Recruiting & Scouting

BASKETBALL: Transferring has become the newest epidemic to hit the college and high school levels

Basketball   | Branden Hunter

BASKETBALL: Transferring has become the newest epidemic to hit the college and high school levels

   Who said free agency was limited to just professional sports? In a sense, it has trickled down to the college, and high ranks, especially in basketball. Minus the monetary aspect of free agency, players are switching from team to team, with little or no penalty, more than Jim Jackson did in his entire NBA career. 

Transferring has become the newest trend, or rather epidemic among college, and high schools players, like low-top sneakers, and jerseys with sleeves. In fact, the college transfer list has reached a record 626 players to date, and is only growing. Every player has their own story as to why they are transferring, and who are we to judge what a player does with his career. But when players are doing it at an unusually high rate, some eyebrows will be raised. 

College player transfer for a multitude of reasons, most athletically driven, and looking for the next best situation that suits them best. It seems as if players have forgotten what a "commitment" to a program truly is, and bolt after the first sign of trouble. Some transfer to multiples schools, barely unpacking their bags at their last destination. 

Then you have players who apply hardship waivers, which allow them to transfer closer to home, and play right away. But if for example, a relative is suffering from cancer, why not sit out that one year of basketball to take care of them, since that's the reason why you came back home in the first place? 

Some players have legit reasons for transferring schools, why others truly don't. Still it's impossible to tell a player where he can, and cannot play, since it's not against the law at all. The NCAA does  mandate that players sit out a year when transferring from one school to another, but that still hasn't stop players from doing it.  

I'm not saying it's wrong to transfer, for some players can actually benefits from it, academically, and athletically. But when it becomes sort of a "free agent system" is when something at the college level, something might have to be done. Then again some programs, like Detroit, actually benefit from transfers. The Titans have a number of players on its current roster, that have transferred back home to play, including Brandan Kearney, and Chris Jenkins. Kearney has transferred twice, Jenkins once, but the move allows them to finish their careers out at home, and play in front of their families, something that is hard to argue against.

If 20-year-olds transferring at an alarming rate isn't enough, imagine those who aren't even old enough to vote yet doing it. Transferring in high school basketball has gone from players leaving one school to go to a crosstown rival, to them leaving entire states to go play. MaxPreps.com recently did an article, where it highlighted 78 elite players in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 classes, that planned on attending a new school for the 2014-2015 season. And that's just a small percentage, compared to the bigger picture of things.

It's kind of disappointing to see a player play three years at his hometown school, then transfer to a big prep school in a different state for his senior year, but a sign of the times. Schools like Oak Hill, Findlay Prep, Montverde Academy, IMG Academy, Huntington Prep, and many more have made a living off of transfers. And to be fair, there's no law stating that players can't choose where they want to play at, but it's definitely becoming messy, and a bit of an issue for some. 

"It's kind of a two-way street with this topic," said one Michigan high school coach who chose not to be named. "You'd like the kids to stay home, and instill that loyalty in them, but if another situation fits them better, the best interests of the kid must come first. 

"Luckily I haven't lost any significant transfers, and I pray I never do. You just want things to be done the right way for the kids."

On the home front, high school basketball in the state of Michigan has been hit severely by players transferring. If the departure of the top junior in the nation, Josh Jackson, wasn't enough, four more of the better players in the state have decided to leave too, including three this past Saturday. Flint used to be a high school basketball mecca in the 1980s, but even that couldn't stop Southwestern Academy senior shooting guard Jaire Grayer from deciding not to return this winter. 

Mt.Clemens High was one of the better teams in the state over the last two seasons, going an impressive 48-3, and making deep runs in the state playoffs. But when their former head coach left, so did the players who came with him. Two of the players from those teams, 6-7 forwards Tariq Black and Charles Penn, plan on heading to Deion Sanders' school, Prime Prep in Dallas, Texas if the school remains open. Both players also plan on reclassifying to the 2016 class. Bakari Evelyn, formerly of Southfield Christian, is headed to Gilbert Christian, where former Detroit Country Day head coach Kurt Keener is. He helped the the Eagles win two of their three state Class D state titles. 

Obviously, as a Michigan high school basketball writer, and fan, I don't want to see any players leave. But what's more important is their own well-being, and what they think is best for them. As long as they are doing positive things, it's fine by me. We still have to live our own lives, and let the players live theirs. 

"Honestly it was good going to Mt.Clemens," Jones said. "I learned a lot of things my two years going there, but towards the end of my junior year, my mom wanted me to leave because of the education system. My grades were always good, but she just didn't like it.

"I really don't think transferring is a bad thing, especially if you think it's the best decision for you."

The era of the high school player becoming a star on the court in his hometown, like a Magic Johnson at Lansing Everett, or a Michael Jordan at Laney High is becoming extinct. Prep schools have killed that, and you just don't see the great high school teams that a Detroit, Flint, and even New York City once had. Players want to team up elsewhere, like they do in the NBA, and in college now, which kills the competition factor a bit. It's interesting to think if Magic, and Jordan would have considered a prep school in their day, if those were so available like they are now. Transferring is even going on in AAU basketball, which is another story in itself. 

It's almost impossible to tell others what to do with their own lives, but something might have to be done about transferring, on both the college, and high school levels. Players, and their parents are merely chasing the perfect mix of opportunity, competition and exposure, all in the name of college scholarships, or trying to make it into the NBA for some. But more than ever, they’re doing it because no one can, or will stop them. 

Imagine a day when you have 1,000 college players, and 300 high school players transferring from school to school a year, because it's headed that way.