Florida coach Billy Donovan weighed in on potential Division I transfer reform this week at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin.
Donovan said he believes the high number of transfers in Division I basketball is directly related to increased NCAA recruiting restrictions over the past decade.
“There are situations because of the recruiting situation is set up that coaches and players make a lot of bad choices,” Donovan said. “I think coaches make bad choices in terms of who they’re recruiting and I think players can make bad choices of schools because there isn’t that intimate relationship that you had a lot of previous years in recruiting, where you could really get to know the kid and the kid could get to know you.”
The Gators lost another player to transfer this offseason when freshman forward Walter Pitchford decided to leave the program in April to be closer to his family in Michigan. Pitchford was the sixth Florida basketball player to transfer since 2008, a list that includes Ray Shipman (UCF, football), Kenny Kadji (Miami), Jai Lucas (Texas), Eloy Vargas (Miami Dade College, Kentucky) and Allan Chaney (Virginia Tech).
Donovan said that while he’s pleased the NCAA re-instated the April evaluation period, he would prefer more contact periods via phone and text messaging.
“There needs to be more of a dialogue and they’re trying to do that as far as it relates to phone calls, text messaging and those things,” Donovan said. “You have to be able to communicate and get to know more about these guys and develop a relationship with them.”
The issue of transfers in college basketball came to light earlier this spring when Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan set a heavy set of restrictions on where big man Jarrod Uthoff could go. The initial restricted list included all Big Ten schools, all ACC schools, Florida (because the Badgers are playing the Gators this season), Marquette and Creighton. After some pressure from the national media, Ryan amended the list to just Big Ten schools.
Donovan has never put any restrictions on transfers, allowing former guard David Huertas to leave in 2006 within the conference to Ole Miss.
“I’ve never been a believer in holding a guy to his scholarship,” Donovan said. “I think you’ve got to give them the opportunity to go wherever they want to go. But, I also know there have been situations where people have been accused of tampering and there have been some people where some recruiting has gone on while a guy has been in school. Those things could potentially happen. I’ve always believed at Florida that when someone leaves you give them the opportunity to go wherever they want.”
Donovan could gain a distinct advantage if recently-committed South Carolina center Damontre Harris were eligible to play for UF this season. But the 16-year UF coach, who turned 47 on Wednesday, said he doesn’t think players should be eligible to transfer without sitting out a year.
“You would have complete chaos with people jumping all over the place,” Donovan said.
The fact that Harris is transferring within the conference from South Carolina to Florida (the official paperwork was completed Wednesday) is a testament to Donovan’s close relationship with new South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin. The Gators have had success with incoming transfers in recent seasons. Center Vernon Macklin (Georgetown) played two seasons at UF, helping lead the Gators to the Elite Eight in 2011 before being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons. Rising senior guard Mike Rosario (Rutgers) was UF’s top scorer off the bench last season, averaging 6.6 points per game.
More from Donovan, courtesy of Sun Sports writer Robbie Andreu:
On Mike Rosario’s offseason with the Puerto Rican National Team: “He had a lot to learn and a lot to grow up with in terms of being an every day guy and being reliable every single day. Moreso than any other guy I’ve coached he’s had to deal with a lot of nagging injuries. The one injury that he’s always going to have to battle is he has a legitimately bad back. He’s had a hip flexors and a lot of different issues. He missed 25 practices so it’s hard when you miss as much time as he missed that he was able to get into a consistent rotation there. He had some good moments where I think he helped us in games and he had moments when he was a non-factor. I think playing against some of these older guys that he’s playing against right now and getting into a routine and having to come every single day and have to really play and compete, he needs that. He needs to be more consistent for us.”
On Bradley Beal’s NBA draft status: “There is probably a very good chance that he’s going to go between two and six. I think he could go as high as two but I can’t see him getting past six.”
On new assistant coach Rashon Burno: “He’s going to be a great young coach. I think stability wise, he and Matt McCall remind me a lot of when I hired Anthony (Grant) and John (Pelphrey) and Donnie (Jones) and those guys when I first started and we were all relatively young. I think these guys will be at Florida for awhile and we’ll be able to build something again like we did with Anthony, John and Donnie.”
On staying at Florida for more than 16 years: “Sometimes for me as a coach I’m obviously dealing with media or fans and I’m on a public stage where our team is playing but there is another part where there are five other people involved – my wife and four kids. It’s been very healthy for my family that I’ve been able to do my job as hard as I need to do it and they’ve been able to be in a place where they’ve been happy. There has been a level of consistency in their lives with friends, school.”