Terps All-American sophomore point guard Melo Trimble talks about being impressed with the play of his teammates, sophomore swingman Jared Nickens and freshman center Diamond Stone. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
One of the common threads that ties together Mark Turgeon's 17 seasons as a Division I men's basketball coach are the transfers who have helped transform his respective teams, particularly those at Wichita State and Maryland.
The first time Turgeon took the Shockers to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16, during the 2005-06 season, two transfers were key players in the team's success. In coaching the Terps to their first NCAA tournament in five seasons a year ago, five transfers — most notably Dez Wells and Richaud Pack — figured in the resurgence.
This season is no different.
As talented as Maryland appears to be with players Turgeon and his staff recruited — including highly rated freshman center Diamond Stone, All-Big Ten sophomore guard Melo Trimble and third team all-league senior forward Jake Layman — transfers Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon give the Terps two more players considered among the best in the country at their respective positions.
Carter, a 6-9, 235-pound junior power forward who sat out last season after playing two years at Georgia Tech, and Sulaimon, a 6-4, 190-pound senior shooting guard who came to Maryland after three seasons at Duke, are expected to be in the starting lineup when the season opens Nov. 13 against Mount St. Mary's.
"It's definitely a part of building teams today. There's maybe one or two schools that don't have to do it, but the rest of us do," Turgeon said recently about the use of transfers. "It's still the same thing that comes in to play with any recruit — personality fit, character fit, style of play fit — that's really what it comes down to. It's been a part of me building for a long time; it helps me to continue to do it because I've had success over the years."
It has become a large part of the college basketball landscape in general, particularly the use of transfers who are immediately eligible, such as Pack and Sulaimon, because they graduated from their previous school. There were more than 700 overall transfers in Division I basketball in each of the past two years, an average of more than two players per team.
Aside from Maryland, the schools that will benefit the most from transfers this season include Louisville, which added Damion Lee (Calvert Hall) of Drexel and Trey Lewis of Cleveland State; Connecticut, which added Sterling Gibbs of Seton Hall (a former Maryland commit under Gary Williams) and Shonn Miller of Cornell; and Arizona, which added Ryan Anderson of Boston College and Mark Tollefsen of San Francisco. All are players who have graduated and are immediately eligible.
Four of the five players who transferred from Maryland two years ago will be eligible this season after sitting out last season: Nick Faust (City) at Long Beach State, Seth Allen at Virginia Tech, Shaquille Cleare at Texas and Roddy Peters at South Florida. The fifth player, Charles Mitchell, played last season at Georgia Tech after receiving a waiver that Turgeon agreed to, allowing the power forward to play close to home because of an ailing grandmother.
"It's kind of a society change in basketball, where kids play for two high schools or change teams in the summer without a good reason," said former Maryland coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Gary Williams. "These kids grow up watching older guys transfer. It's not the negative thing that a lot of people used to put on it. I'm not saying that it's good or bad, it's just the way it is right now."
After taking a larger number of transfers early in his 22-year tenure with the Terps because "we had to," Williams became more selective as his program grew. A former big scorer at Tulane, Byron Mouton joined Maryland as a junior for its first Final Four run in 2000-2001 and went from valuable reserve to versatile starter on the championship team in 2001-2002.
"He really helped us in -2001, in practice because the first team really had to work harder because he could create shots for himself," Williams said. "Then he was really willing to put his scoring in the background and be part of a really good starting lineup. I don't think we would win a national championship without Byron."
In the case of Carter and Sulaimon, it appears that both have fit well into what Turgeon has tried to do in rebuilding the Terps into a top 10 team and, potentially, a Final Four team. Carter has been one of the team's best players — and hardest workers — since he arrived last summer. Sulaimon has embraced the role of defensive stopper who hopes to fit his offensive talents around his new teammates.
"From what I remember of Rasheed playing on the USA [under 18] team four or five years, he was just a very intense player. That definitely hasn't changed," Layman said of his newest teammate. "Defensively he's going to be huge for us this year being able to guard 1s, 2s and 3s. One of his goals this year is to be one of the best defensive players in the country. I think he can definitely do that."
Carter had considered Maryland coming out of high school in Thomasville, Ga., but ultimately picked Georgia Tech after his mother, Linda, underwent open-heart surgery when he was a senior. When he made it known that he was thinking of transferring after his sophomore year with the Yellow Jackets, the Terps quickly became the top choice.
