Rodney Hood

Eight up-transfers who will impact the NCAA tournament

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Transferring has become so common place within Division I college basketball that distinctions have been formulated in recent years to categorize the transfers. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn coined the term ‘up-transfers’ a few years ago, and how a player becomes an up-transfer is simple: either transfer from a low to a mid-major, a mid to a high-major, or a struggling high-major to a perennial contending high-major. If you take one step up the college basketball pecking order, you are now an up-transfer.

The up-transfer trend has distinctly risen in the past seven years. Combing through the NCAA’s official reports on DI transfer rates, which covered a period from 2007 to 2012, Winn discovered there were six up-transfers during that first offseason; during this past fall, though, Winn reported that more than 30 up transfers would be eligible to play in 2014, eight of which have significantly impacted their teams and will provide a boost in the coming NCAA tournament games:

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T.J. McConnell, Arizona-via-Duquesne

Arizona would not have attained the number one ranking this season or likely been a top seed in the tournament without McConnell. The ball-hawking guard has strengthened the Wildcats’ defense, and his ability to find through screens and recover quickly has made the perimeter defense of an already competent pack-line defense even stingier. On offense, McConnell’s presence moved Nick Johnson off the ball and allowed the junior to take advantage of his other-worldly athleticism and scoring ability, and the ex-Duke has been a perfect fit directing UA’s offense — McConnell’s assist rate is a robust 31.8 percent.

Lasan Kromah, Connecticut-via-George Washington

The former George Washington wing had a reputation as a three-point shooter when he arrived in Storrs, and though that recognition might have been a bit overstated — he is making one-third of his threes — Kromah is another perimeter option for a team that needs a Husky other than Ryan Boatright or Shabazz Napier to emerge.

Davon Usher, Delaware-via-Mississippi Valley State

No one knew what to expect from the wing when he arrived in Newark, but his reunion with Devon Saddler, his former AAU teammate, has bulked up Delaware’s already notorious backcourt scoring. Usher is making an impressive 54 percent of his twos and 36 percent of his threes, and when combined with Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, the UDee backcourt is responsible for more than 60 percent of the team’s point production.

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Rodney Hood, Duke-via-Mississippi State

When Hood announced he was transferring from Starkville to Durham, it was unknown how Hood would mesh with the Duke offense. After an efficient but underutilized freshman year, would he have much of an impact upon assuming a focal role in the Blue Devil offense? Hood can score from deep — 42 percent from three — and has the tools to compete in the middle of the defensive interior (50.4 percent), but the most impressive quality of Hood’s game is his knack for always being in the right spot (i.e. the Syracuse game).

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida-via-Virginia Tech

Under Billy Donovan, Florida has always been known for their wing offense, forwards who operate from either wing on the court and can take the ball to the basket via pick and rolls, or extend the defense with their shooting. Finney-Smith is still working on his ability to be effective off the bounce, but his shooting fits seamlessly with the idea of a Florida wing: nearly 50 percent of his field goals are from beyond the arc, and he makes 32 percent (a somewhat low percentage, yes, but one that was dinged by a late season slump).

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State-via-Marshall

The ex-Thundering Herd guard needed a coach who would trust him, and coach Fred Hoiberg needed a guard whose desire to win would inspire and overtake his Cyclones. When Kane arrived in Ames, he reportedly told his teammates all he wanted to do for his final season was win, and Kane has ably directed this efficient offense (1.15 PPP), handing out an assist on 31 percent of his possessions and keeping defenses from sagging with his perimeter shooting (40 percent from three).

Jason Calliste and Joseph Young, Oregon-via-Detroit and Houston

Joseph Young is a scorer, and that was evident from the first moments he took the court for the Ducks, but the ultimate surprise of all these up-transfers is Calliste. The ex-Detroit guard was a good shooter in the Horizon League, but Calliste’s accuracy has completely transformed in Euegene. He is leading the nation in true shooting percentage, and several of his offensive statistics rank within the top percentile for KenPom.com. While occupying a similar percentage of shots attempted as he did in Detroit, Calliste is converting more than 50 percent of his threes.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.

VIDEO: Rupp Arena’s new video board arrives

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Rupp Arena is getting a makeover. Take a peak as the new video board arrives and is put together:

Five-star freshman ruled ineligible to play for Villanova this season

Jay Wright
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Omari Spellman will not be eligible to play for Villanova this season, the school announced on Friday morning.

“We are extremely disappointed for Omari,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “While we don’t agree with the NCAA’s decision, we are members of the association and respect it. We understand why the NCAA felt it had to rule this way.”

“We will make a positive out of this for Omari. He will concentrate on his academics and individual development this season. In the long run Omari will be a better student and player for this experience.”

Spellman is a top 20 recruit that played for St. Thomas More this past season. At 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, Spellman was going to be counted on to play a major role in replacing Daniel Ochefu, the 6-foot-11 center that graduated this past spring. Without Spellman, Villanova will have to rely on inconsistent senior Darryl Reynolds to man their front line.

It is worth noting, however, that Reynolds did average 9.0 points and 10.6 boards in three games Ochefu missed last year. That was the first time in his career that he was given consistent minutes.

Spellman will be allowed to continue to practice with Villanova as he takes an academic redshirt.