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NCAA to seek feedback on transfer eligibility exceptions

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A major point of conversation in collegiate athletics in recent years has been the eligibility of transfers, with the majority having to sit out a year at their new schools unless they were a graduate student or their prior school was subject to a postseason ban.

The NCAA has been considering the possibility of granting all transfers immediate eligibility, and on Tuesday the Division I Transfer Working Group announced that it is seeking feedback on some exceptions.

One of the exceptions has to deal with an athlete’s work in the classroom, as those who perform well academically (earning A’s and B’s according to the NCAA) would be granted immediate eligibility after transferring.

The other would allow athletes who have signed a National Letter of Intent to move on if the head coach they committed to either accepts another job or is relieved of their duties at the school the athlete signed with. In the case of this exception the NCAA has referred it to the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which manages the NLI.

“Membership input is vital in this process as we try to develop the best recommendation possible,” South Dakota State athletic director and working group chair Justin Sell said via the release. “We will refine the concepts based on the feedback we receive, and we will ultimately make our decisions based on our values and goals as an organization and the guideposts set for us last year by the Division I Board of Directors.”

According to the release, the hope is that the Division I Transfer Working Group will have a final recommendation to make regarding possible rules changes by the end of 2018.

Xavier lands grad transfer forward Bernard

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While many of the key contributors to a team that was Villanova’s greatest threat in the Big East return, Xavier has some holes to fill in the rebounding department. With James Farr and Jalen Reynolds both moving on, the Musketeers will have to account for the loss of their top two rebounders as the 2016-17 season approaches. Trevon Blueitt, who averaged 6.1 rebounds per game last season, is back, but others including Norfolk State transfer RaShid Gaston and Sean O’Mara will have to step forward for Chris Mack’s team.

Another option is 6-foot-5 forward Malcolm Bernard. Bernard, who played last season at Florida A&M after spending his first two seasons at Charleston Southern, announced Monday that he will join the Xavier program as a graduate student. He’ll be eligible to compete immediately as a result, with one season of eligibility remaining.

As a redshirt junior at Florida A&M Bernard averaged 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, doing the majority of his damage inside of the arc despite playing at a listed weight of just 195 pounds. Bernard also averaged 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Rattlers in 2015-16. Adding a capable rebounder on the wing will help the Musketeers as they look to not only chase down the reigning national champions but also go further in the NCAA tournament than they did last season.

Xavier will return four starters from a team that won 28 games, and went 14-4 in Big East play, before losing to Wisconsin at the buzzer in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Could new graduate student-athlete rules be on the horizon?

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With student-athletes who have completed their undergraduate degree with eligibility remaining being allowed to transfer without having to sit out a season, graduate students have become popular transfer candidates in recent years. But with that rise in transfers has come some skepticism, with some coaches complaining of other programs reaching out to players before they’re officially able to transfer and others wondering just how much progress is being made towards a masters degree.

Friday the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Academics released its recommendations on how to address the issues surrounding graduate student-athletes, with an eye towards making sure that these athletes are making true progress towards a postgraduate degree.

Among the recommendations are requiring graduate student-athletes to declare a specific graduate degree program, and requiring that they complete at least six credit hours per semester. At present time grad student-athletes aren’t required to declare which degree they’re seeking or a major, and they only have to be enrolled in six credit hours as opposed to completing said hours.

According to the release only 35 percent of men’s basketball players making use of the program have completed their postgraduate degree, slightly lower than the 38 percent of football players who do so.

One suggestion made by some coaches in the past is that graduate students be made to sit out the year in residency required of undergraduate transfers, and that may very well occur in the future. But based upon the NCAA’s announcement the course of action at this point is to make sure those who do transfer as grad students are doing so without pushing the academic portion of the process to the back burner.

Will these recommendations, if approved, change anything? I’m not sure, but it may lead to more of those athletes simply deciding to move on with their bachelor’s degree in hand as opposed to sticking around.

Former Georgia Tech guard headed to Tennessee State

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Tennessee State has made an addition to its roster for the 2016-17 season, as former Georgia Tech guard Chris Bolden will play for head coach Dana Ford as a graduate student. News of Bolden’s eventual transfer was first reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.

Bolden was handed a six-game suspension by Georgia Tech in mid-February for a violation of the student-athlete conduct policy, and with that suspension running through the Yellow Jackets’ first game in the ACC Tournament he did not play another game for Brian Gregory’s program. In May Gregory announced that Bolden would not return to the program for the 2015-16 season, which did not come as a surprise.

With the 6-foot-3 guard on course to graduate in December he can move on to another program for his final season of eligibility.

Bolden started 11 of the 25 games in which he played last season, averaging 6.9 points in 21.3 minutes of action per game. For his career at Georgia Tech, Bolden averaged 6.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

Tennessee State will lose four guards from its perimeter rotation at the end of this season. Returnees Marcus Roper (10.0 ppg in 2014-15) and Xavier Richards (6.7 ppg) are both seniors, and transfers Keron DeShields (Montana) and Jordan Reed (Binghamton) are in their final season of eligibility as well.

Mercer grants leading scorer’s request to be released from scholarship

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After averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game in his team’s first season as a member of the Southern Conference, Mercer guard Ike Nwamu has asked to be released from his scholarship and the request was granted by head coach Bob Hoffman. News of Nwamu’s decision was first reported by Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com.

Having completed his undergraduate coursework, Nwamu will be eligible immediately at the school of his choice next season as a fifth-year player. The 6-foot-5 guard also averaged 3.3 rebounds per game this season, shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Nwamu played his freshman season at Cleveland State in 2011-12, and he was a valuable reserve on the 2013-14 Mercer team that upset Duke in the NCAA tournament Round of 64. In a story written by Daniel Shirley of the Macon Telegraph, Hoffman confirmed the report that Nwamu would be moving on.

“He has gotten his release, and he has had some schools that have shown interest,” Hoffman said. “He’s a fifth-year guy, and he’s graduating, and he’s exploring what’s out there. I want whatever is best for him and want it to work out for him.”

In addition to Nwamu the Bears, who won 19 games and finished 12-6 in SoCon play, will have to account for the loss of senior forwards Darious Moten and T.J. Hallice. Mercer will lose its top three scorers, with rising senior guards Phillip Leonard (8.1 ppg) and Jibri Bryan (7.8 ppg) being their leading returning scorers.

Leonard and Bryan started all 35 games for the Bears in 2014-15.

Virginia Tech’s leading scorer Adam Smith to transfer, will be eligible immediately

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Thursday morning the Virginia Tech basketball program announced that redshirt junior guard Adam Smith has decided to transfer. Expected to graduate in May, Smith will be eligible to play immediately at another school in 2015-15.

The 6-foot-1 Smith, who began his college career in 2011-12 at UNCW before transferring to Virginia Tech, averaged a team-beat 13.4 points this past season for the Hokies. Starting 21 of the 33 games in which he played, Smith shot 43.8 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Outside of Smith and senior Will Johnston, Virginia Tech’s perimeter players all have eligibility remaining beyond the 2014-15 season. This group includes junior Seth Allen, who played two seasons at Maryland before transferring to Virginia Tech last spring.

The Hokies also have three recruits signed for the 2015-16 season, including four-star small forward Chris Clarke and guard Justin Robinson.