Are Transfers Bad for Women's Basketball?



oldude

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Don’t get me wrong. As a fan of UConn WBB I am delighted that Evina and Evelyn will be Huskies next season, and I would have been even happier if Prince had joined them. But as a fan of WBB in general, I’m not so sure that all these transfers are a good thing.

According to Raoul’s blog, there are currently 473 transfers listed for all of D1 WBB. Only 352 of those transfers have now found a new school, with 121 still searching for a new home. The vast majority of these transfers are moving on from their current school for one reason and one reason only, playing time (PT). They are transferring to lesser D1 schools, DII’s, NAIA’s and JUCO’s. I have absolutely no problem with any of these transfers. D1 college basketball is far too demanding a sport not to experience the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from actually playing meaningful minutes in real games.

But there is a growing subset of D1 transfers that are not necessarily interested in more PT. These are top level players, including a number of McD AA’s who are frequently transferring to WBB’s powerhouse programs like UConn, Baylor, Oregon, ND, MS St, SC, MD & Louisville. There is clearly a second recruiting season in WBB right after the end of the Big Dance that encompasses both undergrad and graduate transfers, as well as international players, which is effectively eliminating the requirement that any top program go through a rebuilding phase. Basically, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the rest of WBB.

In prior threads, it has been pointed out that each of the last 3 WBB National Champions fielded a team with one or more transfers and/or international players in their respective starting lineups. This past year, three out of four FF teams had one or more transfers/international players in their starting lineup. When asked about integrating transfer/FF MOP Chloe Jackson into her lineup, Kim Mulkey astutely pointed out, “Unfortunately, we are in the transfer business.” You could argue that these top teams are simply attempting to replace transfers they lose, but it almost always appears to be the case that the inbound transfers are a lot better than the outbound transfers. In effect, top programs are trading up.

Just about every top team has loaded up on transfers for this coming season with two notable exceptions. Stanford remains the one real exception to the current transfer model. As I’ve mentioned before, Stanford is unique among top WBB programs. The prestige of a Stanford education brings top talent to Palo Alto and keeps them there to earn their degrees. In addition, Baylor has yet to announce any incoming transfers, although they kicked the tires on Te’a Cooper from SC.

On the other side we have a loaded Oregon team, that was slated to be the preseason #1 even before they brought in Minyon Moore, a talented combo guard and grad transfer from USC, who should plug right into the one open spot in the Duck’s starting lineup. If recent Oregon transfer Sedona Prince is healthy and eligible this coming season, Oregon will be incredibly difficult to beat.

MS St, a team that Vic Schaefer built from the ground up into a national power by recruiting and developing lower ranked HS players has now gone all in on top transfers. At last count, the Bulldogs have 5 players 6’4” or greater who could all be eligible at the same time for at least two seasons. That won’t happen because several will be in the transfer portal in the years to come. But I get it. Vic is so close to a national championship, he can probably taste it, and he doesn’t want to come up short because of an injury or foul trouble to a key player.

Another issue with transfers is one of fairness. There are many hard-working players that put in their time with a program from their freshman year who lose out on PT or the opportunity to start when a transfer essentially is inserted ahead of them in the rotation. UConn certainly is not immune to such occurrences, but my poster girl for the unfairness of WBB transfers is Louisville’s Kylee Shook. Shook has been a solid frontcourt reserve for the Cardinals in each of the past 3 seasons behind Hines-Allen & Feuring. After a tough loss vs UConn in the Elite 8, Shook probably took some comfort in the fact that. “Next year as a senior will be my chance to start and lead this team.” Within a matter of a week or so, Jeff Walz brought in several transfers including talented sophomore center Elizabeth Dixon who should gain immediate eligibility due to the “hot mess” she left at Georgia Tech.

Finally, the best story in WBB this past season was not UConn making it to their 12th straight FF, ND making it to their 2nd straight championship game or even Baylor winning their 3rd national championship. IMO, the best story in WBB this past season was a tough group of largely “home grown” players, led by their gritty NPOY leading the Iowa Hawkeyes to the Big10 title and a nice run in the Big Dance before losing to eventual champion Baylor in the Elite 8. In the first two rounds of the Big Dance the fans packed the arena in Iowa City, outdrawing every other major WBB powerhouse program. WBB desperately needs more teams like Iowa in order to begin to approach the popularity of MBB. Unfortunately, between transfers and international players, the system in WBB is rigged so that teams like the Iowa Hawkeyes will be few and far between.
 

