There is no such thing as a “transfer epidemic” in college basketball, there are only players doing what every American does: Trying to better their situation in life.
It’s that simple.
And Rodney Pryor is proof.
The Portsmouth Invitational is a four-day, eight-team event that features 64 of the best graduating seniors playing in front of NBA executives, trying to earn their way onto some type of roster, be it summer league, D-League, training camp, anything.
It’s a group of guys looking to get their shot.
Pryor is headed there this week, as one of 45 players that come from what we consider high-major, or multi-bid, conferences. A 6-foot-5 lefty that averaged 18.0 points and shot 41 percent from three at Georgetown this past season, Pryor will get his shot at the league. He’ll probably make a summer league roster. He could very well end up in an NBA training camp. He’ll have his chance to earn an NBA roster spot before, in all likelihood, heading to the D-League or overseas.
Those opportunities might have come along had Pryor stayed at Robert Morris for his final year of eligibility.
They might not have, either. There are 19 players headed to Portsmouth from the mid-major ranks. Would Pryor have gotten an invite had he not spent all winter lighting up Big East defenses?
“I wanted to play on a higher level and showcase my talents,” Pryor told FanRag Sports in a profile of Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole. “There’s no substitute for the ability to play games regularly on national television.”
I bring up that FanRag Sports story because it’s a terrific look at what the rise in up-transfers can do to a mid-major program. Robert Morris, where Pryor played before leaving for Georgetown as a grad transfer, has been a stalwart in the NEC for as long Toole has been the coach. In his first five years with the program, he never finished worse than third in the league standings, winning two regular season titles, making two NITs — including one where Bobby Mo upset Kentucky in 2013 — and winning a game in the 2015 NCAA tournament.
But after the 2015 season, Toole lost his best player, Marcquise Reed, to Clemson. After last season, Pryor transferred out of the program. This year, Isaiah Still told the staff of his intentions to transfer to a bigger school to try and get more exposure.
Toole was one of the hottest names in college coaching in 2015.
He’s now coming off two straight losing seasons.
It’s a tough business, man.
But blaming the kids here is flat-out wrong.
Because this is what everyone does. When a better job offer comes along, you take it. Lawyers leave small firms for big firms. I stopped freelancing for Sports Illustrated while running my own website when NBC offered me a full-time job. In that FanRag Sports story, Toole says that he turned down Fordham — a bottom-of-the-barrel Atlantic 10 job — because of his loyalty to the program and his players, but would he have been as loyal if he was the one getting chased by Clemson or Georgetown instead of those players?
(Hint: He would’ve been an idiot to say no to either of those schools, and he’s an Ivy League grad. He ain’t dumb.)
That’s no different than Pryor jumping at the chance to play at Georgetown or Reed making the move to play for Clemson in the ACC.
And, frankly, it’s no different than a star college player jumping at the chance to head to the NBA early after an unexpectedly great year in college. I don’t see anyone pitying Greg McDermott for losing Justin Patton or Danny Manning for losing John Collins. The same can be said for the coaching staffs that developed, and likely will lose, the likes of Luke Kennard, and Semi Ojeleye, and Tyler Dorsey, and Jordan Bell.
But in only one of those cases are we referring to unpaid, amateur student-athletes trying to better their lot in life by transferring to a bigger program as an “epidemic”.
It’s not an epidemic.
And these players are doing the same damn thing every single one of you do in your career.