"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Knowledge Transfer

Transfers are a fact of life in Division 1 hoops. Consider that in the last 18 months, Boston College and Kansas both endured an exodus of three players each - - many of the kids in question were very talented. Yet a quick glance at the national rankings will tell you that both the Eagles and Jayhawks are doing just fine, thank you. Realize that Illinois endured a couple of transfers in the last year, just like Oklahoma, Arizona (Lute is notorious in this regard, and a master at rebalancing his program), and countless others.

Marquette is no exception. In just the last 90 days both Brandon Bell and Niv Berkowitz transferred out of the program. Cycle back a few years and note that the program lost Odartey Blankson, Kevin Menard and Ron Howard in a cluster following the loss to Tulsa in the NCAA tournament. In between, Karon Bradley, Carlton Christian and James Mathews all left MU.

Transfers work both ways though....MU benefitted from incoming transfers like Robert Jackson, Marcus Jackson and perhaps Dan Fitzgerald and Mike Kinsella (due to injury) next season. (Back to Berkowitz; this is hardly a major issue. Niv decided to try college ball very late in the season, did not even visit MU, didn't speak the language well and was several thousand miles from home.)

Regardless of one's opinion on why MU is enduring so many outbound transfers, or even if the kids leaving are talented enough to make a difference on the floor, this blogger believes the personnel losses create a gap that is difficult for any program to close. Dean Smith coined the term 'program' for a reason -- it was not about any one team, or any one season. A 'program' is a continuum, with rites of passage and shared responsibility. Four-year seniors provide coaches with the glue that can help bind a program together. These guys know what to expect from the coach, they lead in the offseason, are seasoned by the ebbs and flows of conference play, know how to prepare for games, they understand the playbook, and help create a healthy culture within the program.

With fewer four-year seniors, coaches are faced with decreasing returns on instruction time, playbook knowledge, and an understanding of the 'system' (whatever that is). Now, certainly Tom Crean is not alone in dealing with this issue - - four-year seniors are harder to come by in this era of instant gratification -- and in each of the last three seasons MU been forced to integrate many first year players quickly into the system. Again, this is not unique, even in MU's own league.

Clearly there are many sides to this issue -- not all four-year seniors are leaders, mefirst has invaded hoops more than most sports, incoming transfer talent has been productive for Crean, and MU wins plenty of games. With these points in mind, MU's incoming and redshirt class seem especially appealing. With Diener, Jackson and Townsend moving on, there's plenty of PT to earn - - and hopefully satisfied players and coaches as well.

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