Blair Kerkhoff

Big 12 schools have gotten aboard the transfer train with Iowa State

Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane celebrated in the closing seconds of the Cyclones’ 74-65 win over Baylor in the Big 12 tournament championship game.
Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane celebrated in the closing seconds of the Cyclones’ 74-65 win over Baylor in the Big 12 tournament championship game. The Kansas City Star

No college basketball program has embraced the transfer culture like Iowa State.

The Cyclones had a hand in creating it when favorite son Fred Hoiberg returned to the program five years ago.

From Royce White to Korie Lucious to DeAndre Kane and many others since 2010, Iowa State became the next place for many, and in most cases the Division I transfers thrived.

Now, several others in Big 12 have joined the transfer train.

Expected to play prominent roles in the conference this year are players like Oklahoma State point guard Anthony Hickey, LSU’s starter for the past three years, and Kansas State athletic guard Justin Edwards averaged 15 points in two seasons at Maine.

TCU welcomes a pair of players, Chris Washburn from Texas-El Paso and Trey Zeigler, who started at Central Michigan and played at Pittsburgh before moving to TCU.

The most significant looms at Iowa State, naturally. Bryce Dejean-Jones, who led UNLV in scoring last season, steps in for Kane.

There are more in the Big 12 and many more throughout college hoops.

The door opens the other way as well. West Virginia probably isn’t as highly regarded this year despite having the league’s preseason player of the year in guard Juwan Staten because its second and third leading scorers from last year, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, shoved off.

Coaches who attended men’s Big 12 Media Day at the Sprint Center on Wednesday would long for a return to days of recruiting high school players, dealing specifically with prep coaches and parents, have the player learn the ropes for a year or two and have him start as an upperclassmen.

Of course, they’d be wearing leisure suits with bell bottoms and sport long sideburns, so there would be a trade-off.

No, today’s player has come through multiple high schools and prep academies and receives decision-making advance from several people outside the family and coaches. It’s little wonder talent reaches the Division I college level without a sense of permanence.

Play me or wave good-bye. NCAA rules require sitting out a year of competition, but more exceptions exist than ever before. Take Oklahoma State’s Hickey. Because of run-ins with LSU coach Johnny Jones, Hickey was run off the program.

That made him immediately eligible under a new guideline known as the run-off rule. Hickey, a former Mr. Kentucky basketball winner and former SEC steals leader, met the criteria of being in good academic standing and not wanted as his school. LSU signed off, Oklahoma State signed up and the Cowboys got a ball-handling replacement for Marcus Smart for this season.

The prospect of landing a transfer is why Pokes coach Travis Ford kept a scholarship in his pocket during the previous recruiting season.

“You almost have to keep a scholarship available for the springtime,” Ford said. “You could almost do all of your recruiting in the spring with all the good players out there, ones we call difference-makers.”

This is how the game is played today. In 2012-13, the rosters used to measure Academic Progress Rate (APR) included 541 transfers, some 13 percent of all men’s basketball players, the highest of any NCAA sport.

If you’re not keeping an eye on or an ear open to the transfer possibilities, you’ve cut off a potential talent source.

We’re past asking questions about the impact on team chemistry. Assembling a college basketball team today is about identifying amateur talent no matter where it exists, even on other Division I programs.

“As far as pitfalls,” Hoiberg said, “we haven’t had any to this point. … It’s not about individual agendas.”

Well, it is for the player when he transfers. It’s the ultimate individual agenda. But Iowa State, which owns a 4-3 NCAA Tournament record in the past three years, has made the most of the transfer culture.

And others, even its Big 12 rivals, are all aboard.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @BlairKerkhoff.

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