Sacha Killeya-Jones reminded us this month that Kentucky is not immune to the growing phenomenon of players transferring from one program to another.
Each year hundreds of players transfer. In John Calipari’s nine seasons as coach, eight players have transferred. Ironically, perhaps, this makes a UK program synonymous with one-and-done college careers a relative model of stability when it comes to transfers.
Allen Edwards, who was in town this weekend for the reunion of UK’s 1998 national championship team, must deal with four players transferring from his Wyoming team.
“It can get out of hand, I guess, because of (players wanting) instant gratification in the sense of wanting to play and play early,” he said. “I think we’ve passed the day of waiting your turn. Now, it’s I want to do it and I want to do it now. And if I’m not doing it, I want to leave.”
Scott Padgett, another player on UK’s 1998 championship team who became a coach, must deal with three players transferring from Samford. He said it was wrong to assume that players transferring signaled that something was intrinsically wrong with a program.
“Guys have kind of figured out the system,” he said.
When asked what fueled the rise in transfers, Padgett cited youth basketball and the AAU circuit. Changing teams is normal.
“I don’t blame AAU coaches,” he said. “But the realistic thing is, right now, you’ve got guys playing in four AAU programs in the same year. They’re used to it. Kids like options.”
The NCAA is not fighting this trend. Instead, the NCAA is considering liberalizing the rules to make it easier for a player to transfer. For instance, maybe do away with the requirement that transfer players sit out a season. Or tie the ability to avoid having to sit out a season to, say, a 3.0 or better grade point average.
The latter idea led Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson to speculate that a coach might hinder a player’s academic performance in hopes of keeping him on the team longer.
Padgett suggested instead that tying a transfer to a GPA might give players the incentive to study harder.
Tubby Smith, who coached Kentucky’s 1998 national championship team, made headlines this year when he equated transferring to a mortal athletic sin: quitting.
“We’re teaching them how to quit,” he said of rules changes that make it easier for players to transfer. “That’s what we’re doing. Things not going well. Let’s quit.”
Smith was responding to a question about how many players he thought would transfer from his then Memphis team. ...
“Somebody needs to tell them, ‘You made a commitment. Stick to it,’” he said. “But it doesn’t happen like that. They have a lot of people in their ear. That’s the way life is.”
Padgett called this “old-school thinking,” even though he said he agreed with what Smith said.
Transfers are nothing new. While bemoaning the frequency of transferring, Smith acknowledged that he considered transferring after his freshman year at High Point. His father objected and said the military might be the only alternative. Smith remained at High Point.
Edwards got similar advice from his high school coach, Shakey Rodriguez.
“That message was not find a new situation,” Edwards said of his high school coach’s advice. “That message was stick it out and you figure it out. I thank my high school coach for telling me that because I was blessed to play on two national championship teams (1996 and 1998).”
Saul Smith, Tubby Smith’s middle son and a guard on UK’s 1998 championship team, said he too considered transferring after the 1998 national championship..
“I got double-digit minutes per game, and I wanted to leave,” he said. “There’s a lot of scrutiny that’s coming. There’s a lot of pressure. Do I really want to deal with that?”
Saul Smith said his presence caused at least two high-profile point guard recruits to turn down UK. This would only intensify the scrutiny and pressure.
“I felt like this is not going to be very fun,” Saul Smith said.
Bill Keightley, UK’s longtime equipment manager and father confessor to players, convinced Saul Smith to stay.
When asked how he recalled his time as a UK player, Saul Smith said, “very fondly.” Competing against a standout point guard like Wayne Turner “made me better,” he said. “That’s what I loved about it.”
None of the former UK players criticized today’s players for transferring in great numbers. The players are trying to better themselves, they said. Coaches must adapt.
“Yes, it stinks sometimes when you have a kid who’s really good, and he leaves,” Padgett said. “But that’s part of the game, now, and you’ve got to realize that. And we as coaches have to learn to adjust and figure it out.”
Unwittingly, perhaps, Calipari has shown the way to deal with transfers.
