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The Morning Dish – Friday, April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

As much as possible, transfers in college basketball is an issue that have personally avoided while writing the Morning Dish for Hoopville.

For one, to cover them all these days is literally impossible. For another, no matter how much some try to frame it otherwise, the nagging feeling persists here that the high rate of transfers is hardly the best of this sport for anyone-including student-athletes.

We know some seem to take joy and even celebrate seeing college athletes transfer schools, thinking it’s a sign of “empowerment,” and there’s probably nothing that will change their minds. Still, from the poaching and back avenue maneuvering between AAU coaches and schools, to schools keeping boards with names of potential graduate transfers, to the ego-stroking of being recruited time and again that some seem to need, the issue is loaded with unsavory elements. Unless transfers are being done honestly and openly, aboveboard by all sides, they’re not a good part of college basketball, certainly not in their current numbers.

Moreover, hearing of so many transfers often just brings sadness here, and it’s hard to understand why anyone with an ounce of empathy would enjoy seeing them. If anyone has ever known a family that sends its child to a college, they know that there is a heavy emotional investment made-by the student and family members alike.

Kids tell their family and friends, buy sweatshirts, hats, bumper stickers. Parents entrust a school to take care of their children. Unless one is moving from a junior college to a four-year school or in a pre-professional academic program, transferring is rarely the desired outcome of this investment.

Transferring is a right, and it’s going to happen. It’s typically a sign of two things, though it used to be overwhelmingly a sign of just one thing: that a current situation wasn’t good or fitting, and a young adult was unhappy and genuinely looking for better. Which is perfectly reasonable, even as one sure might wish more would stick it out through tough times and learn the value of perseverance.

Now, though, transferring is also increasingly a sign of people who can’t seem to enjoy the many blessings they have. More and more transfers are messing with great situations. They’re playing a ton of minutes, scoring a bunch of points, receiving recognition for their achievements, love everyone at the place they’re at (or so they say in their dime-a-dozen departure thank you letters on social media)…and apparently it’s still not enough.

Why should someone in their college years want to mess with happy? Just as importantly, why would any human being who claims to care about their fellow man, and young adults in particular, want to see them mess with happy? Yet that’s exactly where college basketball is right now: a sport where players are encouraged to disregard personal relationships with teammates and seemingly anyone (except maybe their head coach), and shop themselves around at the end of most every season.

We thought of all of this yesterday with the news that South Dakota guard Matt Mooney has received his release and is going on the grad transfer meat market. The tweet from Mooney itself sounded like someone who is doing this almost as much because he feels he’s supposed to as because he may have actually wanted to:

Mooney received some flak for the ambiguous wording of his tweet, which was unfair to him, especially coming from people who barely know the first thing about him. He’s only taking advantage of the grad transfer rule, however much of an absurdity it has morphed into as something completely the opposite of its original intent. If anything, he should be lauded for his honesty, his simplicity and forthrightness in describing his situation, and for considering going back to South Dakota.

We watched several South Dakota games the last two seasons, enough to know Mooney is a heck of a player. He can shoot it, pass, defend, plays his tail off, and is a lot of fun to watch.

We also know that Mooney transferred from Air Force, where he played significant minutes as a freshman before leaving after alleging he was bullied there (a term he letter regretted using, it should be noted). He went to South Dakota and was the team’s best player, averaged a lot of points, was a fan favorite, and was a member of teams that claimed a Summit League regular season title and made the NIT last year and won 26 games this year.

After losing the Summit League final this year to South Dakota State, Mooney was in tears in the press conference, apologizing to fans for his play in the game. His then-coach Craig Smith said a few minutes later: “Matt’s a perfectionist. Matt’s the kind of guy that, if he hits the bullseye, he’s not happy unless it hits the center of the bullseye. That’s Matt and that’s why he’s very good. You’re talking about a guy that had one Division I scholarship offer out of high school.”

