Even as transfers become more common and the rules more flexible for the athletes, few successful teams have seen as much activity on the transfer market as Virginia in recent years.
This offseason has been a particularly busy one on the transfer front. Marial Shayok, Jarred Reuter and Darius Thompson have all left. So far, Rutgers graduate Nigel Johnson is on the way in.
Thus, it’s a good time to evaluate how transfers have treated Tony Bennett and the Cavs.
*Quick side note: Kansas is another top-level program that comes to mind with several transfers in and out. It’s interesting how like-minded Bennett and Bill Self often seem. Both have embraced the transfer revolution. Both coaches love defensive toughness to the point they’ve buried extremely talented players on the bench if they wouldn’t embrace the philosophy. Neither has been afraid to move on from top-rated players who won’t buy in, and they’ve often identified and pursued the same under-the-radar recruits. It took Self 15 seasons as a head coach to break through with a Final Four and NCAA title. Bennett is entering his 12th season…just saying.
Since Bennett’s arrival, 11 Virginia players have transferred out. That doesn’t include Sylven Landesberg and Austin Nichols, whom Bennett dismissed. Four have transferred in.
Most of the players who left went on to be solid contributors at their new schools. Billy Baron, B.J. Stith and Taylor Barnette all became double-digit scorers at mid-majors after struggling to find consistent playing time at UVA. Paul Jesperson became a Northern Iowa legend thanks to an NCAA Tournament buzzer-beater. However, big man James Johnson was a bit of a disappointment at San Diego State. Teven Jones went to Division II Union College.
From earlier in Bennett’s tenure, Tristan Spurlock enjoyed a solid career at Central Florida. K.T. Harrell averaged more than 18 points per game in two seasons at Auburn. Both now play professionally overseas.
But Virginia managed just fine without each and every one of them. Some of the departures opened up scholarships and/or playing time that allowed Bennett to sign players such as Justin Anderson, Darion Atkins and London Perrantes.
The players who have transferred into Virginia have been more hit and miss. There’s no debating that gaining Anthony Gill from South Carolina was a huge pickup. Darius Thompson, who started his career at Tennessee, was a solid contributor for two seasons before deciding to transfer again this year.
Though his UVA career only lasted one game, it’s tough to blame Bennett for taking in Nichols from Memphis. Just about every team in the country was after the insanely talented forward.
Newcomer Nigel Johnson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, has potential to negate the losses of Thompson and Shayok. But that remains to be seen.
At this point, the Cavs look like a long shot at best to land UNCW transfer C.J. Bryce. However, as the transfer market continues to look more and more like NBA free agency, don’t be surprised if Bennett continues to embrace, rather than fear, that kind of roster turnover.