Transfers have become the story in college basketball. Whether it's a play-me-now attitude from a player, pay-me-now strategy with a coach or win-more-now jump from a school to another conference, change is making headlines.

***For use in Sunday editions and later.***


 


 


CHAMPAIGN -- Bradley basketball coach Geno Ford found a black ski mask?


The story caught the attention of a crowd entertained with hoops, suds and meatballs at a Peoria fundrasier last fall. Ford had them hooked for more.


So he went into this tale about entering the Bradley locker room a year ago and checking things out. That's where he found the ski mask, so he wondered what it was doing there.


The custodian told him, "Bruce Weber wore that when he came here to steal Sam Maniscalco.'' The saga sent the crowd into hysterics, but the underlying theme was no joke.


Transfers have become the story in college basketball. Whether it's a play-me-now attitude from a player, pay-me-now strategy with a coach or win-more-now jump from a school to another conference, change is making headlines.


By the middle of last week, the number of players in Division I transferring had surpassed 400, and insiders predicted the number may reach 500 by the end of the summer. The 10-percent transfer rate is higher than any other NCAA sport.


"It's an instant-gratification society and entitlement society,'' said new Illinois coach John Groce.


While coaches say they would prefer the number of transfers drop, they also must work the system. The transfer talent pool can help a program restock with experienced, talented players.


Bradley used both of its open scholarships this spring to sign transfers who won’t be eligible to play for the Braves until 2013. Point guard Anthony Fields moves to Bradley from Wake Forest, and shooting guard Omari Grier from Florida Atlantic.


At Illinois, Groce has landed former Drake guard Rayvonte Rice and former Coastal Carolina forward Sam McLaurin. On the heels of Maniscalco’s move from Bradley to Illinois a year ago, those moves highlight a concern that transfers might come at the expense of mid-major programs.


Rice, a Champaign Centennial High School graduate, was second-team all-Missouri Valley as a sophomore. McLaurin was a solid inside player for Coastal Carolina, and will be eligible immediately under the rule that allows fifth-year seniors who have graduated to transfer without sitting out. The Illini also are a possible destination for Tulsa sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson, who averaged 16.5 points a game last season.


"If you're doing well, they're treating (mid-major programs) like a farm team,'' said Southern Illinois athletic director Mario Moccia.


The Salukis lost a string of transfers during former coach Chris Lowery's downfall. This would be a good starting five: Kevin Dillard (Dayton), Josh Bone (Tennessee), Anthony Booker (Iowa State), Gene Teague (Seton Hall) and Brandon Wood (Valparaiso/Michigan State).


"A huge failure of the past coaching staff was not keeping players,'' Moccia said.


Athletes generally transfer to play closer to home, get more playing time or because of a coaching change. Schools also face an impatient talent pool that often jumped between high school and AAU programs. Sometimes, there are academic issues. And at SMU, new coach Larry Brown told players they simply don't fit in the program's plans.


"It's a key recruiting season,'' said Ford. "The bottom line is who is the best player we can get?'' Guys who already played in Division I are easier to evaluate than the vast majority of 17-year-old prep players, Ford said.


Requests to transfer led to national interest in two cases. Meanwhile, the Big Ten made a rule change.


At Wisconsin, redshirting forward Jarrod Uthoff asked for his scholarship release on April 12. He was restricted immediately from speaking with all Big Ten schools, plus Iowa State and Marquette. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan later added the ACC and Florida to the banned list before submitting to growing pressure and lifting all non-Big Ten restrictions. According to a statement released by Wisconsin, Ryan made the initial restricted list so long because he "wanted the appeals process to serve as a means for dialogue.''


Uthoff may still consider other Big Ten schools, due to a rule change, which went into effect this school year. The rule allows athletes to receive a scholarship after transferring between Big Ten schools. Here's how it works:


If granted permission from the first Big Ten school to transfer elsewhere within the league in any sport, an athlete could receive a scholarship immediately, said Chad Hawley, Big Ten associate commissioner of compliance. But the athlete must sit out a year and would be charged with a season of competition, thus losing a year of eligibility. Therefore, if an athlete transferred after a sophomore season, then sat the following season as a transfer between Big Ten schools, he/she would be a senior before stepping back into competition. Prior to the current school year, transfers within the Big Ten forfeited all scholarships.


According to NCAA rules, an athlete who doesn't get permission to transfer must sit out that first year without a scholarship but could receive a scholarship after the year is completed.


At SIU, transfers and academics mixed to leave the Salukis in a bad spot. If the school allows freshman Treg Setty to transfer with less than a 2.6 grade-point average, SIU would take a hit on the on the NCAA's academic progress report and could face a postseason ban, which may harm recruiting and set the program back even further.


"It made us more mindful,'' said Moccia. "It made us more strict with a guy's release.''


Thus, Moccia confirmed last week Setty's request to transfer is denied unless he reaches the 2.6. While being accused of holding Setty hostage, Moccia said he offered to pay for Setty's summer school and a tutor to reach the magic number.


As for fairness, Moccia said, "I'm trying to be fair to the other 12 kids on the team.''


Setty had a 2.5 GPA, according to a report, but didn't sound confident about reaching the 2.6 after the spring semester. If he needed summer school to secure the goal, his preferred transfer destinations might already be filled.


He has little time to waste. Transfers keep jumping and taking the open scholarships elsewhere.


John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.


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Five to watch


Transfers to keep in mind when college basketball tips off in November.


Alex Oriakhi -- Missouri


With Connecticut ineligible for NCAA tourney next year because of a low APR, the big man can play immediately.


Ryan Harrow -- Kentucky


The transfer from NC State is likely the starting point guard.


Rotnei Clarke -- Butler


The sharpshooter hit 42 percent of his 3-pointers at Arkansas in 2010-11.


Khem Birch -- UNLV


The former McDonald's All-American lasted 10 games at Pitt before his messy exit.


Malcolm Armstead -- Wichita State


The point guard who began career at Oregon is a key cog for Shockers next season.