CBus13

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Another issue with transfers is one of fairness. There are many hard-working players that put in their time with a program from their freshman year who lose out on PT or the opportunity to start when a transfer essentially is inserted ahead of them in the rotation. UConn certainly is not immune to such occurrences, but my poster girl for the unfairness of WBB transfers is Louisville’s Kylee Shook. Shook has been a solid frontcourt reserve for the Cardinals in each of the past 3 seasons behind Hines-Allen & Feuring. After a tough loss vs UConn in the Elite 8, Shook probably took some comfort in the fact that. “Next year as a senior will be my chance to start and lead this team.” Within a matter of a week or so, Jeff Walz brought in several transfers including talented sophomore center Elizabeth Dixon who should gain immediate eligibility due to the “hot mess” she left at Georgia Tech.

I don't think transfers have any more to do with fairness to "many hard-working players" than a coach that recruits a top freshman in the same position as a player already on the team. If a player on the roster is welcoming of hard work and a challenge, they would see new talented players on their team as a good thing. If, since you used Shook as an example I will too, someone like Rickea Jackson decided on Louisville instead of MSU, she would have had the opportunity of taking over Shook's playing time. Shook also went to Louisville in the same class as (according to Hoopgurlz) higher ranked Cierra Johnson. Part of playing a team sport is competing with your teammates for playing time and all that. Shook should, and probably will, embrace the challenge of competing with Dixon and others to improve and earn her spot. I doubt she'd want it given to her because she is a senior and because she put in the time. There just isn't anything fair about D1 athletics or competitive athletics in general. Transfer or no transfers isn't going to change that.
 
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oldude

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I don't care if it's good or bad for the game. A player should be entitled to change situations if it isn't working out for them where they are.
I absolutely agree. But the point I raise has to do with top players transferring to top schools. We hear lots of reasons for their transfers: personal reasons, medical reasons, desire to play in an “up tempo” offense and so on. While I’m sure some are perfectly legitimate, I’m also certain that some players are coming up with creative excuses in an effort to secure a waiver from the NCAA, when the real reason is simply that a player sees an opportunity to play for a top program with the chance to improve their visibility (brand) while playing for a potential conference and NCAA championship team.
 

oldude

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I don't think transfers have any more to do with fairness to "many hard-working players" then a coach that recruits a top freshman in the same position as a player already on the team. If a player on the roster is welcoming of hard work and a challenge, they would see new talented players on their team as a good thing. If, since you used Shook as an example I will too, someone like Rickea Jackson decided on Louisville instead of MSU, she would have had the opportunity of taking over Shook's playing time. Shook also went to Louisville in the same class as (according to Hoopgurlz) higher ranked Cierra Johnson. Part of playing a team sport is competing with your teammates for playing time and all that. Shook should, and probably will, embrace the challenge of competing with Dixon and others to improve and earn her spot. I doubt she'd want it given to her because she is a senior and because she put in the time. There just isn't anything fair about D1 athletics or competitive athletics in general. Transfer or no transfers isn't going to change that.
Well stated.
 
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Doesn't seem to be a problem in NCAA softball where a player is immediately eligible to play for her new team even if they transfer during the fall semester. Certainly has helped a few of the top teams over the years.
 

oldude

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Doesn't seem to be a problem in NCAA softball where a player is immediately eligible to play for her new team even if they transfer during the fall semester. Certainly has helped a few of the top teams over the years.
I don’t follow WSB as closely as WBB. Do the top WSB teams stockpile talented transfers like the top WBB teams?
 
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I like to think of transfers as free agents. In a way it makes more interesting. Look how the NBA off season gets more headlines than the current baseball season. Sure top transfers want to go to top teams as do top free agents but they dont all end up in New York. Some even go to Toronto..Bottom line those who think they can better themselves should be able to...
 

oldude

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I’m all for freedom of movement for college athletes. But unlike MBB, WBB players are severely restricted in their ability to turn pro, at least as far as the WNBA is concerned. There are no “one and dones” in WBB, which, in part, contributes to top players seeking to move to more successful programs.

