Away From the Big Stage Stars Still Shine

22 Nov

Transfers have always been a product of college sports.  A kid doesn’t get the playing time they were expecting, they leave.  A kid gets homesick and moves close to home.  That happens all the time, but in the last eight to 10 years the transferring landscape has changed.  Kids that have put up good numbers still leave programs to go elsewhere like Khem Birch who left Pittsburgh for UNLV, Jabari Brown left Missouri for Oregon and Nurideen Lindsey left St. John’s for Rider are just a few examples of this.

This season has seen another aspect of that dynamic has become more prevalent, guys that have had success at a high-level program transferring for one reason or another to a “lesser” program and having even more success.

A quintet of those types of guys has gotten off to very good starts at their new school.  Aaric Murray who left LaSalle and then West Virginia has found himself in the SWAC at Texas Southern, Rakeem Buckles who started his career at Louisville.  At Georgia State there are a couple of guys, big man Curtis Washington played a season at USC and guard Ryan Harrow began his career at N.C. State and then last year at Kentucky.  Maurice Creek averaged 16 points a game as a freshman at Indiana before getting injured, he now finds himself at George Washington for his senior season.

Murray had success right away at LaSalle, averaging 12 pts and over six rebounds as a freshman and improved on that as a sophomore with 15 and seven.  However a growing disconnect between Murray and his head coach John Giannini led to his departure from the hometown Explorers.  After sitting out a year Murray played one season for Bob Huggins at West Virginia where he scored nearly nine points and grabbed almost six rebounds in 20 minutes.  Murray had a tumultuous year at WVU with an off-court arrest and in-season disciplinary issues.

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After graduating while at WVU Murray gets to play right away at Texas Southern and has taken full advantage thus far averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 rebounds including 33 and eight in a season-opening win over Norfolk State.

Buckles played parts of three seasons for Rick Pitino at Lousiville.  During his sophomore season he averaged 6.8 points and over six rebounds a game and was a key interior presence for the Cardinals, but in the span of 18 months he tore the ACL in both knees and even though he returned to action wasn’t the same player before the injuries.  After his junior season Buckles decided he wanted to follow then Louisville assistant and son of Rick, Richard Pitino to Florida International where the younger Pitino was named head coach.  While Buckles was sitting out last season he saw his new team be ruled ineligible for the post-season for violations that occurred while Isaiah Thomas was coach, he saw his former team win a national championship and the guy he wanted to play for left and took the head job at Minnesota.  Buckles again attempted to follow Pitino to Minnesota but his transfer waiver was denied by the NCAA, meaning he would have to play for a team that would again be ineligible for the post season after FIU was hit with a ban for having low Academic Performance Rates the three years prior.

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Buckles play on the court doesn’t seem to have been affected by all the adversity he’s had to face at FIU.  He has put up 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds so far for the 6-2 Golden Panthers.

Georgia State has a couple of transfers eligible this season that help make them one of the favorites to contend in the Sun Belt Conference this season.  Harrow, who is also in his 3rd stop after N.C. State and Kentucky and Washington who left USC after his first season.    Harrow began his now well-traveled career at N.C. State where he averaged nine points as a freshman but decided to transfer to Kentucky because in part coach John Calipari had a history of developing point guards.  After sitting out the 2011-12 season Harrow suited up for the Wildcats without much of a marked improvement.

After his father suffered a stroke, Harrow who is from Marietta, Georgia wanted to be closer to home and landed at Georgia State.  After being granted a waiver to play immediately due to his father’s health he now forms one of the more formidable backcourts at the mid major level along with sophomore R.J. Hunter.  He is averaging 4.5 assists a game to go along with 15.8 points in his junior year.

Georgia State also landed another transfer that has paid big dividends this season, 6’9 240lb. Curtis Washington.  Washington came to the Panthers by way of USC where he appeared in just three games as a freshman.  He missed all of the following year rehabbing surgery from a torn labrum.   Washington left USC for Georgia State in part due to an ill grandfather and also because of familiarity with the coaching staff, “They are really good people I’ve known them since high school.  Coach (Ron) Hunter recruited me when he was at IUPUI.  It was a good fit.”

For Washington transferring was crazier than committing to a school out of high school.  “Word got out and I started getting contacted by a lot of different schools, Tennessee, Texas Tech, a lot of high majors and a lot more than when I was coming out of high school.”  At his size the big man from Kentucky brings an option on the inside that was lacking at Georgia State.  He is however still getting back into game shape after being away for two years, “I’m definitely trying to get my feel for the game back and coach says he’s waiting for the light to come on and after a couple of games it’s flickering.”  As the year goes on Washington will get stronger and become an even bigger cog for Coach Hunter than his 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks so far this year.

Creek was a potential break-out star for Indiana after averaging over 16 points per game before fracturing his knee cap in 2009.  Knee and foot injuries hampered the rest of his Hoosier career, having gotten his degree this past April Creek was allowed to seek more playing time elsewhere without having to sit out a year.  Creek says he chose George Washington because, “They were the ones that made me feel like family the most.  Going into the process you want to find where’s closer to home, where’s the best fit for you and who’s going to make you feel like family, and George Washington did all three of those.”

A lot has changed for Creek in four years, “I know the game very well now, I know what to do and what not to do.  It’s just all maturity.”  Even though Creek is new to the Colonial program he has taken on a leadership role saying it is not hard being a leader at a new program, “that’s what guys want, they want you to come in and be that leader for them.  When you can do that, tell the guys where to be and what to do and how to play the game, because you’ve been through it all, that’s a successful leader.”

Creek has certainly paid off right away, helping George Washington to a 4-0 record with a team-leading 17.3 points per contest.

Kids transfer for a variety of reasons but these five are showing that even though they may have come from the bright lights of various major programs, if you are successful in helping your teams become successful, the spotlight will shine on you no matter where you play.


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