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UMass coach Matt McCall fears NCAA transfer situation will get worse

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2019 9:07:36 PM

AMHERST — The NCAA put together a task force to help reform the transfer process in an effort to combat the rising trend of transfers across college athletics.

Yet no sport were the transfers more problematic than in men’s basketball, where 40 percent of all players transfer at least once during their careers, according to NCAA data. That working group came up with several suggestions, including the now famous transfer portal, but the transfer game has become even more popular in college basketball. And as the number of transfers in the sport keeps rising, UMass coach Matt McCall said he thinks the situation is gloomy with the restrictions placed on the July recruiting circuit.

In response to the federal corruption case that rocked the college basketball world in 2017, the NCAA changed its recruiting calendar to give the shoe companies less power over recruiting. The summer period now includes scholastic events approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations across the country at the end of June and NCAA-sponsored development camps across the nation at the end of July. That leaves just one weekend – it’s July 11-14 this year – for coaches to watch recruits play with their AAU teams in the large-scale summer tournaments that used to dominate the landscape.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I think it’s going to get worse,” McCall said. “We basically have one weekend to evaluate these guys with their AAU programs in July. A kid is going to play well one game and high major or mid-major-plus schools are going to take a kid and it’s not going to be the right fit. … The numbers are going to continue to grow and grow, and that’s why you’ve got to in recruiting evaluate the things that are important to you as a head coach and as a program and take kids that have a desire and a passion to be at that school.”

The issue is also compounded by the number of graduate transfers who take advantage of the rule allowing them to transfer without penalty after receiving their degree. Five of the seven players who transferred out of UMass this offseason used that clause, part of the current trend of most transfers using that route to transfer without having to sit out a year.

The rule has put a lot of pressure on schools in smaller conferences, many of which now have an extra worry of potentially having a star player graduate early and leave for bigger programs. The Minutemen were victims of that to some extent with Jonathan Laurent, who enrolled at Oklahoma State after graduating in May from UMass. Solving that part of the equation is a difficult challenge given the importance the NCAA puts on the academic portion of the student-athlete experience.

“In a lot of cases, when you take in transfers, they sit out a year and now they put themselves in a position to graduate, now they’re a free agent,” McCall said. “You say that everyone is out there, trying to do it the right way, but it’s the nature of the beast right now. Guys are essentially getting degrees and they’re becoming free agents. Everyone (says) ‘slow them down, don’t let them graduate,’ but how are you going to slow them down academically, he’s a student-athlete, student first.”

NEW 3-POINT LINE — Last week, the NCAA officially adopted a change to push back the 3-point line to the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. For most 3-point shooters, the added distance won’t make that much of a difference, but the new lines could have other effects on the game.

“It’s going to impact the game in a couple of different ways,” McCall said. “One, you’re going to see out of bounds in the corner a lot because the court’s not widened but they’re moving the line back. You’re going to see when guys are stepping into shots, they’re going to step out of bounds more in the corner. But I also think it’s going to open up the floor and spacing is going to be even more critical. Everybody worries about point guards who aren’t terrific shooters, but now it’s going to create more space for guys to get downhill.”

MINUTEMEN COMPLETE SIGNING CLASS — Last week, UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel finished announcing his seven-player freshman class for next season.

The Minutemen will add five forwards and two defensemen to help mitigate the loss of three forwards and two defensemen from the roster that led UMass to the national title game a year ago.

On the back end, UMass signed Gianfranco Cassaro, an offensive-minded defenseman who played for the Youngstown Phantom in the USHL last season. He scored 35 points in 51 games last season for the Phantoms with nine goals and 25 assists. The Minutemen will also add USHL Rookie of the Year Zac Jones on the blue line after he amassed 52 points in 56 games for Tri City. The Glen Allen, Virginia, native is projected to be drafted later this month in the NHL Draft.

The Minutemen added Jeremy Davidson, Eric Faith, Calen Kiefiuk, Reed Lebster and Peyton Reeves to the forward group. Only Davidson didn’t play at least three years of junior hockey before joining UMass for the upcoming season, and Davidson played two years in the USHL before making the jump. He was previously teammates with Kiefiuk and current UMass forward Bobby Trivigno at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota two seasons ago.

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