Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Departures -- St. John's Thru West Virginia

The Clearing Fog...Part 4 of 4
Unlike the 2009 off season, 2010 attrition from transfer and early NBA entry seems to be low and very school-specific. Of the 12 departures listed for these last four schools, only one is a transfer and two others are early entries in the NBA draft. All of the others are seniors, no small coincidence given that three of the four schools listed were the #1, #4 and #6 seeds in the BET.

St. John's

Omari LawrenceFRGTransf
Anthony Mason Jr.RS SRFGrad

Heralded as an incoming recruit, Mason had a promising freshman campaign, but did not become the anticipated impact player after a series of injuries derailed his sophomore and junior seasons. 2010 was his fifth with the program, but even his re-introduction to the lineup was delayed this season with lingering injuries. He appeared in last 19 of the Johnnies' 33 games, starting 17 of them while averaging 24.7 minutes per game. Lawrence announced his intent to transfer in the middle of May. At 6-4 and 210 lbs, Lawrence found himself in competition with junior Paris Horne and JUCO Dwight Hardy for minutes last season. With the possible return of injured Quincy Roberts, those minutes will get tighter. An 11 day search process established to replace the fired Norm Roberts, tabbed Steve Lavin after several feelers and denials were processed. The administration had a list and worked through their options at a business-like pace. No signs of faltering or indecision/confusion in Queens. Coach Lavin moved with similar decisiveness as he put together his staff and pursued several late spring recruiting prospects. The competition for NYC bballers will increase over the next few years. Let's hope the bold moves translate into results on the court.


Wesley JohnsonJRFNBA-In
Arinze OnuakuSRFGrad
Andy RautinsSRGGrad

The departures of Rautins and Onuaku were expected, even scheduled. Both took redshirts for injuries as underclassmen, and filled significant leadership roles for the team this season. The Orange may have several who may be ready to fill Onuaku's role, but Rautins' role, with his maturity and basketball IQ and deadly outside shot, may be more problematic. Coach Beoheim is the Dean of the Big East Coaching Fraternity. Despite several rebuffed initiatives to secure a line of succession back in the 2008 off season, there has been no word from Coach Boeheim about retirement. If he can repeat the 2010 season a few more times, he may never retire.


Reggie ReddingSRGGrad
Scottie ReynoldsSRGGrad
Russell WootenSRFGrad

I never understood how a player who took the Big East Rookie of the Year his freshman season (2007), was an All big East Team (1st, 2nd or 3rd) virtually every year he played, finished as the #2 scorer in Villanova history, only the second player to score more than 2,200 points in his career, was the #6 assist Villanova all-time leader, was named 1st All-American and Big 5 Player of the Year in his last season, could be so controversial, even after he played his last game for the Wildcats. Can the Nova Nation move on? Can the basketball program move on? Also departed is four year (off and on) starter Reggie Redding, who in a few ways was even more controversial than Reynolds. Which is a shame as both were, to all appearances, good players and even better people. Russell Wooten was a walk-on player and a fan favorite who saw minutes in out-of-reach games. Another member of Coach Wright's staff left to take a better job with another program. Despite off season job speculation that almost rivals the buzz surrounding Pitt's Jamie Dixon, the Coach is comfortable on the Main Line and intends to remain there...for the time being.

West Virginia

Da'Sean ButlerSRG/FGrad
Devin EbanksSOFNBA-In
Wellington SmithSRF/CGrad
Jonnie WestSRFGrad

Butler was arguably the Big East Player of the Year, especially during February. The Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four due to a team effort, led by the always-reliable Da'Sean Butler. Wellington Smith, a John Beilein-type (ie undersized and mobile) center, started all 38 games his senior season and logged 20+ minutes per game in a front court rotation of Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, John Flowers and Deniz Kilicli, all starters or regular substitutes. Ebanks' departure creates a need for front court help, something addressed with a late April signing. Jonnie West averaged 3.6 minutes per game in his 20 appearances last season. The program administration is solid and staying in place. Coach Huggins looks for all the world as if he has taken his last job. Morgantown is again a desirable destination for basketball talent.

Still Pending...
Ignoring for a moment the 900 pound gorilla, there is a "regular" ebb and flow to off season roster moves...
1. the coaching carousal -- the end of the spring signing period (May 19 this year) generally signals the end of the most active phase of coaching job turnovers among Division 1 schools. It is not in either party's interest to create (or take) a vacancy this "late" in the recruiting and hiring cycles. If any of the "untouched" positions turns over now, the catalyst will be a crisis -- life, health, propriety -- among the most likely causes. As Tim Welsh's tenure at Hofstra illustrates, these situations tend to develop and resolve quickly. Age may be a question with respect to Coach Boeheim, but given his attempts to develop a succession plan several seasons ago, I doubt he will would simply put in his papers and walk away. Especially now. Only Coach Calhoun at Connecticut has known health problems. Coach Pitino's moral crisis from the 2009 off season lingers, as the lady whose alleged extortion demands triggered his fall from grace is scheduled to go on trial this summer. The defendent's motion to change venues was denied, so Louisville (and the national press) may well mull the details and allegations one more time before the next school year. The Louisville program may be other shoes to drop, but most likely the worst has passed. Since 2007 (three cycles), the turnover rate after the Spring Signing period has ranged from 2% of the vacancies up to 18% of the vacancies, so expect a few more vacancies to open before Fall Practice.
2. Post regime house cleaning -- four coaching jobs turned over in the season/off season. The coaching jobs at DePaul and Rutgers have been "on the clock" for the past 2+ seasons; those programs have been bled dry by the prolonged process. Bobby Gonzalez almost casually turned over his rosters as players, exhibiting signs of burnout, routinely transferred to less stressful (lower major) programs. Omari Lawrence might be an early sign that some more of the St. John's roster will be heading out as Coach Lavin, alone among the new hires, is out of scholarships at this point.
3. Academic dismissals -- confidentially makes these difficult to keep track. Student-athletes on the brink often register for summer classes to clean up transcript/gpa problems. Summer school reports trickle out beginning in early July and running through late August. Given there is no Division 1 requirement or procedure for reporting and tracking academic qualifiers, we will not have a definite count of players until the rosters are published in September and October.

About That 900 Pound Gorilla...
Conference realignment speculation flew around the internet and in the national media just three weeks ago, but has largely died down in the wake of "no action" after the Big Ten ADs meeting last week did not result in any (public) offers. For the Big East programs that may receive invitations, the deadline to notify the conference of plans to withdraw pass at the end of June. Even should the Big Ten stage (and complete) a full-scale "ACC style" raid, the resulting realignment will happen after the 2010 basketball season.

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