Top overseas players have true freedom of movement. As an example, Ezi Magbegor checked out UConn, UCLA, etc. prior to her decision to make a living as a professional basketball player in the Australian pro league as well as the Seattle Storm.
 
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I’m all for freedom of movement for college athletes. But unlike MBB, WBB players are severely restricted in their ability to turn pro, at least as far as the WNBA is concerned. There are no “one and dones” in WBB, which, in part, contributes to top players seeking to move to more successful programs.

Top overseas players have true freedom of movement. As an example, Ezi Magbegor checked out UConn, UCLA, etc. prior to her decision to make a living as a professional basketball player in the Australian pro league as well as the Seattle Storm.
All top players have that opportunity. You picked a unique example.
 

CL82

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Tough to tell a kid they have to stay in an undesirable situation, but I worry about mid-majors becoming a de facto farm league for the big schools. One of my favorite narratives in college sports is the senior laden underdog team that comes together and makes a run in March. That becomes far less likely if you have unrestricted transfers.
 

Orangutan

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They were Good when Jessica Shepard came to Notre Dame.

Since Jordan Nixon and Danielle Patterson left they are now Bad again.

Had Sedona Prince chosen ND they would have become Good again.

Serious answer: I think it's good that players have the opportunity to change schools if they aren't happy or feel their current school isn't helping them reach their goals.

However, I do suspect some players are simply being impulsive and would be well-served to stick it out.

Freshman year of college can suck. For anyone. It did for me, anyway. It's a huge adjustment, especially for athletes with the crazy schedule that they must maintain and the difficulty of adapting to a higher level of play. Then factor in that top recruits are used to being stars and now they might have to sit on the bench and hear about all the things they are doing wrong.

I always come back to Arike admitting that she contemplated transferring after coming off the bench freshman year. Her parents told her she could go somewhere else to be the big fish right away or stay at Notre Dame and become the big fish. In hindsight, transferring would have been a mistake insofar as she became the all-time biggest fish (leading scorer) in ND history.

I wonder how many players have gone through with a transfer and regretted it. You don't hear about those cases. Or maybe not regretted it but realized the grass was just as brown on the other side of the fence.
 

Orangutan

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More to the point of the OP, I don't really have a problem with the "free agent" aspect of things. If you are a grad transfer and earn your degree and have a chance to chase a ring (a la Chloe Jackson), I say go for it.

Folks like Evina and Sedona had the chance to basically pick any school they wanted when the came out. I don't mind them choosing a juggernaut after realizing they chose poorly initially.

If anything, transfer intrigue is good for the sport. People eat that stuff up in when it comes to the NFL or NBA. Offseason talking points like the Prince transfer are good.

I like a wholesome group of homegrown overachievers like Iowa as much as the next guy but that's not what actually sells the sport in the broader context (thought it did sell plenty of tickets to Iowa home games).
 
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This is really becoming a catch 22 situation. I would suggest making the transfers easier in some area's and more difficult in others. I think a player should be allowed to transfer without penalty after their freshman year. That first year should give a student an opportunity to discover if they have made a mistake in their initial choice. However, after that is when conditions need to be set. Those conditions need to be specific and not just left to the discretion of the Committee. Perhaps even taken out of their hands completely and decided by a neutral group of people appointed on a rotating basis. Somewhat like a jury.
 

Sifaka

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I won't comment on the fairness or "good for the sport" aspects; other, wiser folk have already covered that ground. I object to adding international players into the discussion. That is a totally different matter. Place of birth is different from choosing to change colleges.

Place of residence, Finland for example with a kid from a South Sudanese Dinka family, but born in Egypt, is rather far from Evina's circumstances. A Latvian high school grad going to south Florida isn't a close parallel to a previously recruited and enrolled Texan escaping to Oregon. {/rant off} :)
 

oldude

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I won't comment on the fairness or "good for the sport" aspects; other, wiser folk have already covered that ground. I object to adding international players into the discussion. That is a totally different matter. Place of birth is different from choosing to change colleges.

