Call it an epidemic, but transfers are tough to stop

SHARE Call it an epidemic, but transfers are tough to stop

The transfer of Alex Foster from De La Salle to Seton Academy earlier this summer is significant. So far it’s the most high-profile in-state transfer to date.

And in ways it does re-shape the landscape of high school basketball in Illinois, particularly for Class 2A programs around the Chicago area and Illinois with visions of bringing home one of the four state trophies next March from Peoria. In all likelihood, Seton will be bringing one of those trophies again this season. With the arrival of Foster, Seton Academy looks more than ready to make another run to Peoria in 2A, with the possibility of improving on last year’s third-place state finish.

Foster will likely be one of a few highly-regarded players to move this offseason. Simeon already has picked up a future impact player in 6-4 junior Dante Ingram, who is officially enrolled at the South Side state power after transferring from Danville. In addition, 6-8 Russell Woods, one of the better prospects in the Class of 2013, is expected to be at Simeon and bolster the Wolverines frontline after transferring in from Leo.

Kyle Davis jetted out of Hyde Park in the middle of last season. He couldn’t wait. He sat out the remainder of the the 2011-2012 season while he attended Morgan Park and is preparing for his senior year.

There are plenty of other transfers that have either already gone down or will before school opens this fall.

Believe it or not, prior to this past offseason, the amount of transfers — particularly high-profile transfers — has actually been a little more quiet the past couple of years. But that’s also in comparison to a run of years where we saw a crazy number of high-profile transfers in the Chicago area.

There are currently 400-plus Division I transfers in college basketball. Yes, that number is right and grows by the day … 400-PLUS TRANSFERS. This year alone! This is an entirely different blog topic and story for a future date, but the movement in high school basketball with players transferring from high school to high school, along with the constant changing of teams in the AAU world each spring and summer, is a microcosm of what is happening at the collegiate level.

It’s an ongoing issue, dating back decades. But the transfer of student-athletes, especially in the sports of high school basketball, never seems to slow down or get better.

How many of these transfers taking place in Illinois high school basketball have anything to do with:

A. The family is growing and needs a bigger home, thus they leave the district they are in to find a suitable home.

B. Mom or dad needs to move because of a new job or a job transfer.

C. The family would like a better school district, maybe a more diverse district, for their son.

D. There is a change in the family structure and status.

There are surely a few legitimate transfers that fall under A, B, C or D over the years when it comes to a “basketball player/student-athlete” changing schools. People do move, even ones with basketball-playing sons. But they are far and few between. Then it’s a matter of trying to sort out each and every transfer. Not easy.

There is certainly a case to be made for whose place it is for anyone to tell a parent or family where they should live or why they should move or what school they should send their child to. It’s for this reason that those people who shout “something has to be done about all these transfers” really don’t have a lot of room to talk. Many can assume the reasons behind the moves, but only certain people truly know the reasons and factors behind the decision.

And do you think the IHSA has the manpower and the access to chase down all the facts for every transfer of a student-athlete in the state, to investigate the legitimacy of every move? I’m not talking just the high-profile ones. There are transfers on a much smaller basketball scale, as well as others that are strictly sports related as well.

Yes, I know, where there is smoke there is usually fire. But to investigate these transfers takes an inordinate amount of time (Or maybe you were thinking they would only look into basketball transfers?). And then there is the whole proving a family is sending their kid to a different school for basketball reasons only.

There are those who have told me the IHSA needs to institute a rule like they have in college, where every student-athlete must sit out one year if they transfer schools — no matter the reason. So you’re going to tell the out-of-state family or a family in Bloomington or Aurora or the Quad Cities, whose father has a new job in the Chicago area or has been involuntarily transferred, that his son or daughter can’t play sports next year if they move to Gurnee? Or Schaumburg? Or Tinley Park, Lincolnshire or Joliet? Or if they move to the city and the family wants his son to attend St. Ignatius or Whitney Young?

Or, again, are we just going to have a basketball-only rule and police in place for student-athletes that transfer? Please.

But what this blog is about and what the real beef out there is, at least publicly, relates to basketball. It’s happening in other sports, too, but the central focus and the total number of transfers — and, no, I have no statistics to back this claim up — sure seems to be basketball. And it always has been.

The movement of student-athletes in high school for the sole purpose of basketball is more common now than ever. The majority in the basketball world blames the AAU culture and influences. Though it has been going on for quite some time, particularly in the city, it’s now almost becoming accepted.

This comes down to personal beliefs. This comes down to whether you believe that reason alone — basketball and the success and notoriety that may or may not come with it — is enough to get up and move your household, uproot the academic setting and environment the student is already in, disrupt the comfort level he has at the school and leave friends and teammates behind. Is basketball worth all that?

There is also the little elephant in the room, which is showing student-athletes how easy it is to get out of something. All of these high school transfers show the student-athlete that they can easily get up and leave when something doesn’t go their way. Really, when it gets down to it, the basketball transfer occurs as a result of this. When things go bad — a player’s minutes decrease, their role isn’t what mom or dad want it to be, their team isn’t very strong, they aren’t playing the right position, they disagree with the coach, there is a problem with an administrator, there is an eligibility issue, they don’t think the coach is doing enough to develop the player, or they don’t think the coach is promoting the player enough and on and on and on — they pack up and leave.

It’s become easy. It’s become accepted. It’s a mentality that has taken on a life of its own, beginning with how easy it is to switch AAU teams — and listening to those AAU people who are in their ear. It starts the moment kids are freshmen in high school and now, sadly, it extends all the way to leaving a college program after a year or two.

Coming next: A look at the many high-level players that have transferred in recent years from Chicago area high schools and the impact they had at their new school.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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