Williams said a coach has to be careful when taking transfers, since typically a player is unhappy about his role on the team he is leaving. One of the first big-time transfers Williams took after coming to Maryland was Matt Roe, who had played three years at Syracuse. Roe wanted to be more of the focal point in the offense, which happened when he became a Terp.
"You just don't take a guy because he's a good player; you take a guy because you have a need at a certain position," Williams said. "A transfer is going to be a problem if he doesn't play at his next school."
Turgeon points to Carter as a good example of what takes place when the current Maryland coaching staff considers a transfer.
"The thing we talk about with transfers is self-awareness," Turgeon said. "There's a reason you're transferring. What are we going to do to change things? I think Robert had great self-awareness of what he needed to do, so therefore he worked hard and is continuing to work hard. He worked on a lot of things, not only transforming his body, but his work ethic, defensively, his leadership skills, all the things that are important, academically."
Sulaimon represents the third transfer at Maryland who didn't have to sit out after graduating from his previous school, following Logan Aronhalt in 2012-13 and Pack last season. Wells and Jon Graham also didn't have to sit out. Wells received a waiver from the NCAA after being unfairly expelled from Xavier after his freshman year; Graham got one because of medical issues involving his father, former Terp star Ernie Graham.
"To me as a coach, it's easier to have a guy who sits out a year," Turgeon said. "There's a lot on the plate. Those are tough deals. So you need a really mature kid, you need a smart kid and a kid who has a feel for the game. All three of those kids had that. Rasheed is smart enough to know that this team was going to be good without him, but he gives us another element that can help us be even better."
Sulaimon, who played at Duke for three seasons and left a few months after being the first player dismissed from the program by coach Mike Krzyzewski, said at Maryland's media day that he has to tread lightly when it comes to a team that includes a four-year player such as Layman, a rising star such as Trimble and someone who has already gained respect such as Carter.
"We've all got along from Day 1," Sulaimon said. "As much as they say they're learning from me, I'm learning from them, too. I think it's going to be a great partnership. They're like my brothers already."
Asked if he had ever considered going to Maryland after being recruited by Turgeon when he was at Texas A&M, Sulaimon said he committed early to Duke and never gave much thought to transferring until last spring.
"I thought I was going to finish my career there," Sulaimon said. "Obviously when the opportunity arose, I definitely thought Maryland would be a great fit, primarily starting with [assistant coach] Dustin Clark and Coach Turgeon. When I was going through the first recruiting process in high school, Texas A&M was definitely in my top choices for the same reasons. When I came up to the situation again, it was almost like a no-brainer."
By the time they are finished at Maryland, Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon could certainly be near the top of the list among men's basketball transfers.
But the trend that has seen current coach Mark Turgeon return the Terps to national prominence with the help of transfers was also part of the way Gary Williams, Lefty Driesell and even Bob Wade built their respective programs.
Here's a list of five of the most successful Division I transfers who wound up Terps:
1. Byron Mouton: Given his role on the 2001 team that reached the Final Four for the first time in school history and the 2002 team that won Maryland's only national championship in men's basketball, it is difficult not giving the 6-6 forward consideration for the top spot on this list. Though his numbers were not big — 9.6 points and four rebounds as a junior after transferring from Tulane, 11.1 points and five rebounds his senior year — he was the quintessential glue guy who did a lot of the defensive dirty work and always seemed to come up with huge baskets, including a couple in the NCAA title game against Indiana when Juan Dixon cooled off after a hot start.
2. Dez Wells: After starting out making the All-Atlantic 10 freshman team at Xavier, the 6-5 guard was accused of rape that spring. Local prosecutors wound up not pressing charges and Wells came to Maryland late that summer. Wells immediately became one of the leaders of a young Terp team that won 24 games and advanced to the semifinals of the NIT. After the team struggled when Wells was a junior, five players with eligibility left and the players who came in — particularly freshman point guard Melo Trimble — embraced Wells' leadership. Wells became a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches despite missing a month of his senior year with a broken wrist. Wells led the Terps in scoring in each of his first two seasons and finished second behind Trimble as a senior.