“If it goes the way they’re talking about it going, everybody might have a one-and-done type mentality,” Padgett said. “They’re not necessarily going one-and-done to the NBA, but maybe they’re going one-and-done (to another school). So you’re going to have to stay on top of your recruiting game. And you’ve got to develop kids more. And you’ve got to create that bond and relationship (with players) where it keeps you on your toes even more.”
Steve Masiello, a backup guard for UK teams from 1996-97 through 1999-2000, sported a busy beard at the reunion.
Now the coach at Manhattan, he was asked if coaches typically adopt a clean-cut look.
“I think everything is cyclical,” he said. “All things change. I think it matters more your product on the floor than it does if you have a beard or you’re bald.”
Masiello cited one other reason for the beard.
“Honestly, my fiancée likes it,” he said with a smile. “She has the most pull.”
Masiello and Andrea Conti plan to wed on Sept. 2.
Ryan Hogan, a backup guard on the 1998 championship team, works for Morgan Stanley in Kansas City. He was a communications major at UK.
He got interested in finance while working for a player agent.
“It wasn’t a natural fit, quite frankly, but it’s working,” he said.
When asked if he enjoyed working in the financial world, Hogan said, “I do. I do. I enjoy connecting the dots, helping people preserve and protect their wealth.”
Kevin Denton might have traveled the farthest to attend the autograph session/reunion of UK’s 1998 national champions.
Denton, 44, came to Lexington from his home in the Nashville area. His mother, who grew up in Tompkinsville, instilled in him the rooting interest in Kentucky. Now, Denton has his 9-year-old son, Keaton, on his mind.
Keaton is why Denton came to Lexington to get UK memorabilia..
“So I have a collection,” he said. “When I pass on, he has it.”
Not the youngest
When Kevin Knox announced he would enter the NBA Draft and hire an agent, there was talk of how a player so young would fare in the professional sports world. Some speculated that he was the youngest freshman in college basketball this past season.
Not true. Knox, who will turn 19 on Aug. 11, was not the youngest player in the SEC.
The mind went quickly to Jontay Porter, who reclassified to play with his brother, Michael Porter Jr., for Missouri. Jontay Porter turns 19 on Nov. 15.
There were at least two other SEC players younger than Knox. Ejike Obinna of Vanderbilt turns 19 on Dec. 14. Brandon Rachal of LSU turns 19 on Sept. 30.
Draft deadline nears
The NBA deadline for entering this year’s draft is 11:59 p.m. EDT next Sunday (April 22).
So such UK players as Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel must decide this week whether to enter the NBA Draft.
Numbers maven Ken Pomeroy and SI.com dubbed the Big 12 the best conference this past season. Pomeroy ranked the SEC fourth after the Big 12, ACC and Big East.
SI.com noted that seven of the 10 Big 12 teams played in the NCAA Tournament. And two of the three Big 12 teams left out — Baylor and Oklahoma State — were considered “among the biggest snubs on Selection Sunday.”
One other thing: Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech advanced to the Elite Eight.
Kentucky did not get a mention in SI.com’s best and worst of the 2017-18 season.
Florida’s 111-106 double-overtime victory over Gonzaga was named Game of the Year. It featured 11 ties, 17 lead changes and a 30-plus point scorer for each team: 39 by Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams and 35 by Florida’s Jalen Hudson.
The Strangest Individual Season went to Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. Injuries limited his college “career” to 53 minutes, 30 points and 20 rebounds.
Jessamine County native Chris Holtmann got a mention. His Ohio State team had the Most Deceptive Slow Start. After starting 5-3, the Buckeyes went on to finish second in the Big Ten.
To Isaiah Briscoe. He turned 22 on Friday. ... To Derrick Jasper. He turned 30 on Friday. ... To Mark Soderberg. He turned 68 on Saturday. ... To Dwane Casey. He turns 61 on Tuesday. ... To Derrick Millar. He turns 50 on Wednesday. ... To Nate Knight. He turns 40 on Wednesday. ... To Michael Bradley. He turns 39 on Wednesday. ... To Doug Flynn. He turns 67 on Wednesday.