College basketball transfers go through the recruiting wringer a second time


Dez Wells transferred to Maryland after starting his college career at Xavier. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Mere hours had elapsed before the avalanche of calls buried Evan Smotrycz. The day after the Michigan men’s basketball team announced last year that Smotrycz intended to transfer, he received at least 10 telephone calls, most the following morning. Maryland, where Smotrycz wound up committing less than one month later, was among the first three schools to ring.

So began a condensed, often-frantic transfer process repeated hundreds of times over each offseason, a number that climbs higher every year. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, at least 500 players announced they were transferring after the 2012-13 season, more than one per Division I team in men’s basketball. Most will endure the same hastily planned visits, energetic recruiting pitches and general bombardment via telephone that marks the transfer game, which is at times different from the recruiting process experienced by prospects in high school.

Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon has helped rebuild the Terrapins’ program with three transfers: Smotrycz, Dez Wells and Logan Aronhalt. Wells, who was expelled from Xavier after being accused of sexual assault charges that were eventually thrown out of court, led the team in scoring last season. Aronhalt, a transfer from Albany who enrolled at Maryland as a graduate student, was a three-point specialist off the bench in 2012-13, his one season with the Terrapins. Smotrycz, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining at Maryland, is projected to start this coming season.

The transfer process typically begins with a media report that alerts the staff to a player’s availability, like a new addition to the list compiled by Goodman. Turgeon will then assign an assistant coach to review game film. Meanwhile, the Maryland compliance office files a “permission to contact” request with the player’s former school, which is necessary to initiate formal recruitment. Everything moves fast. There’s little time for relationship-building, something that can take years with high school prospects.

“You’re a lot more reactive in nature than with a high school kid,” said Dustin Clark, Maryland’s director of basketball operations. “With transfers, you don’t start the recruitment process until they’ve decided they’re transferring. A lot of transfers don’t decide to transfer until after their season is over in April, then they want to be in summer school at their new school by June, so it’s a much more condensed process.”

Smotrycz was a free agent, so to speak, for 26 days. Michigan announced he would transfer on March 21, 2012. Two weekends later, he hosted Providence, Xavier and Maryland for in-home visits. After that, he scheduled campus visits to Providence, Colorado and Baylor. But he visited College Park first and wound up canceling everything else. He committed on April 16.

Smotrycz’s visit to Maryland mirrored the visits he took in high school. Upon landing at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, Maryland’s coaching staff whisked him away to dinner at a restaurant in Baltimore, one of the hot spots they often take recruits.

“We have a few,” Clark said. “There’s a few places that combine great food, great service and great location and atmosphere.”

At this point, Maryland starts in on its pitch: Come play at Comcast Center. Come to school near Washington. Come join the Terps family. Smotrycz, like all other recruits, then toured the campus and visited the facilities. He met with Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and attended a baseball game with his future teammates. The coaching staff watched film and relayed their vision for Smotrycz’s use. The key is getting down to business.

“The transfer has been through the washer already,” assistant coach Bino Ranson said. “They know what they want.”

Past relationships can help open the door. Wells, for instance, was recruited by Ranson to Xavier when Ranson was a Musketeers assistant. But Turgeon is especially hands-on while recruiting transfers, too, knowing full well that Maryland has little time to make an impression and that interest from the head coach can carry more weight within such a condensed timeline.

“He’s the point man on a lot of them,” Clark said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful, because he personally invests and builds trust with the [transfer].”

Ultimately, Ranson said, going after transfers circles back to the same rudimentary principles followed during the high school process, and maybe the two aren’t so different after all.

“Recruiting is recruiting,” he said. “You’re selling the same product to a transfer as you are to a high school senior. The product doesn’t change, so why should the process change?”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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