Impact of Transfers on the ACC Narrative

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 9th, 2014

There has been a multitude of change in the college basketball landscape this season and the ACC is no exception. Incoming teams Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have had good to great success in their inaugural ACC seasons, with the Orange and Panthers looking like two of the conference’s most elite teams. Even Notre Dame, likely the weakest of the three after losing star guard Jerian Grant, has had its shining moment in defeating Duke last weekend. While the ACC has taken some hits and cannot lay claim as one of even the best two conferences in the nation, those three teams have done their fair share to elevate the overall profile and are not to blame. And as the college basketball landscape shifts, so too do the tactics and strategies used by coaches and programs to keep up with competitive trends. The utilization of transfers was once something of a rarity among power conference teams and an equalizer for mid-major programs, but it is now becoming a more widespread commodity. The ACC is not unique in that regard, as the league has its fair share of transfers playing major roles on its teams this year.

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Transfers can often be viewed as damaged goods, and some people tend to shy away from them as a result. But with many young athletes bouncing between high schools for various reasons, it has become more of a collegiate trend in recent years for players to seek instant gratification elsewhere. Coaches have learned that some transfers can bring an instant dose of maturity to a team and provide leadership and experience to propel a team to the next level. Many successful programs today have used that to great effect, including 14-0 Iowa State and 13-1 Oregon. It is difficult for a coach bring in new players and get them to mesh properly, and sometimes it backfires. UMass senior guard Chaz Williams is a great example of a successful transfer on an Atlantic 10 contender who has played a large role in turning Derek Kellogg’s program around. While the ACC doesn’t have any of those this season, the seven ACC transfers listed below have been meaningful contributors and are not too shabby in their own right.

Rodney Hood, Duke: Everybody’s top transfer in the ACC this year, Hood has been special in leading Duke offensively alongside freshman star Jabari Parker. The pressure was on him to succeed from the start, and the redshirt sophomore captain from Mississippi has responded. He stands to improve on the defensive side with better on-ball defense as well as shot-blocking. For a player of his size and athletic ability, you would think he would get his hands on more shots, a facet Duke desperately needs on the inside.

Statistics: 18.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 52.9% FG, 47.0% 3FG, 84.8% FT.

Garrick Sherman, Notre Dame: The bearded big man in the middle for the Fighting Irish technically isn’t a brand new transfer, but he did come over from Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team in April 2011. He is especially valuable to head coach Mike Brey in the wake of Jerian Grant’s absence, as he provides an intimidating presence in the frontcourt alongside Zach Auguste. He provides senior leadership and an effective post game which takes some of the pressure off of perimeter options Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton. He is not particularly flashy or mobile and doesn’t have much range on his jumper, but he provides a steadying influence and is a valuable member of the Irish’s attack.

Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 52.1% FG, 74.6% FT.

Trae Golden, Georgia Tech: The resident senior citizen on this Yellow Jackets team, Golden brings a calming presence at the helm from his three seasons at Tennessee. While this team without Robert Carter available (meniscus surgery) will surely struggle in the ACC, Golden will have the ball in his hands a lot of the time. While he is struggling shooting the three this season, he’s one of the better assist guys in the country and he gives the Yellow Jackets a much needed veteran presence alongside rising sophomore guard Marcus Georges-Hunt.

Statistics: 12.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 41.7% FG, 25.5% 3FG, 2.3 TOPG.

Ralston Turner, N.C. State: An LSU transfer, the junior guard has provided some solid scoring contributions to take the pressure off of do-everything forward T.J. Warren. Sliding neatly into the two-guard spot next to the two-headed point guard tandem of Tyler Lewis and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber, Turner and junior college product Desmond Lee have been unexpected bright spots for the overachieving Wolfpack team this season.

Ralston Turner slides his feet against Notre Dame (James Brosher/SBT Photos)

Ralston Turner slides his feet against Notre Dame (James Brosher/SBT Photos)

Statistics: 9.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 44.4% FG, 43.1% 3FG, 22.2 MPG.

Evan Smotrycz, Maryland: The 6’9” stretch four has improved in leaps and bounds and has taken his offensive production to a new level since leaving Michigan. A potent offensive performer and leader alongside Dez Wells, Smotrycz will be a valuable piece heading into a transition conference season for Maryland. While not the most capable defensive performer, he provides a much needed shooting stroke to complement all the athletes on the Terrapins’ roster. His shooting has suffered a bit this year, most likely due to his jump in attempts and an increased role in this offense, as he has the talent and respect of defenders to effectively spread the floor.

Statistics:  12.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 42.2% FG, 38.8% 3FG.

Donnavan Kirk, Miami (FL): Kirk was not even close to being the most highly acclaimed transfer to come into coach Jim Larranaga’s program in the offseason. Those distinctions belonged to Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez and Texas forward Sheldon McClellan. However, they are sitting out this year, so the spotlight shines on Kirk. The senior is actually an interesting case, considering he played spot minutes at Miami under Frank Haith from 2009-11, before transferring to DePaul and now back to Miami to bring it full circle. The graduate student and Detroit product is a big time shot-blocker, ranking 12th in DePaul history in total blocks.

Donnavan Kirk (22) scrambles for a rebound versus Syracuse (Nick Lisi/AP Photos)

Donnavan Kirk (22) scrambles for a rebound versus Syracuse (Nick Lisi/AP Photos)

Statistics: 8.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 47.9% FG, 58.1% FT.

Michael Gbinije, Syracuse: A high-profile recruit and transfer, Gbinije left Duke after one season of not a whole lot of playing time to be a big guard in Jim Boeheim’s system. His playing time has not exactly skyrocketed with the Orange after a redshirt year, finding a few minutes behind Trevor Cooney, Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, and C.J. Fair. A very athletic and long 6’7” combo guard, Gbinije may not be getting the playing time he wants at the moment but that will change over time. He is exactly the type of rangy wing that Boeheim has coveted and used to great effect in his zone, and there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to continue that trend in years to come.

Statistics: 4.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 45.2% FG, 0.9 SPG, 14.2 MPG.

Christopher Kehoe (42 Posts)

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