Transfers hot topic in SEC

Billy Donovan talks to Mike Rosario, who transferred from Rutgers, during a game in 2011. (The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 25, 2012 at 11:09 p.m.

Close to 450 players transferred from Division I men's basketball schools during and following the 2012 season.

Yet new South Carolina coach Frank Martin is wondering what the big fuss is all about.

“Too many people are making too big of a deal on transfers at the Division I level,” Martin said. “Kids are transferring three or four times in high school, it's not like they are going to get to college and all of the sudden have an epiphany and decide to do things differently.”

Southeastern Conference coaches offered mixed views on the transfer issue during Monday's summer basketball coaches teleconference.

“We're dealing with a society issue, because it's instant gratification,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “I think when guys go to college their freshman year and if they experience some adversity the first thing they think about is should I leave, should I transfer.”

Of the 445 players on the Division I transfer list, only 15 are leaving SEC schools. One involved a player going from one SEC school to another, with South Carolina center Damontre Harris going to Florida. Martin said that Florida coach Billy Donovan handled the situation the proper way and he had no issues with Harris going to another school within the league.

Martin also lost promising South Carolina freshman forward Anthony Gill to Virginia this past offseason. Transfers occur most often when coaching changes are made.

“Transferring doesn't make anyone a failure,” Martin said. “It doesn't mean the program is a failure, it doesn't mean the young man is a failure.

“If something is not right, if the young man is not happy, it's going to be hard for everyone to coexist and it's going to be healthy for the young man and the program to part ways. There is nothing more important in this business than the success of the young people, and if they are not having success they should have the right to transfer. As long as things are being done the right way, they should be allowed to transfer.”

But Auburn coach Tony Barbee acknowledged the constant turnover in rosters can be an issue for coaches and fans that follow college teams.

“It's obvious there's too many,” Barbee said. “I think all of the coaches would agree. But the flip side is ‘What is the answer to it?' I don't think any of us have it.”

Donovan blamed the high-transfer rate on rigid NCAA recruiting restrictions involving coaches contacting prospective athletes. He said coaches don't get a chance to know players well enough in high school before they reach campus.

“It was a process that really promoted everybody making bad decisions and choices,” Donovan said,

Donovan said he thinks the NCAA allowing coaches unlimited text and email access to recruits is a step in the right direction. But Barbee said he thinks the problem also stems from enabling that begins in travel-league basketball, where players change teams as often as they change socks.

“We're creating a culture that's allowing these kids to run from their problems, and so they just continue to exist once they get to our level,” Barbee said.

Barbee said he handles restrictions on where players can transfer to on a case-by-case basis. Of the five players who have transferred from the program in his two years at Auburn, Barbee said he's placed restrictions on none of them.

“At the end of the day, it's what's best for these kids and not so much of what's best for me or my program,” Barbee said. “And I would never do anything to intentionally hurt a kid. I want players who want to be here at Auburn and be a part of this program, and if they don't we wish them the best of luck.

Stallings said he expects the high transfer rates in Division I basketball to continue.

“That's how kids are being raised now,” Stallings said. “There are people that are talking to them or advising them and telling them, basically, ‘You have to get yours.' It is again as much a societal problem as much as it is a college basketball problem.”

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