Analyzing the Careers and Production of College Basketball Players Who Transferred Twice

Transfers in college basketball can be a hot-button topic for fans and those involved in the sport, and there are already more than 100 players who have transferred this season. A small segment of college basketball players have transferred twice in their careers and we analyzed the rosters of more than 200 teams to find the 20 transfers examined in this story who have each played for three different schools.

We examined two different career arcs of players who transferred twice:

  • Category One: Players who played one season at their first school, two seasons at their second school and one season at their third school.
  • Category Two: Players who played two seasons at their first school, one season at their second school and one season at their third school.

 

We made this distinction for the purpose of clarity when graphing the players’ career production to highlight statistical increases and decreases after a player transferred. The arrows shown on the graphs below serve as markers to identify which seasons players transferred.

We also analyzed players who transferred down to a lower-level program then up to a higher-level program (when compared to their previous schools’ conferences) to show how the level of competition affects a player’s role and his production.

For each group, we analyzed four criteria: playing time (percent of available minutes played), role on offense (usage rate), production (points per game) and efficiency (offensive rating), using data from kenpom.com.

Here are the 10 players we examined who fit Category One as outlined above. In parentheses, we listed each player’s first school followed by his second.

  • Texas Tech’s Matt Mooney (Air Force, South Dakota)
  • Texas Tech’s Tariq Owens (Tennessee, St. John’s)
  • Nevada’s Trey Porter (George Mason, Old Dominion)
  • Ohio State’s Keyshawn Woods (Charlotte, Wake Forest)
  • NC State’s Eric Lockett (George Mason, Florida International)
  • Northwestern’s Ryan Taylor (Ohio, Evansville)
  • UConn’s Tarin Smith (Nebraska, Duquesne)
  • Illinois’ Adonis De La Rosa (St. John’s, Kent State)
  • Florida Atlantic’s Xavian Stapleton (Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State)
  • Valparaiso’s Deion Lavender (Southern Illinois, UAB)

 

Nine of the 10 players in this group saw an increase in playing time from their first season at their first school to their first season at their second school. Only Xavian Stapleton, who “transferred up” from Louisiana Tech to Mississippi State, saw his playing time decrease.

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Six of the 10 players saw an increase of more than 10 percent of their team’s available minutes in their first two seasons playing college basketball, including a 59.9-percent increase by Eric Lockett when he transferred from George Mason to Florida International.

Year 3 is the hardest to project what will happen as players enter their second season playing for their second school – which is usually what amounts to their redshirt junior season.

Five of the 10 players saw their playing time increase by at least 10 percent of their team’s available minutes. Tariq Owens, Eric Lockett and Adonis De La Rosa had an increase in minutes by nearly a third of their team’s available minutes.

Meanwhile, three players’ minutes saw a negligible decrease in minutes that still resulted in them playing between 70 to 80 percent of their team’s available minutes.

Deion Lavender and Keyshawn Woods saw significant decreases in playing time from their redshirt sophomore to redshirt junior seasons of 43.9 and 18.3 percent, respectively.

Eight of the 10 players saw an increase in playing time from Year 1 to Year 3 so if their goal was to play more, almost all of them achieved it.

It’s almost a guarantee that a player who transfers for a second time after playing one season at his first school and two seasons at his second school won’t see a significant increase in playing time at his third school, based on the data we analyzed.

Seven of the 10 players have seen their playing time decrease in their final season of eligibility and two have seen slight increases of less than 10 percent of their team’s available minutes.

Only Lavender, whose minutes played increased from 14.2 percent in his redshirt junior season at UAB to 74.6 percent at Valparaiso this season, saw a significant increase.

Nine of the 10 players have had more playing time as a senior than as a freshman with Xavian Stapleton, whose percent of minutes played dropped just 1.1 percent from Year 1 to Year 4, being the only slight exception.

Many players transfer in part because they want a bigger role on offense. Almost all of the players we examined who transferred after their freshman season had a higher usage rate – the percent of their team’s possessions that end with that player making a shot, missing a shot that’s rebounded by the defense or committing a turnover – in their first season playing for their second school.

Eight of the 10 players had a higher usage rate in Year 2 of playing and the two whose usage rates dropped experienced a decrease of less than three percent.

However, the second time these players transferred have usually resulted in a sizable decrease in their role on offense. Seven of the 10 players had a lower usage rate from Year 3 to Year 4 by an average of seven percent of their team’s offensive possessions.

Northwestern’s Ryan Taylor, for example, was used almost one out of every three possessions at Evansville last season, but now he’s used roughly one in five possessions with the Wildcats as his year-over-year usage rate has decreased 11.7 percent.

There’s a similar decrease in production from Year 3 to Year 4 when players transfer for the second time.

Seven of the 10 players have seen their points per game decrease by an average of 7.2 points per game. An eighth player, Tariq Owens, has kept his scoring average the same, leaving Stapleton and Lavender as the only two players from this group whose points per game has increased this season.

Generally speaking, these 10 players have seen their scoring averages peak in Year 3, or their redshirt junior season, when playing in their second season at their second school.

Offensive rating may not be as big of a priority as playing time, role and points per game, but it’s an important one for both transfers and the teams that they join.

