It’s that time of year again in college basketball – spring – when fans try to predict which underclassmen will declare for the NBA draft as well as determine which players will be selected in the first and second rounds. However, it’s also the time when coaches try to fill in gaps on their rosters for next year from the only viable source still available – junior colleges.
Sure, there are a handful of talented high school and prep school players who have not yet decided on a school, but for the most part, the well of incoming freshmen is pretty much dry. Consequently, over the next two to three months dozens of programs will announce the signing of one or more junior college players, many of whom will have been honored with all-American, or at least all-regional, status. Quite a few will bring impressive statistical credentials with them as well.
But don’t be fooled by the honors or the stats. In November, I wrote an article questioning the impact that the majority of junior college transfers would have this year at the high-major level. For years I have tracked the productivity of incoming jucos in the six “elite” conferences. To depict the results as uniformly mediocre would be the equivalent of Paul Abdul commenting that one of the performers on “American Idol” looked stunning.
Well, I’ve now examined the data for juco transfers who entered the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac 10, and SEC during the 2006-2007 season. Overall, the results are pretty much what I’d expected. Fewer than a dozen of these junior college players had a significant impact on their respective teams.
In some ways this year’s data is even skewed upward a bit compared to previous seasons because of the situation at the University of Cincinnati where four of new coach Mick Cronin’s top six players came straight from the junior college ranks. All four were among the Top 10 juco transfers in terms of playing time.
In fact, with respect to playing time, of the three dozen incoming juco players on high-major rosters this year, 11 (30.6%) averaged fewer than 10.0 mpg. Another half dozen (16.7%) averaged between 10.0 mpg and 14.9 mpg. In other words, nearly half of all incoming junior college transfers in the six elite conferences averaged fewer than 15.0 mpg. Remember, these are not freshmen who will likely show considerable development over the next three seasons. These were almost always juniors who will now have only one year of eligibility left.
Here’s the breakdown for playing time for these 36 transfers:
30.0 mpg – 32.9 mpg = 5 players (13.9%)
25.0 mpg – 29.9 mpg = 5 players (13.9%)
20.0 mpg – 24.9 mpg = 4 players (11.1%)
15.0 mpg – 19.9 mpg = 5 players (13.9%)
10.0 mpg – 14.9 mpg = 6 players (16.7%)
0.1 mpg – 9.9 mpg = 11 players (30.6%)
And four of the 10 players who averaged more than 25.0 mpg played for one team – Cincinnati.
In terms of scoring the data for this group of 36 may astonish even those who are most skeptical of recruiting junior college players.
15.0 ppg – 16.0 ppg = 1 player (2.8%)
10.0 ppg – 14.9 ppg = 5 players (13.9%)
7.6 ppg – 9.9 ppg = 3 players (8.3%)
5.0 ppg – 7.5 ppg = 7 players (19.4%)
0.1 ppg – 4.9 ppg = 20 players (55.6%)
That’s right: over half of these three dozen players averaged less than 5.0 ppg, and 27 of 36 (75%) averaged less than 7.5 ppg. For that matter five of every six (83.3%) averaged in single digits in scoring, while only one in six (16.7%) averaged as many as 10.0 ppg.
The stats for rebounding are not better. Only one of these three dozen players – Cincinnati’s John Williamson – averaged more than 6.0 rebounds per game (7.3 rpg). Plus, only three other junior college transfers – Mississippi’s Kenny Williams (5.7 rpg), Georgia’s Takais Brown (5.6 rpg), and Cincy’s Marcus Sikes (5.0 rpg) averaged 5.0 rpg or higher.
What about assists? Same story: only one player – Iowa State’s Michael Taylor – averaged over 4.0 assists per game (4.5 apg), and only one other – Cincy’s Jamual Warren – averaged over 3.0 apg (3.2 apg).
It’s hard to decide in which of these three statistical categories the junior college transfers fared the worst. The overall stats are, to borrow from a typical Simon Cowell assessment of an underwhelming performance, pathetic.
Still, a few of these individuals did have decent seasons. If I had to pick the Top 10 incoming junior college players in these six conferences, I’d rank them as follows:
1. Michael Taylor (Iowa State): 32.9 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.5 apg;
2. John Williamson (Cincinnati): 30.9 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg;
3. Takais Brown (Georgia): 28.3 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg;
4. Mykal Riley (Alabama): 30.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg;
5. Sonny Weems (Arkansas): 31.0 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg;
6. Avery Patterson* (St. John’s): 29.2 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg;
7. Marcus Sikes (Cincinnati): 29.3 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg;
8. Charlie Burgess (Texas Tech): 31.0 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 apg;
9. Jamual Warren (Cincinnati): 29.2 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg;
10. Kenny Williams (Mississippi): 22.2 mpg, 7.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg.
* Patterson has announced he is transferring from St. John’s.
Remember, these are probably the most productive of this past season’s incoming juco crop. The bottom line is that the odds of getting a productive junior college transfer are slim, to say the least, at least at a school in one of the top six conferences. In other words, fans shouldn’t get too excited the next couple of months if their head coach announces the signing of an incoming recruit or two from the junior college ranks.