Missed opportunities plague HBCU transfers

FLAMEOUTS: Bethune-Cookman’s LeRon Smith (l.) and
South Carolina State’s DouDou Gueye (r.), key players for their
MEAC teams, ended their careers at Auburn and Ball State
respectively, in relative obscurity.

CARL LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

Packing your bags and moving to another location to close
out your college basketball career is not always a good move.
In fact, most times it has the opposite effect.

Bethune-Cookman’s 6-9 shot-blocker and 2015-16
MEAC Defensive Player of the Year LaRon Smith moved to
Auburn of the SEC for his final year. Six-ten senior DouDou
Gueye left South Carolina State after a run to the 2015-16
MEAC Tournament finals to play at Ball State.

Smith started three of the 24 games he played in for Auburn
this year averaging 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and less than
one block per game in 12 minutes per contest. In the MEAC,
he led the league in field goal percentage (.585) and blocks
per game (3.0), pulled down 6.9 rebounds and played about 25
minutes per game. He was third in the nation in blocked shots.

Gueye averaged 0.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in nearly nine
minutes per game at SCSU. He averaged about the same in two
less minutes in 18 games at Ball State this year.

Coppin State 2015-16 scoring leader Christian Kesee
(14.6 ppg.) averaged 1.9 points in 29 games after joining head
coach Tubby Smith at Memphis this season. He played 7.5
minutes per game for Memphis, a team-best 32.2 minutes at
Coppin.

What gives?

Funny thing is, it used to be the other way around. Talented
players would flame out at this or that big-time Div. I program
and look for solace and a home at an HBCU. While that’s still
happening to some degree, it’s now almost in reverse.

The fact is, none of the former black college players are
stars at their new locations. Hampton transfer and former
MEAC tourney MVP Deron Powers at least came close to
equalling his numbers at Hampton. He was third in assists (5.2
per game) and 18th in points per game (13.0) for Hofstra in the
Colonial Athletic Association though he did not make any of

the three all-CAA teams.

It’s hard to believe that any of these guys has increased his chances
of playing professionally with their moves. They are just as, and
perhaps more, likely now to be overlooked.

Florida A&M head coach Byron Samuels, who was let go after
this season, who in addition to losing Bernard from last year’s squad
lost his top two scorers (Jermaine Rutley and Jorge Rosa) off his
2014-15 team, calls the transfer debacle “a national epidemic and a
disgrace.”

“In Division I basketball last year alone, about 900 kids transferred,”
said Samuels. “That’s ridiculous. Secondly, we’ve had about
eight of our better players in the MEAC in the two-and-a-half years
that I’ve been here, that have left to go to so-called higher levels. In
some cases, our guys are being recruited.”

To date, Verbal Commits, an online site that tracks college player
movement, totals 503 transfers just in 2017.

NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton said early this season, “there’s
no loyalty in college basketball anymore.” He spoke of a player that
he took in, rescued, nurtured and fed from his own table only to see
him bolt at the first opportunity.

The big question is, why not take the route of former Norfolk
State 6-10 center Kyle O’Quinn?

O'QUINN: Stayed put. Got paid.

The native New Yorker
stayed at Norfolk State for
four years and earned a bevy
of awards (MEAC Player of
the Year, Defensive Player of
the Year, Tournament MVP)
as an outstanding senior when
he averaged 15.9 points (6th in
MEAC), 10.3 rebounds (1st)
and 2.7 blocks (1st) in the
2011-12 MEAC season, leading
his team to the league’s
regular season and tournament
titles and an NCAA Tournament berth.

He then led the Spartans to
a stunning upset of Missouri on
the big stage in the NCAA Big
Dance. He got national acclaim and an opportunity to prove himself
before NBA scouts.

He parlayed that into a second round selection in the NBA draft
by Orlando and just finished his fourth year in the Association playing
significant minutes for the New York Knicks.

What’s wrong with that?

Okay, so write this down. Talented hoopsters at Div. I HBCUs
leaving the programs that nurtured them to move to higher Div. I programs
has become a new normal and a developing story in Div. I college
basketball.

If this starts happening in college football however, with FCS
HBCU stars leaving to join FBS teams, it will be no less than an upheaval.