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Instant Seniors

Grad transfers are instantly eligible and have made a big difference for several ACC schools.

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Kennesaw State v Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 16: Damion Lee #0 and Trey Lewis #3 of the Louisville Cardinals defend Kendrick Ray #0 of the Kennesaw State Owls at KFC YUM! Center on December 16, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

They’re not exactly the college equivalent of free agents, but they’re close.

Graduate transfers, with undergrad degrees earned and eligibility remaining, have become a small but growing part of the student-athlete population. The NCAA reports the presence of postgrad players rose from 1.4 percent of 98,332 male and female participants in 2007 (1,330) to 2.0 percent of 106,000 in 2014 (2,185). The rate of increase over that span was about twice as large in football and men’s and women’s basketball.

Among the ACC’s first notable graduate transfers in basketball was Justin Knox, a forward who joined North Carolina for the 2011 season and played a supportive role on an Elite Eight team. NC State got the Mark Gottfried era off to a successful start in 2012, earning 24 wins and an NCAA bid, with the help of grad student Alex Johnson, an energetic 5-10 guard from Cal State Bakersfield.

Last season Louisville utilized grad transfers Damion Lee from Drexel and Trey Lewis, previously of Cleveland State and Penn State, to good effect. Lee and Lewis were first and second, respectively, among the Cardinals in scoring.

Teams toward the bottom of the ACC standings also import grad transfers to bolster meager rosters. Georgia Tech punched up its offense with outside marksman Adam Smith, late of Virginia Tech. He finished second among the Yellow Jackets in scoring in 2016. The preceding season Boston College’s struggling Eagles added grad Aaron Brown, who wound up the team’s No. 2 scorer.

The conference welcomes eight graduate transfers in 2016-17, notably two each at BC, Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Perhaps the best of the bunch is Louisville’s Tony Hicks, who came from Penn. Ivy League schools don’t allow grad transfers to continue playing.

Two of the grad transfers are playing at their third college, and two once played at Western Michigan.

Graduate Transfers at ACC Schools, 2016-17 Season

Player, School Hgt, Wgt Most Recent School Next-Most Recent
Connor Tava, BC 6-6, 250 Western Michigan
Mo Jeffers, BC 6-9, 240 Delaware
Jodan Price, GT 6-6, 182 Eastern Michigan DePaul
Kellen McCormick, GT 6-7, 211 Western Michigan
Tony Hicks, UL 6-1, 180 Pennsylvania
Andrew White III, SU 6-7, 210 Nebraska
John Gillon, SU 6-0, 178 Colorado State Ark-Little Rock
Austin Ariens, WF 6-6, 230 Milwaukee