Curry was a redshirt junior on a 2012 Duke team that included a touted class of five freshmen, four of whom would go on to play in at least a few regular-season NBA games. But Austin Rivers was the only member of that class to play much as a freshman.
Michael Gbinije was one of those freshmen and he didn’t appreciate playing only 111 minutes. He transferred to Syracuse, where he became an All-ACC player and had several cups of coffee in the NBA.
Gbinije is 6-7 and was the number 28 recruit in the 2011 RSCII rankings.
Rodney Hood is about the same height and was one spot ahead of him.
Hood signed with Mississippi State and averaged 10.3 points per game as a freshman. But head coach Rick Stansbury retired following the season; he’s since unretired.
Hood decided to leave.
He was subject to a spirited recruitment. Schools like Memphis, Florida State and especially Ohio State pursued Hood.
“I feel like coach (Krzyzewski) and the staff can get the most out of me as a player and academically,” he told the media at the time. “I liked the teammates and felt like we have a chance to compete for a championship. He was pretty honest with me. He told me what he saw for my future. He was upfront and . . . he was specific and to the point. He said he can make me a better basketball player.”
Citing Stansbury’s retirement Duke petitioned the NCAA to make Hood immediately eligible for the 2013 season. The appeal was denied. Had it been accepted Hood would have been plugged into a small forward role in an otherwise loaded starting lineup that also included Curry, Cook, All-America center Mason Plumlee and prototype stretch-4 Ryan Kelly. It would have been one of Duke’s most talented lineups.
Instead Hood had to sit out the 2013 season. Curry, Plumlee and Kelly graduated that year and Hood and freshman Jabari Parker inherited the stardom mantle for 2014. That season ended badly but before it did Hood had some really impressive outings. He had 30 points against East Carolina and back-to-back 27-point outings against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. He famously drew a late charge against top-ranked Syracuse that sealed a Duke win and helped send Jim Boeheim to an early exit after an overly vociferous protest.
Hood was 2-for-10 in Duke’s NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. But he ended the season averaging 16.1 points per game and leading the ACC in 3-point percentage at 42.0 percent.
Hood was named second-team All-ACC and was selected 23rd by Utah. He’s now with Portland, his third NBA team and has averaged 12.5 points per game in the pros.
He is the only Duke transfer to go pro with eligibility remaining.
That brings us to Sean Obi. Unlike McLeod, Jones, Curry and Hood, Obi didn’t replace an unexpected departure and it’s not clear if he was ever envisioned as anything more than a complementary player at Duke.
Then again Obi had some solid games against major schools while at Rice. He was a burly center, 6-8, 260 and he played below the rim. But he had eight points and nine rebounds against Texas A&M, 10 points and 12 rebounds against Texas. He had 25 points and 19 rebounds against South Alabama.
Obi averaged 11 points and nine rebounds for Rice in 2014 before transferring to Duke
He had some game.
Like Jones and Curry he sat out during a national title season and Duke’s 2015 star center Jahlil Okafor praised Obi for his work against him in practice.
But somewhere along the line Obi developed chronic knee problems that robbed him of mobility. Duke could have used a healthy Obi in 2016, especially after starting center Amile Jefferson was lost for the season with a foot injury. But Obi was only able to play 27 minutes.
He transferred to Maryland, becoming that rare collegian to suit up for three schools. But he didn’t have much more luck at College Park, scoring 29 points in 21 games during the 2018 season.
A what-if career.
It should be noted that none of these transfers played in the Final Four for Duke. McLeod (1998) and Curry (2013) made it to the Elite Eight. McLeod started for two teams that finished first in the ACC regular season, while Jones (2002, 2003) and Curry (2011) played for teams that won the ACC Tournament.
Can we draw any conclusions about transfer number six, Patrick Tapé?
Tapé is Duke’s first grad-student transfer, meaning he won’t have to sit out a season. Duke did pursue grad-student transfer Tarik Black after the 2012 season. Black was a center who left Memphis. He was offered a Duke scholarship, made a visit and likely would have started for Duke in 2014. But Black picked Kansas, for whom he averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. Still, he managed to last four seasons in the NBA.
With the proviso that we’ll never know what would happened with Obi had he stayed healthy, Mike Krzyzewski seems to have a pretty good eye for transfers. McLeod, Jones, Curry, Hood and Black all played at least four years in the NBA.
Duke always wanted to bring in two centers this season and after missing on Walker Kessler (North Carolina) and Hunter Dickinson (Michigan), Krzyzewski wanted a big to team with incoming freshman Mark Williams.
But six transfers in 40 years suggests some selectivity. Krzyzewski hasn’t been prone to panic in these situations and there’s no reason to view Tapé as a desperation recruit.
None of this is to suggest that Tapé is going to ever play in the NBA. But based on Krzyzewski’s track record with transfers, it does suggest that Tapé will be a big part of the rotation, sharing the center spot with Williams and perhaps freshman Henry Coleman.