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Tracking Transfers To ACC Schools And Their Impact

Player movement has changed the face of the game

Jacksonville v Duke
 DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 07: Jacob Grandison #13 high-fives Ryan Young #15 of the Duke Blue Devils during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Dolphins at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 7, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 71-44.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Earlier this season observers re-discovered a topic that’s actually old news, namely the heavy influx of transfers and graduate students on ACC rosters.

This talking point was understandably traced to the second year of navigation via the transfer portal. The tide of transfers has quickened under newly liberalized NCAA rules, with several thousand football and basketball players — literally — jumping from school to school with no down time where they land.

The rule has to a large extent transformed the ability of struggling teams or programs to improve, sometimes overnight. Like Wake in 2022 under Steve Forbes, which went from 6-16 to 25-10 with five transfers, including ’22 ACC Player of the Year Alondes Williams, late of Oklahoma.

NC State’s Kevin Keatts also has tried this approach, with far less success. The Wolfpack hasn’t been invited to the NCAAs since 2018, Keatts’s first season at Raleigh, despite revolving-door rosters.

The new flexibility is similar to that enjoyed by coaches who woo and then abandon players when better opportunities arise. Witness Scott Satterfield skipping out on Louisville for Cincinnati this fall, or Deion Sanders climb up the professional ladder to Colorado and the Pac-12 from Jackson State, an HCBU.

Of course a coach has to agree to add a portal prospect, which for gifted players isn’t all that problematic. Those with an overly developed sense of athletic worth trying to rise to DI prominence may fall by the wayside. Hard to know. There’s little documentation just now on the fates of athletes that passed through the portal or an in-depth examination of why they moved.

Nor is there much talk of the impact on lower DI programs savaged by losing their top performers to higher-level schools, such as Nelly Cummings, who joined Pitt after four years at Colgate, or Lance Terry, spending his senior year at Georgia Tech after three seasons at Gardner-Webb.

“Georgia Tech transfer Lance Terry believes he’s an ACC-caliber player,” offered the Atlanta-Journal Constitution last spring. Through 10 games this season Terry, a senior guard, had started five times and averaged 24.1 minutes and 7.0 points, sixth among the Yellow Jackets.

For all the opening of horizons these days, more than a half-decade ago DBR ran a chart discussing the impact of transfers on the ACC. Andrew White III finished fifth in scoring (18.5) among league players in 2017, pacing Syracuse. BC’s Eli Carter and Louisville’s Damion Lee finished 10th and 11th.

In 2020 we counted 31 transfers in the ACC, both undergrads and grad students. Only Duke didn’t have one.

This year there are 53 transfers visible on preseason ACC rosters, with at least one at every school. That’s about one in four players as listed in the 2022-23 conference basketball media guide. Duke is slightly above average with four transfers.

At least one transfer, UVa’s Donte Harris, slid over from Georgetown earlier this month but reportedly will red-shirt and retain three years of eligibility. A point guard, Harris could step in next year as a seasoned replacement for current incumbent Kihei Clark.

Many, but not all, transfers already have played for four years and utilize a fifth year of eligibility.

One consequence of the open market for major-college jumpers: junior college players, once welcomed regularly at ACC schools looking to fill a gap, now have almost vanished from league rosters. For an exception, watch the 6-11 juco from Finland whose name echoes, Federiko Federiko of Pitt. A mobile sophomore who began his career to Northern Oklahoma, FF was eighth in the ACC in blocked shots at mid-December.

There may be more transfers in the ACC than we’ve indicated; the total is not entirely clear because a few schools prefer to downplay or ignore previous allegiances in reporting rosters. Also, a number of players —Clemson’s Brevin Galloway, to name one — switched programs twice before alighting on their current perch (College of Charleston, Boston College). Do double dippers count as one transfer, or two?

Seven programs yielded at least a pair of current ACC players at other schools. Among them is Virginia; until recently the conference forbade transfers within the league. Also contributing generously were Northwestern, Kentucky, Delaware, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Marquette.

If a player stayed at his current school for five years and is listed as “Gr” for graduate student, we don’t count him as a transfer. Rather, he’s a guy who seems to have never left. (See UVa’s fifth-year player Kihel Clark.) To add confusion, a team may just list a long-time holdover as a senior.

Nor did we bother to track roster attrition at ACC schools.

Through mid-December six of the league’s top 20 scorers were transfers, paced by two-time transfer Tyree Appleby of Wake (18.0 through 13 games), he of the old-style headband worn low near his eyebrows like a brimless visor. Appleby and fellow transfer Cummings of Pitt were among the ACC’s top six in assists as nonconference play petered out, and several transfers, led by Miami’s Norchad Omier, were among league rebound leaders.

Grad Students And Other School Switchers In ACC, 2022-23
(5 Players Who Switched Twice Listed In Parenthesis)
ACC School No. Schools Transferred From
Boston College 4 Providence, Miss. St., Drexel, Cincinnati
Clemson 1 College of Charleston/BC (B.Galloway)
Duke 4 Northwestern, Illinois, Harvard, Princeton
Florida State 3 Houston, Kentucky, Central Florida
Georgia Tech 5 Gardner-Webb, Southern Cal, Miss St., Georgia, Auburn/South Alabama (J. Franklin)
Louisville 4 Tennessee/Maryland/Tenn. State/Kentucky
Miami 2 George Mason, Arkansas State
North Carolina 2 Northwestern, Virginia
NC State 4 Virginia, LaSalle, Illinois State,CSU Bakersfield/Miss (J. Joiner)
Notre Dame 3 Santa Clara, Stanford, Niagara
Pittsburgh 5 Colgate, Miss/Iowa State (B. Hinson), Marquette, Miami of Ohio, Wichita State/Tenn. Tech (J. Burton)
Syracuse 2 Marquette, Duquesne
Virginia 4 East Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Georgetown
Virginia Tech 5 Memphis, Clemson, Delaware, Wright State, Rice
Wake Forest 6 Cleveland State/Florida (T. Appleby), East Tenn.(2),