The NEC and Transfers
Over the last few years, the Northeast Conference has been hit hard by transfers, as a number of programs have lost major pieces to more prestigious programs. Ahh, life as a mid-major.
I’ll just let it be known; I’m very pro-transfer. In fact, I’d be more than happy if they relaxed the transfer rules, perhaps allowing players to transfer one time without sitting out a season. Why? Coaches get to bounce from job to job (and administrators get to fire coaches), and they don’t have to sit out a season. I think it's silly to punish players who wish to leave a program, especially if they are in good academic standing.
Of course, not all transfers have worked out for the players involved, which may give current players pause when they decide whether to remain at their NEC schools, or seek greener grass. Just as we did last off-season, let’s look at the former NEC players who played elsewhere in Division 1 in 2019.
A caveat: I’m looking at this from a basketball perspective ONLY. Proximity to home, quality of life, and academics are just a few of a myriad of other reasons why players may decide to leave their current institution. And while a transfer decision may appear to be a bad one, that doesn’t mean it was.
Hey, It Worked Out
Cane Broome, Sacred Heart to Cincinnati- A lightly recruited kid from East Hartford, CT, Broome won the NEC POY as a sophomore in 2015-16 by averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists a night. Losing Broome was a killer for Pioneers head coach Anthony Latina, who has had as much bad luck as anyone in the transfer department. Broome joined Mick Cronin at Cincinnati, becoming a vital reserve for the Bearcats. He played over 20 minutes per game in both seasons in the AAC, making two NCAA Tournaments and likely improving his stock as a potential pro.
Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart to Seton Hall- Another former Pioneer, McKnight leveraged his 1st team All-NEC selection as a sophomore in 2016-17 into a chance to compete in the Big East. Shoot your shot, kid. And boy, did he. After sitting out the 2017-18 season due to transfer rules, McKnight immediately stepped into the starting lineup for a Seton Hall team that earned a #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, ultimately losing to Wofford in the Round of 64. The former Pioneer struggled a bit from three (27% after shooting 32% as a sophomore), but otherwise played really well on the wing, averaging 9.4 ppg and 4 apg in just under 29 minutes a night. I’d say it worked out for both McKnight and Seton Hall head man Kevin Willard (maybe not for Anthony Latina, however).
Josh Nebo, St. Francis U. to Texas A&M- Nebo had a nice sophomore season for Rob Krimmel in 2017-18, averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a night on his way to earning 3rd team All-NEC and Defensive POY. But Big 12 good? I wasn’t so sure. But after sitting out a season, the 6’9” forward came off the bench to average 8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.3 bpg, shooting 70% from the field for the Aggies. With Billy Kennedy gone and Buzz Williams in as head coach, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Nebo. But he’s certainly proved he belongs at the Power 5 level.
Elijah Minnie, Robert Morris to Eastern Michigan- A big 6’9” stretch-4, Minnie was a nice find by Andy Toole. After averaging 12/6.5 in 2015-16 as a sophomore, Minnie went to the MAC where he became a key member of the Eagles. As a senior, he was 2nd on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg), grabbed 4.5 rpg, and shot 32.6% from three in over 32 minutes per game.
Robert Montgomery, SFC to Central Michigan- Montgomery, a 6’6” forward, started 15 games for the Terriers as a freshman, averaging 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in just under 19 mpg. After the season he transferred to Indian Hills CC, ultimately ending up at Central Michigan. As a junior in 18-19, he started 31 games, averaging 10.8 ppg and 5.7 rpg in 28 minutes a night. He looks to have developed a perimeter game (shot 30.4% from three), and was a major part of a Chippewas team that finished 10-8 in the MAC. Not quite an ”up transfer” because he went JUCO first, but the move seems to have worked out well for Montgomery, who will be a senior in 2019-20.
Maybe Not So Much
Miles Wilson, Mount St. Mary’s to Miami (FL)- A 6’5” wing, Wilson had a really nice freshman season in 2017 in which he was named to the All-Rookie Team after averaging 11.8 ppg and 4 rpg. It surprised no one when he got a handful of high major offers upon announcing his intention to transfer after that season, with schools like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Auburn, and NC State vying for his services. Ultimately he chose Miami, sitting out the 2017-18 season due to transfer rules. Unfortunately, he was dismissed from the team by head coach Jim Larranaga in September for “failure to meet team expectations”. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, as 6’6” wings with that kind of talent usually get second chances.
