There has been a lot of talk about a transfer epidemic in college basketball with coaches and media alike bemoaning the “me-first” culture pervading today’s youth. Yet the transfer rate remains steady around 9 to 12 percent, according to Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn. That’s less than the national average for non student-athletes as the New York Times pegs it around 33 percent. Doesn’t look so epidemic-y when put in that light.
But what about Marquette?
Under Buzz Williams, transfers have been quite common before, during and after the season. Officially, Marquette has only had eight transfers in the past five years. In reality, it has had 12, with four players never making it to the first day of classes. (If you would like to see how those players have fared, we have constructed a table with current locations and updated stats.) That means that out of 40 players that have played, or committed to play for Buzz, exactly 30 percent have transferred. When you chop off all of the Tom Crean players that played or transferred for Buzz you get 32 players and 11 transfers for a total of 34.4 percent. That number is three times higher than the national average, which would appear to be a cause for concern.
Yet, the comparison to Division I in general is a bit broad. Grambling resembles Marquette as much as a dog resembles a hippo. Sure the both are animals that have two eyes, two ears and four legs, but you would never mistake one for the other. It’s much more appropriate to find similar programs with similar resumes this decade. In choosing to compare Marquette to Georgetown, Villanova and Xavier, the sample size may be smaller, but the results more indicative of what is average for a program of Marquette’s stature. They all share a conference, are in the top-25 most years and have had deep tourney runs this decade.
Only going back to April 2008 when Buzz was hired and only counting incoming recruits or transfers since then here are the results:
While Marquette has the highest rate it doesn’t deviate too far from the mean. This study also didn’t include three Villnaova players that transferred in 2008 before the cutoff. Those three players would have raised the Wildcats’ rate significantly. In general, Marquette seems to be in line with its peers when it comes to transfers.
To dive a bit deeper, let’s look the map at the top. It should be pretty self-explanatory, but for those in doubt, it maps the home state of all 32 recruits Buzz has brought in since being hired in 2008. We did not include any Tom Crean players that transferred when Crean left for Indiana (Nick Williams, Tyshawn Taylor, Trevor Mbakwe and Scott Christopherson) in the image as they had not committed to play for Buzz and thus can’t be placed on his shoulders. We also didn’t include any who stayed (Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Dwight Burke, Lazar Hayward, Maurice Acker, David Cubillan and Patrick Hazel) despite the coaching change. The map is simply of recruits who committed to play for Buzz Williams and in all but one case signed a National Letter of Intent. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that special case later on. We also excluded incoming transfers David Singleton and Garrett Swanson as they transferred as walk-ons and wouldn’t have received a scholarship like Jake Thomas did.
Another aspect to note is that we did include DI and junior college transfers in the map. Marquette’s location played a significant role in bringing Jamil Wilson and Trent Lockett on board while Buzz’ junior college Texas connections helped bridge the gap during the coaching change, with Joe Fulce and Jimmy Butler filling in for previously committed, departed players.
With that out of the way let’s dig in a little more to some of the most interesting results.
1) Wisconsin strong
Recruiting well locally is a staple of any good program so it should come as no surprise that Buzz gets and keeps more players from Wisconsin than any other state. Of the eight players to either come directly from high school or transfer in, only one has left the program (Jeronne Maymon of Madison) and that had more to do with the player’s delusions of playing guard than anything the coaching staff did. It also seems that there is a growing appreciation for the program from in staters as five players on Marquette’s current roster hail from Wisconsin with another already committed to play in 2015. Results are beginning to speak for themselves. Vander Blue shined last season, Dwight Buycks is on the NBA’s fringe and Jamil Wilson is ready to break out in 2013-14. We don’t know how the newcomers will fare, but don’t be surprised to see lineups with three or four cheeseheads on the floor at the same time. The longer Buzz has inhabited Wisconsin, the better his recruiting has become.
2) Texas-sized letdown
One of the best memes on Twitter and the message boards is the Buzz to Texas theme, assuming that Marquette’s coach would flee to coach the Longhorns in an instant should the job become available. The logic goes that Buzz is from Texas and recruits the state extremely well, so he’d be a natural fit for the position. I admit that I have fallen prey to that line of thinking plenty of times, but after doing the research, the facts aren’t as clear cut when it comes to his recruiting in Texas. Of the six players to come from the Lone Star State three have transferred out and none have moved on to similar or better programs. Erik Williams is MIA after disappearing from Sam Houston State’s roster. Aaron Durley went to TCU while T.J. Taylor is now at North Texas. In fact, only one player on Buzz’ squad this season hails from Texas and that’s old man Chris Otule who has been here since Buzz’ first year. It’s true Buzz relied heavily on Texas early on, but his last two recruits from there haven’t even made it to boot camp with Durley being released from his NLI and Taylor booking it after a few weeks of summer school. Next time you hear about Buzz’ Texas connections, be sure to mention those two names.
