Transfer of talent draining HBCU hoops

ON THE MOVE: New North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts (l.)
has convinced North Carolina A&T scoring leader Sam Hunt (r.) to
join him in Raleigh.

CARL LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor
You know things have changed in NCAA Div. I men’s college
basketball when HBCU teams are being raided of their talented
players by big-time programs.

In the latest reported defections, Howard senior guard James
‘J-Byrd’ Daniel, who led the nation in scoring in the 2015-16 season
but played in only two games this season after suffering a preseason
high ankle sprain, has decided to leave the Bison for what
he hopes will be greener pastures.

Reports indicate Daniel is choosing between Missouri, Michigan,
Ohio State, Tennessee and DePaul.

And just last week, North Carolina A&T scoring leader
(13.0 ppg.), 6-2 left-handed guard Sam Hunt, who transferred after
his freshman year from Jacksonville to his hometown Aggies,
has decided to move across state to Raleigh and play his final year
of eligibility for new North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts in
the ACC.

These kind of transfers never happened before. For the most
part, HBCUs got good but marginal players and certainly not
the kind of blue-chip talent that major D1 schools, like the N. C.
States, Missouris, Ohio States and Tenneessees of the world went
after and landed.

That was then.

Now, HBCU coaches better keep their heads on the proverbial
swivel and keep their talented players under wraps, or at least keep
them happy. That’s because the so-called ‘high major’ teams in
the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12 etc., and even the mid-majors
are being drained by the NBA of their top talent, primarily
by the NBA, and early in most cases, in players’ first or second
years. One-and-done is the new normal.

That means those big-time programs have to look elsewhere,
anywhere for talented players.

Even to HBCUs, you might ask? Even to HBCUs is the answer.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world!

Howard head coach Kevin Nickelberry, who recruited Daniel
out of Hampton, Virginia’s Phoebus High School and has coached
him in his four years playing for the Bison, says his biggest recruiting
task each year Daniel has been at Howard has been keeping
him there.

In the 2013-14 season, the 5-11 Daniel became the first freshman
to lead the MEAC in scoring when he averaged 21.7 points
per game and was named the conference’s top freshman. With
more talent around him as a sophomore, he put up 16.7 points per
game and was named first team all-conference.

Last year as a junior he topped the nation scoring 27.1 points
per game and also led all Div. I players in free throws made and
attempted, was fourth in total points and fifth in total field goals.
He was the 2015-16 MEAC Player of the Year and the 2016-17
preseason pick by league coaches to repeat with that honor.

He is already Howard’s all-time leading scorer with 1,933
points and trails only Tom Davis of Delaware State (1987-91) as

the MEAC’s all-time leading scorer (2,275 points).
Though Daniel told the BCSP two weeks ago that he had not
ruled out returning to Howard, Nickelberry now seems resigned to
losing him.

“It’s a trend in college basketball now. Fifth-year guys look at
their options,” said Nickelberry. “He’s had an unbelievable career
for us and it would be selfish of me, and unfair to the process, not
to let him go through it. I’m going to support him. And whatever
happens, it can’t change the career he’s had for us and what he’s
done for our program.

“This is a family decision. And I’m sure he’ll make the best
decision for him, his future and his family.”

Nickelberry also said James T. Miller, a talented redshirt junior
who battled injuries this season but was Howard’s secondleading
scorer at 14.7 points per game, will play his final year of
eligibility elsewhere. Miller has decided to transfer to Missouri
State.

According to NCAA statistics, 40% of Div. I basketball recruits
leave their initial school by the end of their sophomore year.
In other words, plenty players transfer. Sometimes it’s for lack of
playing time. Other times it’s because they get in trouble or don’t
get along with the coach. Or perhaps, the school is facing some
kind of probation. Some leave for a less competitive Div. I conference
or move down to Div. II.

Increasingly, players are leaving to play elsewhere in their
fifth year of eligibility.

Regardless of why, HBCU teams losing their star players is
a new phenomenon. The Mid Eastern Athletic Conference has
been hit particularly hard.

WELL TRAVELLED: (L.) Kidd at NC Central (r.)
and later at Colorado State.

North Carolina Central’s 6-7, 215-pound forward Stanton
Kidd could be the poster boy for this new trend. Kidd averaged
14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 2013, his only year at NCCU after
two years at South Plains Junior College in Texas and one year at
Charleston Southern.

In 2013, he left the Eagles to play his last year of eligibility
at Colorado State. The move so shocked and caught NCCU head
coach LeVelle Moton off-guard that he refuses to talk about it
even now.

He was first team all-MEAC at NCCU. But what got him to
thinking about so-called ‘greener pastures’ was that he played well
against the major programs, averaging right at 20 points in games
against Wichita State, Drake and Marquette.

At the time, Kidd told his hometown newspaper, The Baltimore
Sun, “I shocked myself. I said, ‘If I can do that here, I know
I can do it at another level against better competition.’ I’m not saying
I played down to my level, but if you play at a higher level, it
brings out the best in you.”

There it is. At least, that’s one way the thinking goes.

Without Kidd, NCCU finished 28-6, won the MEAC Tournament
and played and lost to Iowa State (93-75) in the first round
of the NCAA Tournament. With Kidd, they may have gone farther.
At CSU the following year, Kidd, after sitting out a year, averaged
11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. CSU finished 27-7 and lost a first
round NIT game to South Dakota State. Kidd is playing this year
overseas in Germany.

Since then, the flood gates have opened.