To put it simply, it tells how well a player fits within his team’s offense.

This is the category that arguably sees the most consistent increase over the course of four seasons or at least, it carries the least risk of a significant drop-off of the four statistical categories. Four of the 10 players are having their most efficient offensive season while playing for their third school. Two others have an offensive rating this season that’s within three points of their most efficient college season, which means 60 percent of the players in this group are essentially playing as efficiently as they ever have in college.

It’s worth pointing out that Texas Tech’s Matt Mooney and Illinois’ Adonis De La Rosa, who transferred to higher-level programs from South Dakota and Kent State, respectively, have seen their offensive ratings drop by almost 15 points this season to below 100, which means they’ve been inefficient offensive players when playing against better competition this season.


Next, we’ll examine players who fall under Category Two, which was outlined earlier.

These players spent two seasons playing at their first school, one season playing at their second and they’re now spending their final year of eligibility at a third school. This means that their final three seasons in which they played (not counting redshirt seasons) were spent at three different schools.

Here are the 10 players we examined who fall under Category Two as outlined above:

  • Arizona’s Justin Coleman (Alabama, Samford)
  • Oklahoma’s Miles Reynolds (Saint Louis, Pacific)
  • VCU’s Michael Gilmore (VCU, Florida Gulf Coast)
  • Central Michigan’s Larry Austin (Xavier, Vanderbilt)
  • Saint Louis’ Tramaine Isabell (Missouri, Drexel)
  • DePaul’s Femi Olujobi (Oakland, North Carolina A&T)
  • Radford’s Mawdo Sallah (Mount St. Mary’s, Kansas State)
  • Western Kentucky’s DeSean Murray (Presbyterian, Auburn)
  • Austin Peay’s Jabari McGhee (Tennessee, Western Kentucky)
  • Texas Southern’s Shawn Olden (Pepperdine, TCU)

 

Seven of the 10 players saw an increase in playing time after transferring for the first time and six of them played at least 10 percent more of their second team’s available minutes.

However, there’s a significant range in how a player transferring for a second time has affected his playing time between his third and fourth seasons. DeSean Murray’s percent of available minutes played dropped from 59.7 percent at Auburn last season to 19.4 at Western Kentucky this season (-40.3), while Larry Austin saw a jump of 62.7 percent from Vanderbilt (19.7 percent) to Central Michigan (82.4 percent).

Collectively, the players in this group who transferred after playing two seasons at their first school didn’t experience a significant change in role between their sophomore and redshirt junior seasons. Six of the 10 players saw their usage rate change by five percent or less during their team’s possessions. Eight players had a change in usage rate of less than eight percent, positively or negatively.

The change in roles between their second and third schools were of a similar magnitude. Six players saw their usage rate change by less than five percent and nine were less than eight percent in either direction.

Four of the 10 players have a usage rate this season that’s within three percent of their usage rate from their sophomore seasons, which was their last year playing at their first school.

As seen on the graph below, the one notable exception is Larry Austin, who had a usage rate of 13 or 14 percent in each of his first two seasons at Xavier, then saw a slight bump to 17.4 during his one season at Vanderbilt.

He now has a usage rate of more than 30 percent at Central Michigan, which ranks 52nd nationally as of Wednesday morning.

Half of the players in this group reached their scoring apex at their second school and six have seen their points per game decrease from last season to this season after they transferred for the second time.

Generally speaking, the players in this category have become more efficient scorers after they transfer the first time. Six of the 10 players saw their offensive rating increase from Year 2 to Year 3, including jumps of 24.5 by Tramaine Isabell and 17.3 by Justin Coleman. However, Jabari McGhee’s offensive rating decreased by nearly 30 points even though he transferred from Tennessee to Western Kentucky.

The affects of a second transfer have been across the board. Five players became more efficient players and five became less efficient, and nine of the 10 players saw their offensive rating change by more than eight points, so these were relatively significant changes.

Miles Reynolds’ offensive rating has dropped by 50 points this season at Oklahoma compared to his rating last season at Pacific, while Radford’s Mawdo Sallah and DePaul’s Femi Olujobi have seen their offensive ratings increase by roughly 15 points.

Players Who Transferred Down, Then Up

For the 20 players listed above, we then analyzed their role and production based on the relative standing of the conferences in which their schools played. We defined “transferring down then transferring up” as moves such as Justin Coleman transferring from Alabama to Samford to Arizona or Tarin Smith transferring from Nebraska to Duquesne to UConn. In total, nine of the 20 players examined followed this transfer arc of “down,” then “up.”

Since some players in this category spent two seasons at their first school and others spent two seasons at their second school, we only used the last season that each player spent at each school.

For each of the four categories – playing time, role, production and efficiency – you’ll notice a clear trend that shows an increase in role and production as players transferred to lower-level programs, then a decrease in role and production after they transferred to a third school that’s at a higher-level than the second school.

As a larger takeaway from this research, unless a player’s role and production absolutely bottoms out, he’ll often have the most playing time with the largest role and most production at the second of his three schools. Although, players can still be offensively efficient role players even if their minutes and usage rate decrease at their third school.

Finally, it should be no surprise, but the level of competition in a conference has a tangible impact on how a player fares when transferring “up” or “down.”

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