Mooney was unhappy at Air Force. If there’s anyone who should know the value of finding a situation they’re happy with, it’s him. Without putting words into another’s mouth, it sure seems he was happy at South Dakota. Clearly from his reactions after the Summit League final game, he was heavily invested in his team and his experience at USD.

One thing has changed since then: Smith took the head-coaching position at Utah State, as is his right to do as an adult in the working world. While undoubtedly that could have some effect, college athletes-no matter how focused they are on their sport-also have relationships with more than just head coaches. There are assistant coaches (often at least as important as the head coach). Teammates. Classmates. Friends. Professors. Fans. A head coach leaving shouldn’t change most of those relationships.

We’re often told the college years are the greatest time of our lives, a time that we build lifelong relationships. As such, if one is really an advocate for young adults, then they should want them to build and enjoy the relationships and great experiences they have during those years. Not always have head on a swivel looking to see if even “awesome” could be improved on some way if they just went somewhere else.

Relationships matter. Experiences with people you love matter. Stability matters. All those things should be more important than they clearly are for too many major college athletes now. Certainly they should be infinitely more important to those on the outside than “sticking it to the man,” which seems to be the main motivation for most who cheerlead the current high transfer rates.

We don’t know the answer to the transfer problem. It likely starts at the AAU and high school levels, where players regularly change teams without thought. Youth have learned to make business decisions at ages where they should be thinking “friends” and “being kids,” not “building a brand.” It’s no surprise that by the time they get to college they’ve become so jaded that relationships mean little.

Brainstorming out loud, one thing that maybe it’s time for the NCAA to consider is outlawing graduate students playing Division I college sports, and make them solely for undergrads. Contrary to what some think, no college grad “earns” the right to transfer to another school solely for athletic purposes or for an easier path to the NCAA Tournament. All they’ve earned is a degree, and the right to use that degree to get a paying job, which being a college athlete most certainly is not.

Allowing athletes to still finish up playing eligibility after completing their undergrad work was already a concession to those athletes by NCAA schools years ago, to encourage them to further their education. The grad transfer rule was still another concession. But if many Division I graduate transfers (or maybe even graduate students, period) are just using the rule with zero actual interest in a graduate degree-as statistics have shown and most everyone agrees is exactly what happens now-then clearly something needs to be done. Somehow, the academic component of the rule has to take more precedence than it does now.

Whatever the solution is, the hope here is that athletes who consider transferring-as undergrads or graduates-are truly thinking through just how good they have it at their current place. How much they enjoy their current teammates, friends, schools, surroundings. And we sure hope they understand that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Many will say they do. We’re not so sure.

It’s been proven time and again that if a kid is good enough, the pros will find them, no matter where they are. The college years are a time that should be enjoyed. And if one really wants “options,” there will be plenty of options and time to hop around from place to place-after college, when one enters the job market.

Side Dishes:

  • Fresno State hired Justin Hutson as its new coach on Thursday. Hutson was an assistant at Mountain West rival San Diego State for the past five years. Hutson is a native of the San Joaquin Valley region that Fresno is located in, and was known especially for his recruiting and coaching defense with the Aztecs. Hutson was picked over all sorts of other candidates mentioned in a search that took a good amount of time and had a disjointed look from the outside to many.
  • Florida Gulf Coast handed over its coaching reins to Michael Fly, an assistant at the school for the past seven years. Fly was an assistant under both Joe Dooley and Andy Enfield, and is the last remaining link to the school’s 2013 NCAA Sweet 16 team. Continue tracking coaching changes in the offseason at Hoopville here.
  • Ted Sarandis and Phil Kasiecki teamed up for another podcast episode of Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis, which you can listen to here.

Have a superb Friday and a terrific weekend. That will do it for the Morning Dish for a while, as we’ll now take some time off from regular duty until the fall, popping up on occasion as special events might merit. Thank you for reading, enjoy the offseason and check in with Hoopville in the offseason, we’ll again have our regular conference post-mortem series and other features.

 

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Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
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"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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Review on Hoopville coming soon!

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