3. Ben Coleman: Talk about making an immediate impact. After transferring in 1982 from Minnesota, where he played two years, the 6-9, 235-pound Coleman led the Terps to an 80-79 double-overtime win over unbeaten UCLA at Cole Field House. Coleman helped Driesell to his first win over the Bruins in four tries by scoring 27 points on 12 of 13 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds. Though that might have been the high point for Coleman in his two seasons with the Terps, he had a very solid career, averaging over 15 points and eight rebounds a game while being a second scoring option to Adrian Branch as a junior and then leading the team in scoring (right ahead of rising star Len Bias) as a senior.
4. Matt Roe: The 6-5 shooter came to College Park for his final year in 1990-91 after being frustrated with his role at Syracuse despite averaging 11 points a game as a junior. Along with Walt Williams, Roe helped keep the Terps competitive (17.8 points a game) as Gary Williams rebuilt a program hampered by the NCAA probation he inherited from his predecessor, Wade. If not for Roe, the Terps would have really been in trouble when Walt Williams, one of the top scorers in the ACC, broke his leg early in the ACC season. One of the highlights for Roe was leading the Terps to a 104-100 win with 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting over a North Carolina State team that featured Chris Corchiani, Rodney Monroe (St. Maria Goretti) and Tom Gugliotta.
5. Bambale Osby: Few players got as much out of their ability as the player they called "Boom." After starting out his career at New Mexico and then spending a season at a junior college in Texas, Osby joined the Terps for the 2006-07 season and was a valuable frontcourt reserve (5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds) playing behind Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist on a 25-9 team that lost to Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Osby took over as the starting center his senior year, averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. The highlight of his career was scoring the winning basket in an 82-80 upset of No. 1 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Osby, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds, fell to the court at the Dean Dome, covering his face. "It didn't feel real man," he said later.
Where are they now?
Less than a month after the Maryland men's team finished a disappointing 17-15 season in 2013-14, Mark Turgeon announced that junior guard Nick Faust, sophomore center Shaquille Cleare and freshman guard Roddy Peters had asked for their releases to transfer.
Faust, Cleare and Peters were followed out of College Park by Charles Mitchell and Seth Allen. While the team they left behind became of one the biggest surprises in college basketball last season — finishing 28-7 overall and second (14-4) in the Big Ten — the five players started over at new schools.
Here is a look at how Mitchell did in his first season at Georgia Tech and the roles the other four are expected to play for their new teams this season.
Seth Allen (Virginia Tech): After being Maryland's second-leading scorer (13.4) as a sophomore two years ago behind Dez Wells, Allen knew that he would be moved off the point with the arrival of Melo Trimble last season. Ironically, the 6-1 Allen is also expected to play mostly off the ball with the Hokies, who bring back fellow junior Devin Wilson as a two-year starter at point and bring in freshman Justin Robinson. Allen should be the go-to guy in second-year coach Buzz Williams' three-guard lineup.
Shaquille Cleare (Texas): Though he never lived up to the hype as the top-rated recruit in Maryland's 2012 class, Cleare was one of Turgeon's favorite players. Turgeon said that both he and Cleare shed tears the day Michal Cekovsky committed and the now-6-9, 285-pound Cleare knew his playing time in College Park would be limited. He will likely play behind Cam Ridley but is expected to play "major minutes" for the Longhorns and first-year coach Shaka Smart, according to assistant coach David Cason.
Nick Faust (Long Beach State): Faust originally committed to Oregon State, but reopened his search after coach Craig Robinson was fired. He landed with the 49ers, who were going to lose all five starters after last season. One of three transfers who will start this season, the former City standout scored 34 in the team's first live scrimmage a couple of week ago. One of Faust's games this year will be at Duke, where he had a highlight dunk in a narrow loss to the Blue Devils two years ago.
Charles Mitchell (Georgia Tech): The only one of the five transfers who was eligible to play last season after receiving a hardship waiver from the NCAA to be close to his ailing grandmother, Mitchell averaged career-highs of 9.8 points and 7.0 rebounds (also a team-high) while shooting a career best of 66.3 percent from the free throw line (up from 32.9 as a sophomore at Maryland) and 52.1 percent from the field for the 12-19 Yellow Jackets. He has also lost 20 pounds since the end of last season.
Roddy Peters (South Florida): Peters showed flashes of being a dynamic point guard as a freshman when Allen was out with a broken foot, but his inability to shoot and his lazy defense put him on the bench after Allen returned. Second-year coach Orlando Antigua is counting on Peters to be one of his team's offensive players, and the presence of former NBA star Rod Strickland, an assistant coach, could help Peters live up to his four-star rating coming out of high school.