College basketball’s free agency era
by Nicole Auerbach and Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
While sitting on the bench during a demoralizing first-round NCAA tournament loss to Iowa State, UConn’s Alex Oriakhi made a decision in March that triggered the most frenzied four-week period of his life.
Right there, Oriakhi decided he would transfer. In the locker room immediately after the game, Oriakhi sent a text message to Missouri guard Phil Pressey, a close friend and former summer-league teammate, saying he might play with him. It was a message that launched a high-profile national recruitment of a 21-year-old.
Once Oriakhi received his release from his UConn scholarship, well more than 30 college coaches — including Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams — bombarded Oriakhi with phone calls. He could not maintain a conversation with one, he said, without call-waiting beeping with inquiries from others. He finally turned his cell phone off for two days.
Players have long transferred for myriad reasons — coaching changes, homesickness, playing time — but many coaches are increasingly troubled both by the sheer number of transfers and the waivers given so that some transfers don’t have to sit out a season.
Think keeping track of conference realignment is dizzying? Try following player movement: Oriakhi was among the most talented of more than 440 players who transferred in the past year, fueling debate over whether the complex issue hurts the sport and if anything can or should be done to curb the movement.
Not including graduate student transfers, almost exactly 10 percent of the 4,433 scholarships available from NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball teams are changing hands via transfers. Although that percentage has held steady for nearly a decade, it is more than double the percentage of college football and more than triple that of college baseball, according to NCAA records. Records also show the transfer rate in men’s basketball is 36 percent grater than the rate of the overall student-athlete population.
Think summer is the most important recruiting time? Coaches now often are forced to re-recruit some of their most talented players during the season to keep them, At the same time, coaches stand to greatly benefit if they land a … [For more on College basketball's free agency era, click here.]