Place of residence, Finland for example with a kid from a South Sudanese Dinka family, but born in Egypt, is rather far from Evina's circumstances. A Latvian high school grad going to south Florida isn't a close parallel to a previously recruited and enrolled Texan escaping to Oregon. {/rant off} :)
The international side offers an entirely different element to the mix, for top international players are developing their game playing with pros, including with and against many US players. Imagine if someone like Paige Bueckers had the opportunity to play as an amateur with the MN Lynx, and then decide whether to accept a college scholarship or to start earning a living as a professional basketball player?
 
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In some pro leagues oversees there is a cap of how many foreign(read American) players can be on a team. Maybe we should do that here...What do you think?
 

KnightBridgeAZ

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The international side offers an entirely different element to the mix, for top international players are developing their game playing with pros, including with and against many US players. Imagine if someone like Paige Bueckers had the opportunity to play as an amateur with the MN Lynx, and then decide whether to accept a college scholarship or to start earning a living as a professional basketball player?
This, however, unlike the transfers, is less of a new thing. Rutgers had a very good foreign player back in the 80's. I think they do benefit from the systems they play in, and I suppose the less notable the school the less likely they can afford the recruiting effort, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Arizona is mining overseas talent (head coach Adia Barnes is married to Salvo Coppa, her assistant coach, who has a history of coaching in Europe and whose father is even closer to being "famous") and I think back to teams like Duquesne back in the Kori Helde (spelling) days.
 
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I don’t follow WSB as closely as WBB. Do the top WSB teams stockpile talented transfers like the top WBB teams?
Yes. For example this season Alabama's top pitcher was a transfer from Hofstra, last year Oklahoma had a pitcher transfer from Mizzou (and she definitely had a huge impact on their CWS championship) and this year, Texas' new coach came from Oregon and he brought 3 or 4 starters with him.
One difference is that the top softball teams usually only have 1, possibly 2, top transfers but they seem to have a tremendous impact.
Right now there's over 250 D-1 players in the softball transfer portal.
 
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No matter what you think about the "transfer dilemma" being good or bad for the sport, it will change the complexion of the college game. Of course the whole purpose of Division 1 college athletics has changed dramatically in the last 30 years with the money in major college sports as a result of television contracts and conference re-alignment.
 

oldude

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This, however, unlike the transfers, is less of a new thing. Rutgers had a very good foreign player back in the 80's. I think they do benefit from the systems they play in, and I suppose the less notable the school the less likely they can afford the recruiting effort, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Arizona is mining overseas talent (head coach Adia Barnes is married to Salvo Coppa, her assistant coach, who has a history of coaching in Europe and whose father is even closer to being "famous") and I think back to teams like Duquesne back in the Kori Helde (spelling) days.
Yes, foreign born players have had an impact going back a number of years, but I believe the ruling by the NCAA that allowed foreign amateurs playing on professional teams to sign with US colleges only goes back about 8 years or so.
 
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One of the problems for the young men and women who are being recruited is that they are shown only the upside. They are feted and fawned on during one or two visits and come away with the idea that this is the rule rather than the exception. Sort of like being recruited by the Navy with only photos of the South Seas. When they arrive and experience the actual real world some rebel and want to take the easy way out not realizing that most programs are basically the same.
 
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Transfers are good for players, bad for growing parity in sport. In the end how you feel about it all depends on whose bull is being gored.
Yeah, I think you're probably right. The change is probably good for the players overall. But let's say you are one of those (as am I) who believes that one of the great things about the game is that a team, by definition, was (generally) a group of women who played together for four years -- and thus really, really knew how to play together. That was one of the ways you could tell if the coaching was good. After four years, the well-coached teams took on the appearance of a well-oiled machine.

Anyway, if you believe this was an advantage, you have to believe that a lot of transfers are going to wreck the advantage over time.

What that will mean probably is that the women's game will begin to resemble the men's, in terms of players working together. Most fans won't notice the difference, for a couple of reasons. First, many teams are not well-coached, so it doesn't matter how many years the players play together. Second, most fans don't follow the women's game closely, anyway, so it'll all be the same to them.

But for those of us who have followed it and loved it for the precision that comes with four years of teamwork, much will be lost.
 

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