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The Rash of College Basketball Transfers

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Is it a Clemson problem or an NCAA trend?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

With the announcement of Patrick Rook's transfer out of Clemson's basketball program, our astute commenters began to wonder aloud if Clemson had a transfer problem. It's a reasonable question considering Clemson lost five players to transfer in 2013 and 2014 and now Patrick Rooks in 2015.

I was able to find a data source (Jeff Goodman, ESPN) with a full list of all the transfers from 2013 and 2014. I compiled the list, ran pivot tables, and gleaned some insight from the raw data. Here's what I learned.

In those two years, 1,194 college basketball players transferred.

NCAA 2013 2014 Total
Transfers 507 687 1,194

Five of them were from Clemson.

Year Name Position Class
2014 Ibrahim Djambo F Jr.
2014 Adonis Filer G Soph.
2014 Devin Coleman G Soph.
2013 Bernard Sullivan F Soph.
2013 T.J. Sapp G Soph.

39 came from the ACC, and Clemson was tied for the most transfers in the conference (5) with Virginia Tech.

School 2013 2014 Total
Boston College 1 2 3
Clemson 2 3 5
Duke 0 2 2
Florida State 2 0 2
Georgia Tech 2 2 4
Louisville 2 1 3
Miami 1 1 2
NC State 1 1 2
North Carolina 1 0 1
Notre  Dame 0 1 1
Pittsburgh 4 0 4
Syracuse 0 0 0
Virginia 1 1 2
Virginia Tech 0 5 5
Wake Forest 1 2 3

So with the data sliced and diced, what do we conclude from all this?

Well, it's certainly true that 5 players is more than the 2.6 average across the conference for total transfers over those two years. Brownell also had his share of transfers when first taking over which is not included here. Transfers immediately upon taking over a program somewhat get a pass and we see that they're more common as 9 of the 39 transfers shown above came in 2014 from players at BC, VT, and Wake Forest who were getting new coaches.

There were only 7 instances of a program having season with no transfers. Two of those instances were from Syracuse in 2013 and 2014, but now they're getting hit by transfer as both B.J. Johnson and Ron Patterson recently announced their plans to move on. If Rooks is the only transfer out of the program this year, Tiger fans should feel relieved that the trend has slowed and roster management is taking shape as fewer players are finding themselves in hopeless logjams at their positions. One transfer-out per year is about average and shouldn't be alarming, but 5 in 2 years is a lot.

So if 5 is a lot, is it a problem? No. While it's true that Clemson has been hit by the transfer bug more than usual, particularly because the program is not in the middle of a transition between coaches, it's not a major problem because the players that have transferred from Clemson have not been significant contributors.

T.J. Sapp had a very good senior season at Murray State - albiet against less than ACC-level competition - averaging over 12 ppg and registering a efficient 115 Ortg with a .389 3P%. Other than him though, the losses have been minimal. Djambo and Filer sat this season per transfer rules, but were not very effective in limited minutes with Clemson (particularly Djambo) a year ago. Devin Coleman was not a major contributor for Temple and only shot .300 from three-point range. Bernard Sullivan was a serviceable back-up for Charlotte, but as a junior playing in the Conference USA that's not so impressive.

We can conclude that while Clemson has had a rash of transfers - and it is real, not just a perception - it is not a serious problem. Rather, the problem is that Clemson recruiting has been giving scholarships to players that are back-up caliber Conference USA players. Hopefully next year's class, which includes Ty Hudson and Legend Robertin, will mark a reverse in that trend and Clemson actual problem - recruiting - will find a resolution.