Marcel Pettway, Bryant to Nevada- Pettway was a bruiser in the NEC as a sophomore in 2017, as the 6’8” 250 lb. forward averaged 20.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg for an up-and-coming Bulldogs squad that finished 9-9 in the NEC despite a number of freshman and sophomores. Of course…well, things didn’t work out the way Tim O’Shea hoped, and part of that was Pettway bolting after the season. Perhaps expecting to see a number of D1 offers, they didn’t come and he joined Transfer U., aka Nevada, as a walk-on. After sitting out the 2017-18 season, Eric Musselman brought back a stacked team, and the writing was on the wall for Pettway for both playing time and scholarship opportunities. He ultimately ended up at D2 Angelo St., where he averaged 4.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 21 mpg (22 starts) as a junior this past season. Had he stayed in Smithfield, he could have paired with Bash Townes to make up quite the frontcourt.
Corey Henson, Wagner to Nevada- The third member of “NEC-Reno”, Henson was a 2nd team All-NEC player in 2017 after scoring 14.6 points per game for the Seahawks as a junior. A rare “sit 1, play 1” guy, Henson put all his eggs in the Nevada basket, and it’d be difficult to say it paid off. He wasn't exactly buried on the bench, appearing in 31 games (including 5 starts), but he played just 12.5 minutes per game and his 2.7 ppg is a large cry from what it would have been had he stayed at Wagner. Not to mention, he would have been the main cog on a Seahawks team that won a regular season title without him in 2017, and potentially could have led that team to the NCAA Tournament (he played just two minutes in Nevada’s 1st round loss to Florida).
Braden Burke, Robert Morris to Michigan St.- A 6’11” center from Michigan, Burke looked like a guy who would grow into a solid NEC player while scoring 4 points per game in ~15 mpg as a freshman under Andy Toole. Then, he was gone, choosing to enroll at Michigan St. as a preferred walk-on. It was confusing at the time, and while he got a Final 4 trip out of it this past season, he didn’t get much time on the hardwood, appearing in just 9 games and playing a grand total of 13 minutes. It wasn’t the role he hoped for.
Austin Nehls, Central Connecticut St. to Ball St.- After a strong start to his career, Nehls saw his 3P% in NEC play drop from 37% as a freshman, to 32% as a sophomore, to 28% as a junior. As an immediately eligible grad transfer, Nehls struggled to find consistent minutes at Ball St., playing just 22 minutes over the season’s final seven games. In all, he averaged just 2.4 ppg, but did make 42% of his three-pointers (17 for 31), and regained his free throw stroke (12 for 14 after making just 64.2% in his final year at CCSU).
Nisre Zouzoua, Bryant to Nevada- Zouzoua was a stud as a sophomore at Bryant, earning 1st team all-NEC after averaging 20.3 ppg and 4 rpg. It wasn’t much of a surprise that he decided to leave as an up-transfer. Honestly, it can be a smart decision after a strong sophomore season at this level- but heading to a stacked Nevada program with a boatload of scorers didn't pan out. After sitting out the 2017-18 season, the 6’2” guard played double-figure minutes just four times (including three times in November), and by Christmas was essentially a garbage time player. In MWC play, he attempted just 19 field goals, making 3 of them. The plus is that he has one more year of eligibility remaining, and he's already exploring taking the grad transfer route. There's still time for this to work out.
Isaiah Still, Robert Morris to Iona- Honestly, this one is more of an “incomplete” than anything; Still missed the final 20 games of 2018-19 due to an injury, but even before that he saw his minutes per game drop from 32.6 as a sophomore at Robert Morris to 24.5 as a junior at Iona, while his usage decreased from 26.3% to 20.1%. Essentially, he went from being “the man” at a perennial NEC contender (imagine how good the 2018-19 Colonials team could have been with both Still and Dachon Burke), to a solid role player/starter at a MAAC program that won the last four conference tournaments. It might end up being a fair trade, especially if Still has a big senior season.
Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s to Texas- The native Canadian burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2016-17, teaming up with Junior Robinson to form the best backcourt in the Northeast Conference. But don’t forget; it was Long who was named to the all-NEC 1st team in 2017 (Robinson was a 2nd teamer), after averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game. So who could blame him to wanting to go join Shaka Smart in the Big 12? He went from being the BMOC to a role player in 2018-19 for the Longhorns, appearing in all 36 games (9 starts) and averaging 5.6 points and 2 rebounds a night. I’ll never get on a kid for betting on himself, and assuming he graduates in May, will have an opportunity to either earn a larger role for Texas in 2018-19, or explore the grad transfer route.
Mawdo Sallah, Mount St. Mary’s to Kansas St. to Radford- This is why taking advantage of a strong sophomore season makes sense. Sallah, a big 6’8” forward, had a breakout sophomore season in 2016-17 during which he averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds per game, and also blocked a shot per game. No, not a star, but guys with size who can play are at a premium. Sure, it was surprising when he chose Kansas St., but who doesn’t want to play in the Big 12? Ultimately it didn’t pan out under Bruce Weber; under 8 minutes per game in just 21 appearances. But Sallah graduated in the spring, and was immediately eligible as a grad transfer. He went down to Radford, eventually helping the Highlanders to the Big South conference title game while averaging close to 6 points and 4 rebounds per game in 33 starts. No, it’s probably not much more than what he would have done had he stayed at the Mount, but he took a shot. And now he probably has a graduate degree to show for it.
Guys Who Get Their Shot Next Season
Dachon Burke, Robert Morris to Nebraska (2 years of eligibility remaining)- Burke was Andy Toole’s breakout star in 2017-18, improving his scoring output from 7.6 ppg as a freshman to 17.6 ppg as a sophomore, and also chipping in ~6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in earning 2nd team All-NEC honors. Oh, and he may have been the best perimeter defender in the conference. He up-transferred to Nebraska and then-head coach Tim Myles, who was fired after the season. This is why transferring can be a gamble; a lot can change during that sit-out year. Fred Hoiberg takes over, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Burke.
Rasheem Dunn, St. Francis-Brooklyn to Cleveland St. (2 years)- Dunn, a 6’2” guard, averaged 15.4 ppg and 5.7 rpg as a sophomore (2nd team all-NEC) before leaving to join Cleveland St. He sat out the 2018-19 season, and has two years of eligibility remaining. The Vikings finished just 5-13 under head coach Dennis Felton this past season, but should return the majority of their roster.
Blake Francis, Wagner to Richmond (2 years)- The third member of the 2018 NEC Second Team All-Conference to transfer, Francis was one of the best shooters in the league, knocking down over 40% of his three-point attempts in two years on Staten Island, and averaged 17.3 ppg as a sophomore. Richmond head coach Chris Mooney was on the hot seat all season, and will be back next season despite finishing just 6-12 in the A-10.
Jonah Antonio, Mount St. Mary’s to UNLV (2 years)- Not your typical “up-transfer”, the native of Australia left Mount St. Mary’s after being named to the NEC’s all-Rookie team even before Jamion Christian took the Siena job. Antonio averaged 11.3 ppg as a freshman, and was one of the best perimeter shooters in the league, making 90 threes (34%). After a strong season at South Plains College (where current CCSU forward Jamir Coleman played a season ago), Antonio had no shortage of suitors, and chose UNLV over Seton Hall and SMU, in large part because of new UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger, who had been recruiting him to his previous school (South Dakota St.). The biggest factor in his decision? Getting to the NCAA Tournament.
Noah Morgan, Fairleigh Dickinson to Eastern Michigan (2 years)- Morgan was a surprise transfer after earning all-Rookie Team honors by averaging 11 ppg for Greg Herenda’s group, and would have made the 2019 FDU champs that much better. He played last season at NW Florida State College, and will step up a level to play in the Mid-American Conference and coach Rob Murphy, who finished 9-9 last season. Morgan has the type of size (6’5”) to play the wing at that level, and for a team that made less than 30% of their three-pointers last season, bringing in a guy who shot it at a 44% clip as a freshman at the D1 level will be big.
Donald Carey, Mount St. Mary’s to Siena (3 years)- After a really nice freshman season at the Mount (9 points and 3.5 assists per game), the 6’5” guard followed Jamion Christian to Siena, sitting out the 2018-19 season. Of course, Christian has already moved on to George Washington. However, Carey did announce that he’s remaining at Siena, and he should step immediately into the rotation as a sophomore for new head coach Carmen Maciariello.
