ESPN college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman is a popular man in coaching circles this time of year.
As the sport moves on from March Madness highs and slides into the background of the NFL draft, NBA playoffs, baseball and warmer weather, Goodman’s annual list of college basketball transfers emerges to drag college basketball coaches back into the office for one last push before they relax during the month of May, the deadest stretch in the college hoops calendar.
Currently, Goodman’s list, viewable online, contains 500-plus players Division I basketball transfers. They come from schools in over 40 states and range from 5-foot-8 guards to 7-foot-2 centers, with every variation in between. There is essentially a player for any position or type of a role a college basketball team would need to fill.
The list hasn’t been kept long, but the unofficial record is the 700 names that graced last year’s edition. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said Goodman, who didn’t respond to interview requests, is ingrained in coaching circles, “and that he really works those circles to find out early on. Coaches in the profession wait for that list, and they try their butt off to get it early.”
Following the departure of redshirt juniors Derrick Henry and James Bourne, Kelsey may have more interest in the list than usual. Winthrop has two open scholarships and it’s likely the program adds at least one player for next season, though Kelsey wouldn’t be drawn on revealing his intentions.
Goodman’s list is just one way coaches find out about available transfers.
Kelsey said his inbox receives a constant stream of emails from players putting out feelers about transferring. Often when a player decides to transfer and is given permission by his school to contact other colleges, he’ll shoot off a blanket email to every Division I school in America indicating he’s ready to play ball elsewhere.
Another way is coaches’ ears catch rumors dripping off the grapevine. One of a Division I basketball coach’s recruiting requisites is to be plugged in to gossip, whether it comes from other coaches, the AAU scene, or other miscellaneous sources. When Kelsey gets his cell phone contacts switched over to new phones, the Verizon employees always comment on the volume of numbers his sim card holds.
“That’s our job to know those things,” he said.
If Winthrop does decide to pursue a transfer this spring/summer, Kelsey can only hope for a repeat of Keon Moore. He joined the program in 2012 from Division II Catawba College, where he scored over a thousand points in two seasons. There were plenty of questions surrounding a Division II transfer - could he elevate his game to the Division I level, could he adjust to playing with and against better talent, and so forth - but Moore answered all of those with his play and his personality. He proved to be a seamless fit.
“I say we got lucky,” said Kelsey, “because I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a more driven kid.”
Coaches have to be wary about why a transfer is leaving his original school in the first place; they have to, as Kelsey said, “peel away the onion.” The recruiter has to plunge into the player’s background and character, and try to decipher his true goals and motivation. That’s the same whether it’s a high school or junior college player, or an NCAA transfer, like Moore.
“I think we did as much as we can to find out what made Keon Moore tick, and I think we got all the answers that satisfied us that he was worth the risk,” said Kelsey. “But I still think you don’t know until they get there.”
Kelsey couldn’t remember exactly how many people he spoke to connected with Moore, but guessed it was around 10.
“You have to talk to everybody,” he said. “A person’s circle that really knows a person, I don’t know that you’re gonna get deeper than 10.”
There is a time element involved as well because other schools are chasing the same players. But the process is sped up slightly because transfers have been through the recruiting cycle at least once before.
“They learned things the first time around that maybe they wish they would have asked or found out about, before they made their decision the first time,” said Kelsey. “They’re just a more informed person.”
Transfers seem to be a bigger part of recruiting for some college basketball programs these days, but it’s hard to know if it’s just more players leaving schools - or being forced out - or if the trend is just tracked better, thanks in part to Goodman’s list.
With players off-campus, school out for the summer, and recruiting in a dead period, Kelsey said May is when every coach goes on vacation or gets married. Wives will likely co-opt husband-coach’s phones for a week or two of quiet and family-focused time. But when the coaches turn the phone back on, there probably will be a text from Goodman or an email from the next college basketball player hunting a fresh start.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T