On Wednesday, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett confirmed that guard Taylor Barnett (9.5 minutes per game, 2.6 points per game) would transfer. That marked the second transfer since the Cavaliers’ season ended; sophomore starter Paul Jesperson will transfer to Northern Iowa.
The oddest thing about the two latest transfers is that it had been a year-and-a-half since Bennett had a player transfer, and that was after he dealt with eight transfers (one early departure) in his first year-and-a-half on the job.
Bennett suffered some attrition at the beginning of the tenure at Virginia, which is to be expected. Most of the early transfers were recruited by his predecessor, Dave Leitao. Nearly half, in fact. Just one transferred before Bennett could coach him (seldom-used center John Brandenburg).
Two Leitao recruits — Tristan Spurlock and Jeff Jones — decided to stay committed to Virginia even when Bennett was hired, but decided they didn’t like it. Jones played just one year at Rider after transferring (averaging 13.4 points), while Spurlock will be a senior at UCF. He averaged nearly 33 minutes and 11 points last year.
When Jones left, he said it just wasn’t a “good fit.” Playing for Bennett and his pack-line defense certainly isn’t for everyone. Spurlock and Bennett never really seemed to mesh, but the top-100 recruit was honest about what happened after the fact.
And so was Bennett, for that matter.
The Sylven Landesberg saga, though, was more perplexing. The McDonald’s All-American was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2009, and he was having a great year again in 2010 before being suspended in March — right before UVa’s final regular-season game — for “failure to live up to his academic obligations.” After the season, Landesberg said the suspension had no impact on his decision to go pro, and that he had planned on doing so after his sophomore year regardless.
Bennett almost went a year without another transfer, and then he got two fairly understandable ones. In February 2011, Billy Baron transferred to play for his father, who was then head coach at Rhode Island. Playing time affected his decision too, but who knows how big of a role he might have had anyway?
A few months after Baron, Will Regan — who also found playing time scarce — transferred to Buffalo. Then two more transferred in December 2011. KT Harrell was first — the sophomore had struggled shooting the ball, and he ultimately ended up at Auburn, where he’ll play this year. James Johnson announced his intention to transfer the next day.
Harrell and Johnson announced their decisions just days apart, and with their departure, just two of the six players in Bennett’s first recruiting class remained. Both — Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, who earned All-ACC honors a year ago — are still on the team. And transfers are a college basketball problem, not a Virginia problem or a Tony Bennett problem.
The academic rigor of Virginia can be a factor, and likely is in some cases (like Landesberg, who was dismissed for academic reasons). And of course, the ultimate irony is that transfers and early departures have forced Bennett to scramble for a few late additions — some of whom have subsequently transferred due to a lack of playing time.
Judging by this “where are they now” update from Streaking the Lawn, it’s not like a lot of the transfers have gone on to play at bigger or better schools. Just one is at what would be described as a “BCS” conference, and that’s Harrell at Auburn. Most of the transfers ended up at smaller schools to try to play bigger roles, just like most of them said they intended to do when they transferred.
“The days of being a ninth, 10th or 11th guy, fighting for time and being patient and waiting, are harder and harder to come by … There are different reasons why guys leave, but it’s just more and more of a reality that it’s a different time.”
Who’s to blame for that, if anyone, is a different discussion, but there’s no question that multiple transfers over a short time period can hurt any program, no matter how minor a player’s role seemingly is at the time.
It shouldn’s affect Bennett’s Cavaliers in the 2012-13 season, but the transfers have had a strange domino effect since his first season in Charlottesville.