Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big East Transfers -- A Snapshot in Early June

I know that Villanova had more outbound transfers than usual this year (Malcolm Grant & Andy Ott), but I wondered about the other teams in the Big East. I was a little surprised at some of the names...

*Marcus JohnsonConnecticutUSC
Curtis KellyConnecticutTBD
Doug WigginsConnecticutMassachusetts
Vernon MacklinGeorgetownFlorida
Jeremiah RiversGeorgetownIndiana
Scott ChristophersonMarquetteIowa State
Cassin DiggsPittsburghTBD
Dwain WilliamsProvidenceOregon State
Larry Davis Seton HallLoyola Marymount
Solomon BozemanSouth FloridaArkansas-Little Rock
Orane ChinSouth FloridaTBD
*Dante CurrySouth FloridaGeorgia State
Aaron HolmesSouth FloridaSanta Fe CC
Amu SaakaSouth FloridaFurman
Mike CavataioSt. John'sHoly Cross
Ricky TorresSt. John'sUMBC
Larry WrightSt. John'sOakland
Malcolm Grant VillanovaMiami
*Andrew OttVillanovaPenn State
*Jacob GreenWest VirginiaFordham

* -- transferred during the season, will be eligible at their destination school at the end of the fall 2008 semester.

Connecticut has consistently turned over players over the past decade. It appears to be the price of running an elite national program (a trait shared with Louisville it seems). For the Huskies, the exits are normally traced to discipline or talent/development...and indeed that is the case for Doug Wiggins (discipline) and Curt Kelly (development). Marcus Johnson is an anomaly. Talented enough to start consistently last season, Johnson had moved to the bench, but continued to see significant minutes in the rotation when he suddenly left the program just after the season started. Three weeks earlier and he would have had another full season to offer another college (USC in this case). Wiggins has moved over to Massachusetts while Kelly is still looking for a place to land. Rumors surfaced this week in numerous Connecticut newspapers that rising junior forward Stanley Robinson is also out at Storrs. Phil Chardis of the Journal Inquirer posted a summary piece that caught the relevant quotes from the New London Day and other papers who published earlier in the week. Robinson's grades are rumored to be a big part of the rising junior's problems.
Superficial analysis calls Georgetown's loss of Vernon Macklin a swap -- Macklin (outbound to Florida) for Vaughn (inbound from Florida State). But Macklin has logged two seasons with Thompson's offensive system, and his transfer, coupled with the loss of senior Roy Hibbert, means Georgetown goes into next season with the youngest frontcourt contingent they have had in years. True the Hoyas will bring in Jason Clark, Henry Sims and (best of all) Greg Monroe (in addition to FSU transfer Julian Vaughn -- see below), but all three have to learn the system. Macklin would have come in very handy next season.
While a number of the names transferring out at South Florida are surprising -- Solomon Bozeman (started double digit games as a freshman, played a solid backup role last season) and Amu Saaka (an occasional starter at 2-3 the past 2 seasons who averaged 12.5 minutes per game in Big East play) for example, a reminder that Stan Heath took over the reins last season provides some explanation as to why five scholarship players have chosen to leave since last December. Factor in the emergence of Dominique Jones, the Bulls' freshman sensation, and maybe it's not so unusual after all. I do wonder about Orane Chin however. Chin, also a freshman, started along side Jones for much of last season (16 starts, 5 in Big East games). But he nearly disappeared by the end of the season, logging no minutes in the West Virginia game and playng 5 minutes or less in each of the Bull's last five games.
For St. John's it seems, depressingly enough, to be business as usual. While swing guard Ricky Torres left the program officially "at some point" in the fall semester, in reality he had checked out long ago, maybe never connecting in the first place. Freshman Mike Cavataio, a minor member in the Johnnies' massive eight man entering class decided (wisely?) to go elsewhere for PT. The Crusaders will most likely benefit when he is eligible in 2009-10. A succession of large incoming classes can account for "lost boys" like Torres and Cavataio falling through the cracks, but what accounts for Larry Wright (and before him Avery Patterson and Qa'rraan Calhoun)? A player with promise who, if he does not develop into a an All-Big East-level player, will certainly contribute significantly over the course of his career. Wright left after 2 seasons. Roberts meanwhile, is bringing in another large class.

There are a few individual players on the list that cuaght my eye also...
1. Dwain Williams, Providence filled in for pg Sharaud Curry when Curry was suspended for several games in the 2007-08 season. Williams, along with fellow freshman Brian McKenzie appeared to have solified roles as contributors for the Friars. When Curry suffered his season-ending injury last December however, Williams did not step in and pick up the job as anticipated. In another twist Williams, originally accepted a scholarship to attend Long Beach State near his home in California. He was subsequently recruited by Oregon State, asked for an received his release from Long Beach State, and will now attend Oregon State. Craig Robinson, the new head coach at Oregon State was Brown University's head coach last season, and no doubt had plenty of opportunities, including the two games Providence and Brown played during Robinson's and William's two year run at their respective schools. Williams logged 40 minutes between the two games, and scored 6 points on 2-8, 0-4, 2-2 shooting. Maybe they will swap Tim Welsh stories during practices.
2. Scott Christopherson, Marquette -- there was an abiding sense in the Marquette Nation that Christopherson could be a difference makeer, but the backcourt logistics might work against him this season. The preseason notion was that he might redshirt and step in next season (2008-09), especially if any of the Three Amigos moved into the NBA draft this off season. Christopherson played 87 minutes in eighteen games, about 9% of the available minutes, certainly far less than he needed to develop. Whether motivated by Tom Crean's decision to go to Indiana, or by the reality that, with only 3 years of eligibility remaining he would again try to squeeze minutes between the returning Amigos, Lazar Hayward, David Cubillian, Patrick Hazel and (entering freshmen...) Christopherson decided to transfer.

Below is a quick list of the incoming transfers as of mid June...

Taylor King DukeVillanova
Jonathan MitchellFloridaRutgers
Julian VaughnFlorida StateGeorgetown
Ben Hansbrough Mississippi StateNotre Dame
Scott Martin PurdueNotre Dame

Note the list includes only those players who have transferred in from other D1 programs. All of the individuals listed will sit for the 2008-09 season and become eligible (if all goes well) for the 2009-10 season.

Taylor King took an official visit to Villanova when he was a senior at Mater Dei HS (California). Villanova was one of several schools in his "final list" before he committed to Duke. Jon Mitchell spent his freshman year with Billy Donovan at Florida, but the Mount Vernon HS graduate will rejoin former teammate Mike Coburn when he enrolls at Rutgers in the fall. Gus Gilcrest, late of Virginia Tech via Maryland, is looking at West Virginia and South Florida. He likes Huggins system, and knows Bulls guard Chris Howard.

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