Damontre Harris, South Carolina’s starting center that averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks (he was 19th in the nation in block percentage), has been given a release to transfer out of the program.
This is not uncommon nor all that unexpected. South Carolina is in the midst of a coaching change — Frank Martin took over for Darrin Horn — and there were already rumors of Harris looking to transfer out of the program before Horn was fired.
But the sad fact is that Harris’ story isn’t uncommon for the wrong reasons.
Martin has granted Harris his release, but he gave it with one exception: Harris is not allowed to transfer to NC State. According to Kevin McCrarey of the SportsTalk Radio Network in South Carolina, the issue is that Martin likely suspects the Wolfpack of tampering:
Former USC assistant Orlando Early is now working on the N.C. State staff. One basketball source told us Early has been working through Harris’ high school coach, Heath Vandevender, for several months trying to facilitate a transfer to Raleigh. According to the source, Early has also reached out to Harris, citing his previous relationship with him as the reason for the contact.
Vandevender denies that claim. He said Harris has not talked to any school about a transfer.
This is just another example of how ridiculously unfair the NCAA’s transfer rules are.
Frank Martin left Kansas State and took over at South Carolina. He didn’t have to sit out a year when he made this change. He didn’t have to request a release from his Kansas State players to leave and take a new job. He found a better job, a job that will earn him more money, and he took it, no questions asked.
But when a player wants to leave a program, he has to jump through hoops. He has to request a release and he has to hope that the coaching staff of the program he is leaving won’t hold any grudges. Nevermind the fact that, in this case, Harris is requesting a release from a coach that has been in charge of the South Carolina program for less than a month.
Tampering with players and trying to persuade a kid to transfer out of a program is not a good thing. That’s why the NCAA has punishments in place for when tampering occurs. The problem is that these issues are difficult to prove. Harris has a previous relationship with Early. How can the NCAA prove what was discussed in their conversations? How can anyone know whether Early was giving advice to Harris on what to do on a second date or checking in with him to see how his grades are doing?
Along those same lines, how can anyone know who brought up the idea of transferring? Isn’t it just as likely that Harris made the decision that he wanted to finish his career at NC State and got in touch with Early to see if that was a possibility? How do we know it wasn’t Harris that was recruiting Early to give him a scholarship and not vice versa? Harris is a native of Fayetteville, NC, which is all of an hour’s drive from NC State’s Raleigh campus. The Wolfpack have a program trending towards the top of the ACC, there is a coach on the staff that Harris has a previous relationship with and there will be plenty of playing time opening up in the front court for the 2013-2014 season, when Harris would be come eligible.
The burden of punishing a player and a program should land on the NCAA, who will have the time and the resources to investigate the accusations. South Carolina shouldn’t have the power to bar Harris from receiving a scholarship during the mandatory redshirt season for transfers, which in-and-of-itself is an unfair rule.
Allowing Martin to deny Harris a release to NC State is akin to allowing a citizen to charge someone with reckless driving because they got cut off on the highway.
I’ve always liked Martin as a coach. I’ve admired the way that he runs his program, but that was because he always seemed to have his player’s best interests at heart.
I guess that is only the case when they want to play for him.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.