one year rule is a farce.    

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Actually that's not entirely true because by NCAA regulations, freshmen athletes can't be but on academic probation or be in bad academic standing. Technically a one and done athlete could enroll in college, go to 0 classes their 1st semester and get the Bluto Blutarsky special 0.0 GPA that 1st semester and still be allowed to play 2nd semester where they can also enroll go to 0 classes and finish out that freshman year with a 0.0 GPA. So yes, shockingly the requirements of student athletes are even more lax than you believe.

Illini '73 wrote on February 24, 2014 at 9:02 am

The NBA should go back to the rule that lets them draft HS kids.  There is no valid reason for the 1 year rule.  Then I'd like there to be a rule that once a kid is in school, they can't be drafted until after their sophomore year.  Kids couldn't get by with poor performance in the classroom for 3 semesters.

aaeismacgychel wrote on February 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

No, it's not right for "student"-athletes to reneg on their commitments to schools and transfer. But at the same time, how can one hold them solely responsible for that? First off, calling them 'student-athletes' is a misnomer because the NCAA could care less about the student part. If they actually cared about academics for athletes and not making money, they'd have higher standards for athletes, they'd force athletes to take actual majors (As in not Spech Comm, Leisure Studies, or Undecided-General Curriculum at Illinois. These same blowoff curricula go by different names like AFAM elsewhere), and they'd make sure that the only athletes who attend college are those who have the intention to get their degrees (None of this one and done, two and done garbage). I've said for a long time if athletes have no desire to get a degree, then they shouldn't be in college. Let them make money overseas and hone their skills there. And if the NCAA doesn't care about the education of athletes, why should the athletes

Secondly, while we love to get upset with athletes for transferring for "the grass is always greener" reasons, Loren, how can you hold athletes accountable more than coaches and schools? Schools and coaches should similarly be forced to keep their scholarship commitments. Instead we see schools and coaches like Indiana and Tom Crean regularly boot kids they offered scholarships too off scholarship or off the team to make room for better athletes. How is that fair to the student? Especially if the student actually attended the university for the right reasons? And guess who else has doen that? Yes, our coach, John Groce. Mike Shaw, Ibby Djimde, Mike Henry, and Devin Langford were all basically sent packing (Let's not make excuses, that's pretty much what it was and no different than what Crean does annually). Scholarships should be for 4 years (not 1yr renewable) and the college should be saddled with them. That means that if a kid goes pro early without completing their degree, the school can't replace that scholarship until its original 4 yr term is up (If an athlete completes their degree in 3 years, no penalty will be enforced and the schoalrship will be immediately made avaialble). You recruit a player who no longer fits your program or you recruit "upgrades" over them? Too bad, you have to retain that scholarship for the 4 year length even if the player decides to transfer.

If you want players to not transfer and be committed to the program then you have to enforce regulations that commits the school to that player. Right now it is decidedly one-way in favor of the schools and you just can't have that. The coaches, schools, and universities are just as responsible if not moreso for the high student-athlete tansfer rate.