Bobby Planutis, Mount St. Mary’s to St. Bonaventure (3 years)- It’s hard to believe Jamion Christian brought in Jonah Antonio, Donald Carey, and Bobby Planutis in the same recruiting class, but I guess that’s why he’s now coaching in the Atlantic-10. Planutis started 25 games as a freshman as the Mount, shooting 49.3% from three, but was probably miscast in the NEC; at 6’8”, he’s more of a wing-shooter than he is a small-ball 4. Now he’ll go apply his trade for former Robert Morris head coach Mark Schmidt, who is coming off a nice 12-6 A-10 season. By the way, Planutis isn’t the first guy Schmidt has poached from the NEC.
Other Transfers of Note
Randy Miller, Mount St. Mary's to North Carolina Central- There’s been quite a few players who have gone from the NEC to the MEAC, but perhaps no one has had had quite as much success as Randy Miller. The a 6’2” guard only saw garbage time as a freshman under Jamion Christian in 2016-17, appearing in just 12 games (5.3 mpg). After playing a season at Moberly Area CC, Miller became a starter for North Carolina Central, shooting 37.1% from three on his way to averaging 13.3 ppg. He scored 18 points in NCCU’s “First Four” loss to North Dakota St., and will likely see his role increase a senior next season.
Steven Whitley, Robert Morris to Norfolk St.-. The 6’3” guard started out his career at Robert Morris, playing in 31 games (9 starts), and averaging just over three points per game and a couple rebounds. Whitley wound up at Norfolk St., another MEAC school, where he’s started 50 games the past two seasons, scoring 12.2 ppg as a RS sophomore and 9.6 as a junior. The Spartans were upset in the MEAC final by Randy Miller’s NC Central squad (Whitley scored 8 points while Miller had just two), though Norfolk St. did get an NIT win over Alabama.
Ifeanyi Umezurike, Saint Francis U. to Florida A&M- A 6’10” center from Nigeria, Umezurike never cracked the rotation in two years at St. Francis U. While many guys in the situation drop down into the non-D1 ranks, he instead headed to the MEAC where he became a rotation player for Florida A&M this past season, averaging 13.4 minutes per game (13 starts). He averaged ~3 points and ~3 rebounds per game for a team that finished 9-7 in its conference. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
Jermaine Ukaegbu, Sacred Heart to Winthrop- After starting the first three games of his career (and averaging ~17 mpg), the 6’6” forward fell out of favor in 2015-16, averaging just 1.5 ppg and 1.6 rpg in less than 7 mpg. He transferred to Indian Hills CC after the season, finding his way back to Division 1 at Winthrop. He concluded his college career in 2018-19, carving out a role as a backup frontcourt player for head coach Pat Kelsey. He wasn’t much of an offensive option (2.7 ppg), but did average close to 4 rebounds per game, getting about 14 minutes per night.
Ryan Gomes, Mount St. Mary's to Houston Baptist- A part of the mass exodus the year Jamion Christian left the Mount, the 6’10” center averaged just 10.7 mpg as a sophomore in 2017-18 (~4 ppg and 2 rpb). He sat out this past season due to transfer rules, and will suit up for a Houston Baptist team that finished 8-10 in the Southland.
Leondre Washington, Robert Morris to McNeese St.- After falling behind Jon Williams on the point guard depth chart in 2017-18, Washington went to Barton CC to try and raise is stock. He ended up committing to McNeese St., which finished 5-13 in the Southland Conference.
Josh Nicholas, St. Francis Brooklyn to UL-Monroe- Nicholas was part of the Terriers rotation as a freshman, averaging 5.5 ppg in ~19mpg before leaving the program last summer. A NYC kid, he played last season at Indian Hills CC and will join Louisiana-Monroe (9-9 in the Sun Belt). Quite a step up.
Gianni Ford, St. Francis Brooklyn to Canisius- Ford played a little over 14.5 mpg as a freshman for the Terriers, shooting 30.4% from three and averaging 4.8 ppg. For whatever reason, he left school after the season, transferring to Blinn (JUCO) college, before winding up as a walk-on at Canisius. He didn't play in 2018-19.