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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.