Just like with average college students, sometimes things don't go right for basketball players at the schools they originally pick. Of course, non-athletes don't have to worry about coaching changes and adjustments in role or playing time, which leads to a high percentage of basketball transfers, but athletes still have to deal with all of the normal stuff, family issues, homesickness, academics (players have transferred for dropped majors). All of these things can lead to a player to seek a new start at a different school.
A talented transfer or two can really boost a team's season. But teams that bring in too many transfers risk chemistry issues and rarely reach the levels coaches employing this tactic anticipate. (For a current example, look at Rod Barnes' Georgia State team, though his transfers have a second year to pull things together.) This post takes a look at only some of the talented players who left one Division I school for another. Since the NCAA doesn't want players hopping around from school to school, transfers generally have to sit out a season before suiting up for their new school. (They can practice with their new teams while they sit.) Most of my choices sat out last season, but there are a couple of players in my list who are eligible immediately.
After the jump, I'll present my three preseason All-Transfer teams, starting with the 3rd team.
3rd Team All-Transfer
Matt Pilgrim, 6-8 F (Oklahoma State from Kentucky): Pilgrim already sat out last season after transferring to Lexington from Hampton. However, he didn't figure into John Calipari's plans and was released from his scholarship. In Stillwater, Pilgrim will play the 3, 4, and 5 spots and bolster the Cowboys' thin frontcourt.
Jeremiah Rivers, 6-5 G (Indiana from Georgetown): Rivers is the son of Doc, head coach of the Boston Celtics. He spent the last year practicing with the Hoosiers, with the hopes of taking over the starting point guard role. Rivers should be a perfect fit for an Indiana team that needs defense and toughness.
Tyrone Shelley, 6-5 G and Malcolm Thomas, 6-9 F (San Diego State from Pepperdine): Shelley led the Waves in scoring as a freshman, contributing an average of 15 points per game. That offense will be necessary for a team that lost four senior starters after an NIT semifinal appearance. He'll be joined on the Aztecs by Thomas, who also was pretty good in Malibu, averaging 12.5 points and almost 9 rebounds per outing. That's not a bad combo.
Alex Stephenson, 6-9 F (USC from North Carolina): Stephenson returned back to the Southland after a disappointing time in Chapel Hill. He simply fell behind more talented players on the depth chart. He should certainly make an impact with a Trojan side that's in need of talent.
2nd Team All-Transfer
Tony Freeman, 6-1 G (Southern Illinois from Iowa): You could just about fill an all-transfer team with the players who've left Iowa City during Todd Lickliter's tenure. Freeman is a senior and the biggest question about him is attitude. He averaged nearly 14 points a game in his last season with the Hawkeyes, but had problems with Lickliter's system. You have to question his decision to go to Carbondale to play under another defense-first coach, Chris Lowery.
Ben Hansbrough, 6-3 G (Notre Dame from Mississippi State): If you thought the Hansbrough era in college basketball was over, you'd be incorrect. Tyler's brother Ben will suit up for the Irish this year after sitting out a year. Hansbrough is a more perimeter-oriented player than his brother and will largely replace the graduated Kyle McAlarney at shooting guard.
Curtis Kelly, 6-8 F (Kansas State from Connecticut): Kelly was a highly touted recruit for Jim Calhoun who just didn't pan out. While his numbers in Storrs weren't great at all (averaging only 2 pts. and 2 boards per game), Kelly will be in a situation where he can be a star alongside Denis Clemente, Jacob Pullen, and fellow newcomer freshman F Wally Judge.
Vernon Macklin, 6-10 F/C (Florida from Georgetown): Macklin will be expected to be a big contributor to a Gator frontcourt that could be without Adam Allen (leg) and Eloy Vargas (academics). Alex Tyus and Dan Werner spent much of last year playing out of position. If Macklin can establish himself as a post presence along with Kenny Kadji, Werner and Tyus can focus more on the 3 and 4 spots.
Elliot Williams, 6-4 G/F (Memphis from Duke): Williams was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA, as his mother is ill, so he will suit up immediately for his hometown team. Having a Memphis native on the roster should provide a little stability to a roster known for rapid fluctuations, while giving Josh Pastner a boost for his plans to draw more local players to the program. Williams doesn't really have a natural position, so expect to see him at both forward and guard.
1st Team All-Transfer
Derrick Caracter, 6-9 F (UTEP from Louisville): In a year when Memphis is down, Caracter could be a major gamechanger in Conference USA. The question is whether he's learned from all of the off-the-court issues that plagued him when he played for Rick Pitino. If he can, the combination of Caracter and returning C Arnett Moultriegives the Miners the best frontline in the league.
Jordan Crawford, 6-4 G (Xavier from Indiana): This is the guy who dunked on Lebron James. I'm not sure I need to say much more, but I will. Crawford gained good experience during his time in Bloomington, averaging just under 10 points a game with good rebounding (3.4) and assist (2.5) numbers, on a team that won 25 games. He'll be expected to contribute immediately on a team that lost C.J Anderson, Derrick Brown, and B.J. Raymond.
Wesley Johnson, 6-7 F (Syracuse from Iowa State): Johnson will replace Paul Harris at small forward for the Orange. He's a versatile player who can play both inside and outside, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says he can be an all-Big East performer. Greg McDermott has to be wishing Johnson was still in Ames playing alongside Craig Brackens.
Jai Lucas, 5-9 G (Texas from Florida): Lucas, the son of NBA player and coach, John, returned to his home state after losing the starting point guard job in Gainesville to the now departed Nick Calathes. He'll return to the 1 spot in Austin, as he'll provide the passing, scoring, and ball security the Longhorns last had with D.J. Augustin in 2007-08.
Herb Pope, 6-8 F (Seton Hall from New Mexico State): Pope is one of three transfers who'll suit up for the Pirates this year--G Keon Lawrence from Missouri and F Jeff Robinson from Memphis are the others. Pope was the WAC's newcomer of the year in 2008, and he returns East after averaging 11 points and almost 7 points a game during his season in Las Cruces. He'll fill the power forward spot for the Hall, allowing Robert Mitchell to play in his natural position, small forward.
On Monday, I'll talk about some of the more interesting coaching changes made during the offseason. Tuesday, I'll present my Preseason All-America teams.