by Kent Sterling
College basketball players come, and then they go – sometimes before anyone would have hoped when they made their commitment and signed their letters of intent. Two from Purdue and one from Indiana decided earlier this week that their collegiate careers should continue elsewhere.
There is nothing wrong with that. Basketball players work from the time they are small for the opportunity to play in college. There are afternoons spent trying to find an open door at a school, and then more fun looking for the lights. Every once in a while, the baskets are raised to the ceiling. Ingenuity and diligence are required just to earn the opportunity to work hard.
All that work, and all that hope invested, and the result is a spot on the bench and the feeling that no amount of additional work and hope will result in the kind of success that the player feels is just. So he transfers.
Matt Painter and Tom Crean are paid an insane amount of money to lead their student-athletes to wins. There is an interest in academics, but coaches get fired for not enough wins, and criticized for not enough degrees. When a player is eating a scholarship that could be better used on a more productive player, or a player with more promise, a decision needs to be made.
Regardless of whether the transfer is prompted by the desire for a student-athlete to play more – or with a team that better suits his talents – or by a coach’s decision to help a player see that his basketball future would be better spent elsewhere, transferring to another school is good for the school and the player.
That is certainly the case with Purdue’s Jacob Lawson and Indiana’s Remy Abell. There is a large block of Purdue fans who would definitely like to have center Sandi Marcius stick around for his senior season as a backup for mercurial talent A.J. Hammons, but Marcius wants more out of his last season than to wait behind Hammons for a chance to have all that work payoff in the way he hopes.
There is nothing in any of this that reflects poorly on either Painter or Crean. Unless the players are forced out through the kind of emotional and physical abuse that Mike Rice wrought at Rutgers, players leaving is just a matter of a fresh start for both the kid and program.
Things don’t always work out. The player isn’t being disloyal in transferring, and neither is the school when these circumstances arise to make a separation wise. It’s more humane to allow a player to move on than to honor the scholarship, but not play him at all.
Teenagers are often not very good at knowing what is best for them, and coaches make mistakes in assessing the talents and behaviors of them. There is no reason that both should be penalized or evaluated negatively for calling a mistake a mistake, and moving forward.