Don’t Assume the Obvious With Former UNLV Guard Katin Reinhardt’s TransferPosted by Chris Johnson on May 28th, 2013
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Give a top-100 backcourt star enough touches and shot attempts, and he probably won’t find much of a reason to complain about his freshman season of college basketball. Using 19.2 percent of your team’s possessions, firing off 22.2 percent of available shots and logging 29.2 minutes per game seems like a pretty sweet deal for a rookie joining a preseason Top 25 team, all things considered, and after watching five of last season’s eight top scorers leave either through transfer or graduation, you’d think former UNLV guard Katin Reinhardt might find favor in the idea of returning to more shot-making opportunities, an even higher usage rate and a coach with no choice but to green-light his talented if mercurial returning sophomore shooting guard in a lineup relatively devoid of offensive firepower. Reinhardt wasn’t clamoring for more shot attempts, in other words.
Turns out, shots and individual scoring freedom weren’t what Reinhardt was interested in after all. All those shots and possessions – and the mediocre 98.6 offensive rating and 45.8 effective field goal percentage they partly created – didn’t accord with Reinhardt’s personal developmental hoops agenda. He wanted a position change all along, a switch from his shot-heavy off-guard spot to point guard, where he believes he has a more secure future at the next level. Head coach Dave Rice spun it that way to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Sunday night, and lo and behold, Reinhardt’s position-swapping desires were so pressing and so uncertain, that the rising sophomore two-guard has decided to transfer to another school.
Katin told me why he was leaving. He said that he feels his best opportunity to play in the NBA is to play more minutes at the point guard position. Katin would have had an opportunity to compete for minutes at the point, but I’ve never guaranteed anyone that they will start or play a certain number of minutes.
Players transfer to different programs for various reasons; it’s an unavoidable aspect of modern college basketball life. Guys move to and fro, seeking hardship waivers left and right, using the graduate exemption to evade the one-year waiting period. There is no transfer clause for “point guard obstruction” or role-furnished offensive inefficiency. Reinhardt will be forced to sit out next season before transferring to what most expect will be a Pac-12 school. The legislative machinations of the move are beside the point. Reinhardt’s transfer is peculiar not because he felt shunned in a frontcourt-loaded lineup – he didn’t – or because he was particularly unhappy with the way Rice or UNLV handled his first year of college hoops. It’s because Reinhardt, the ninth-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2012, and a brazenly confident gunner in his own right, blanched at the idea of competing – and not merely assuming uncontested – for the position he wants to play in the most competitively exclusive professional team sports league in the world, where one poor shooting night or an ugly defensive performance leaves fringe role players rotting at the end of the bench and established veterans under immense heat and media scrutiny. Based off Rice’s characterization of the situation, it appears Reinhardt felt threatened, or unexpectedly unnerved, about the possibility of competing with variously unproven backcourt pieces like Daquan Cook, three-star recruit Kendall Smith and junior college transfer DeVille Smith. That’s the returning cast Reinhardt would have had to “compete” with, the same group he felt compelled to avoid in favor of trying his luck winning the starting point guard spot at another program. It’s not as if UNLV is bringing in the top point guard recruit in the country, or anything close to it. Even at his inefficient worst, Reinhardt was as qualified as anyone to win the starting point guard spot.
Rumors of Reinhardt’s discontent ran rampant months ago, when a report surfaced that he might transfer out of Sin City, a report he quickly quashed with a shirtless video vehemently denying his alleged transfer inclinations. Reinhardt could have changed his mind since, decided a disappointing #5/#12-upset NCAA Tournament exit and the frustration of having to play a position incongruous with his NBA aspirations was too much to bear. His decision, finalized in March, Sunday night, or sometime in between, is official, and it defies the broader psychological motivation of his move in the first place. If Reinhardt expects to become an NBA point guard, competition – for rookies and veterans, first round picks and undrafted summer league pick-ups – is just the cost of doing business. If Reinhardt can’t handle the heat now, does he expect some delusional front office radical to simply hand him a starting point guard spot, when hundreds of other college players are battling for the same exact position?
I realize it’s not that simple. Transfers never are. Reinhardt’s decision is probably more complicated than anyone not named Katin Reinhardt will ever know, and I’ve never felt comfortable criticizing a college athlete for deciding to pack up, move on and try something new – whatever the cloudy circumstances surrounding his departure. Maybe this is exactly what Reinhardt needs to blossom into the explosive scoring threat his high school track record suggests. I can’t really say. Because when Rice’s comments say one thing, and Reinhardt’s perplexing actions say another, finding a coherent message, uncompromising evidence as to why or when Reinhardt decided to make this move, requires parsing quotes and questionable motivations and unknown backdoor developments. Reinhardt’s move looks simple enough, which means it almost positively isn’t. If there’s a more poignant example of the sheer enigmatic difficulty of untangling today’s college hoops transfer culture, I haven’t found one this offseason.