3) Quaking in Pennsylvania
Marquette hasn’t just missed on the two recruits it’s brought in from Pennsylvania, it made Disney’s decision to plunk down $200 million for a Western flick with a drunk pirate masquerading as a Native American look brilliant. Both recruits from Pennsylvania have transferred out and both have done it before school starting, though their cases are nowhere near close. Brett Roseboro was a tall center who had a great weekend when Marquette was scouting him but was nowhere near the Big East level as his stints with St. Bonaventure and Maryland-Baltimore County have shown. He was told he’d be 14th on the 12 person depth chart and left MU before the start of the school year. D.J. Newbill, on the other hand, has shown he was more than up to the Big East level, thriving as a freshman at Southern Miss and doing so again as a sophomore at Penn State. In fact, he’s the leading returning scorer in the Big Ten. Why is he not in Blue and Gold then? That’s difficult to answer. In short, his scholarship was put on hold while Jamil Wilson was deciding where he would transfer to in 2010. When Wilson picked Marquette, Newbill no longer had a spot on the team. This has been one of Buzz most controversial moves to date as the Newbill camp claims it never knew the scholarship offer was conditional when he committed. I don’t know the truth and attempts at getting to the bottom have been DOA, but from what is public we can conclude that this was not a case of him lacking talent. The technical term wouldn’t be transfer as he was never officially a Golden Eagle, but I doubt we’ll see Buzz landing many recruits from Pennsylvania any time soon.
4) Two is the loneliest number
Every single state and country Buzz has gotten two or more recruits from has had at least one transfer. That’s not very good. There’s no fancy explanation here other than Buzz has had a lot of players transfer.
Now let’s take a closer look at all 11 transfers in the Buzz era, not including Patrick Hazel who was a Crean recruit and had problems off the court. (Click on the image to the right to see a full-size image of all the players Buzz has coached. Red means transfer, green means graduated with a degree and an asterisk means the player wasn’t recruited by Buzz.)
Two players have transferred after playing two years (Jamail Jones, Erik Williams).
Two have done so after one year (Jamal Ferguson, yous Mbao).
Two more have parted mid-season (Jeronne Maymon, Reggie Smith).
Most surprisingly, five have before playing one game (T.J. Taylor, Aaron Dursley, D.J. Newbill, Brett Roseboro, Liam McMorrow), with McMorrow spending a year with the team before being declared medically ineligible.
Of all 11 transfers, nine were high school recruits, one was a junior college transfer and one a regular transfer.
By and large, Marquette’s biggest difficulty has been identifying high school talent. Just under 43 percent of players Buzz has recruited from high school have transferred, and that’s using the four freshman set to suit up this season. Not counting them, as they haven’t had a chance to be disillusioned by playing time or drawn closer to home, 52.9 percent have transferred. That is a worrying trend and one we will touch on in more detail next week.
Continuing our analysis, four of the six true centers Buzz has recruited have transferred, with only one donning the jersey (Mbao). This goes to show how difficult it is to recruit bigs to a school not known for developing them.
Only two players have transferred to a ‘BCS’ school (Durley to TCU and Maymon to Tennessee) with Newbill ending up at a BCS school (Penn State) after another transfer.
Finally, four players have transferred again after leaving Marquette (Newbill, Smith, Roseboro and Williams).
Transfers are going to happen, there’s no two ways around that. Maymon wants to play a different position? Adios. Smith isn’t happy with starting and getting benched a few minutes later? Good luck.
For Marquette, the biggest takeaway is there have been too many cases of poor high school talent evaluation. Having a player leave before they sit on the bench one minute speaks poorly on the staff. Some may argue this is the best time for a player to leave as he won’t have to sit out a year and that’s a valid point. Yet, this only happened once at Georgetown, Xavier and Villanova combined. If Marquette can get that cleaned up, it will have a much better pitch to sell to future recruits.