Not all transfer restrictions are due to vengeful AD’s and coaches

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve railed against the way the NCAA’s transfer rule is currently set up.

Over and over and over and over again. Frankly, it’s tiresome. I write the same thing every single time. “School A and/or Coach B abused their power by preventing Player C from transferring out of the program in yet another example of what’s wrong with the NCAA.”

Today’s will be differently. Slightly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com published a column that tried to explain exactly why some of these players have their transfer denied. And in the case of Southern Illinois’Treg Setty and Western Kentucky’s Vinny Zollo, the answer is simple: their grades aren’t good enough. Setty has a GPA hovering around a 2.5, while Zollo checks in with a 2.4. All things considered, those aren’t terrible grades to get. Both players are freshmen, and maintaining a B- average during your first semester in college when you are a scholarship basketball player is far from awful. It keeps them eligible to play, which, in the end, is all that really matters for a first-year player that still believes they are on the fast-track to NBA superstardom.

“It’s detrimental to me,” Zollo told CBSSports.com. “I can talk to other schools, but those restrictions make it difficult for anyone to take me right now. I don’t think it’s fair and don’t understand why they are doing it. I’m eligible by the NCAA to transfer and should be fine.”

The problem that Zollo doesn’t understand is that neither player has a GPA of 2.6, and that last couple of tenths of a point are so important.

According to the APR, if a player leaves the program for any reason — including a transfer — with a GPA below 2.6, the program gets docked a point. The way the APR is measured is complicated (a very good breakdown of what got UConn in trouble can be found here, and that should give you a clear understanding of how the APR is measured), but the gist is that if a program averages a deduction of about four points every year, they will end up finding themselves below the requirement of a four-year rolling average of an APR of 930.

What program wants to risk that?

Missing out on the postseason can be devastating. Look at what’s happening to UConn. The Huskies have been arguably the best program in the country over past 13 seasons, winning three national titles, advancing to a fourth Final Four, sending countless players to the NBA and continually hanging banners in the always-tough Big East. But with a postseason ban looming for the 2012-2013 season, the UConn program is on the brink of collapsing. Granted, there are mitigating factors — Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb may have entered the draft regardless, Jim Calhoun’s health problems didn’t change — that exacerbate the issue, but the bottom line is that next season could end up setting the UConn program back a decade.

A 2.6 GPA is not a terribly difficult goal to achieve, and the result of allowing a player to transfer out of the program with less than a 2.6 is detrimental to the program as a whole.

I don’t blame the AD’s in either of these cases one bit for denying the player’s release for a transfer, especially since both schools have made it very clear to their players they will be released if they get a 2.6. Zollo even got it in writing.

The fact that schools are allowed to hold players hostage by restricting where they can transfer and remain on scholarship is unfair and a terrible rule that needs to be changed. But the APR isn’t exactly a perfect rule, either, and if losing a player to a transfer means that the school in question will get dinged on their APR score, than I think it is within reason to allow the school’s to protect their own interests.

“It puts you in a precarious situation,” Mario Moccia, SIU’s athletic director, said. “All we’re saying is get a 2.6. If we just let them go, kids aren’t going to get the grades.”

This isn’t a secret. It’s not difficult to figure any of this out. Googling is easy. Asking your high school or college coaching staff is even easier. And 2.6 GPA’s are not that difficult to get, especially for a student-athlete.

Allowing schools to have control over where their players can transfer is unfair. But enabling players to walk away and leave their old program on the verge of a postseason ban while the school can only stand and watch is also unfair.

In this case, blame the system. Don’t blame Southern Illinois or Western Kentucky for protecting their programs.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.