Arizona Wildcats fans are no strangers to players transferring from the program in recent years, from Sidiki Johnson (who transferred to and then from Providence), Angelo Chol, Craig Victor, and Justin Simon just this year. Occasionally, like with "Momo" Jones, there is a desire (if not necessity) to be closer to home which motivates the transfer. Occasionally a player has graduated and can play one year at another school, immediately at that. But more often than not the issue is role and/or playing time.
Much was made of Gabe York choosing to stay with the program despite limited minutes early on and the fruits that came from that commitment, including being an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection as a senior and now having an opportunity to work out for NBA teams. But York is clearly the exception and not the rule.
Transferring is becoming an epidemic in college basketball. At the recently wrapped Big Ten annual Spring meetings, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo used that very word with reference to the growing number of transfers, and surely any group of college coaches in America would concur. ESPN.com began tracking the transfers from Men’s Division I programs in 2007 (in 2007 there were 336 schools; there are currently 351 schools). The initial list contained about 200 names. This year’s list is approaching 1,000. That’s a 400% spike in under a decade.
Just this week, two former McDonald’s All-Americans withdrew their names from the NBA Draft, but also added interesting addendums to those pronouncements. Kentucky’s Marcus Lee will transfer, citing wanting to be closer to home in California. Mississippi State’s Malik Newman "may" transfer, per reports, citing dissatisfaction with — you got it — his role with the team.
Whether it’s emblematic of our growing "entitlement" society (especially with young athletes who are often covered by the media and recruitniks as early as grade school), or simply players with very thin skin, the decision to seek greener pastures is coming at the first sign of even remote discomfort it seems. Even forcing players to sit out a year doesn’t seem to discourage exodus.
The rise of one-and-done players coupled with the rise of transfers is far from ideal for the college basketball landscape. Arizona has admittedly been the beneficiary of incoming transfers (T.J. McConnell, Ryan Anderson, Kadeem Allen) as much or more than they’ve suffered from outgoing transfers, but it creates an interesting case of cognitive dissonance. I think all Arizona fans are excited about another stellar recruiting class but we also have to wonder who will actually stick around to bear any fruit, let alone big time fruit. Will they end up as NBA Draft early entrants or, as is trending, seek the opportunity to transfer to a "better" situation (particularly apt for schools loading up on talent annually which creates positional logjams)?
When it comes to recruiting, it’s a crapshoot. Heck, I remember being really excited about Josiah Turner and we know how that turned out.