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Len Elmore: College Basketball Players Should Get Chance To Transfer Without Sitting

January 22, 2018
Matt Schick of ESPN reported last week that future college football and basketball players could be able to transfer once without sitting out a year while retaining the possibility to transfer again as a graduate student. NCAA rules currently stipulate that, typically, a player must sit out a year if they transfer to another school unless they're a graduate student.

Former Maryland star Len Elmore is part of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which is made up of former and current university heads as well as former players and aims to "promote reforms that support and strengthen the educational mission of college sports," according to its website. Elmore discussed the potential changes to transfer rules on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 18.

"If coaches are allowed to jump from team to team to team with no penalty, why shouldn't players, who sometimes make a mistake when they initially sign with a program, and maybe the school and the program are not the right ones for them?" Elmore said. "They should be given at least one opportunity to be able to make a change without being penalized. Now, I'm not in favor of guys being able to sit there and say, 'OK, within a three-year period, I can jump and play for three different schools.' Or, within their four years, 'I should be able to play for three or four schools.'

"But I certainly believe in balancing what should be fair, that if coaches can go from a school to a school to another school [to] make their living, then I think players should be able to make a mistake and say, 'OK, let me work through this mistake and go to another school and see if that one would work out.'"

There are a growing number of graduate transfers every spring as it is. There were 87 graduate transfers across Division I college basketball in 2016, up from 15 in 2011. Maryland has taken advantage of that avenue to fill out its roster in recent years. Rasheed Sulaimon transferred from Duke for the 2015-16 season; L.G. Gill from Duquesne for 2016-17; and Sean Obi from Duke for 2017-18. None of them had to sit out a year. 

A rule change would potentially allow all players to shift to different programs. That opens the possibility of hundreds of players changing schools during the offseason, though NCAA rules allow coaches to bar their players from transferring to direct competitors such as conference foes. Elmore would like to see that rule altered, as well.

"I don't think that's fair because there are no restrictions placed on coaches when they decide to jump from one school to another school," Elmore said. "You have to take that chance that the player that you get, if they decide to transfer and they're going to go to another program. If it's competitive with yours, so be it."


Elmore was on the call for Fox Sports 1's broadcast of Maryland's 77-66 victory against Minnesota Jan. 18. Sophomore Kevin Huerter (19 points, eight rebounds, five assists) led the way for the Terps, and fellow sophomore Anthony Cowan Jr. (15 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) came on strong in the second half.

Both players have taken big steps forward in their second year in head coach Mark Turgeon's program. Cowan is averaging team highs in minutes (35.9), points (16.3) and assists (4.9). Huerter is second on the Terps in scoring (14.1 points) and assists (3.5), and is first in 3-point shooting percentage (47 percent). Both are players Turgeon can build his program around, but Elmore thinks both have NBA potential, as well.

"I think Huerter for sure," Elmore said. "I think he has got the fundamental soundness, and I think that he's got the skill level that he can become a decent NBA player. Cowan could be, but Cowan's liabilities would be his size, and I think that that's not anybody's fault. But if he stays long enough and develops a certain skill level, [then] he might be sustainable down the road. If he stays four years and picks up the skill and ability and experience, I think that he can last."

Cowan and Huerter will lead the team again next season, but the returns of sophomore Justin Jackson and freshman Bruno Fernando are far from certain. The other scholarship players scheduled to return are redshirt junior Dion Wiley, junior Ivan Bender, redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic and freshman Darryl Morsell.

The returners will be joined by newcomers Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joseph), Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala. The trio is 12th in the nation on 24/7 Sports' 2018 team recruiting rankings, and Turgeon is well on his way to adding more pieces -- former Mississippi State center Schnider Herard announced Jan. 20 that he's transferring to Maryland

A Cowan- and Huerter-led squad supported by a talented group of underclassmen may be Turgeon's recipe for a team capable of making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Turgeon's best postseason finish with the Terps was a Sweet 16 appearance in March 2016.

"I think that Mark has put his mark on this program," Elmore said. "What's going to happen now is, as he gets better talent to go along with the talent that he already has, I think that now people are going to have to hold him accountable, particularly when you have a recruiting class … coming in that's among the best in the nation to go along with the Huerters and the Cowans. Justin Jackson will have to come back another year. So I think next year will be the year that people are going to have to hold Mark accountable for accomplishment. But take nothing away from the fact that he did get to the Sweet 16. He has taken some teams and gone beyond the expectation."

To hear more from Elmore about the Terps and transfer rules, listen here. 

Follow Luke on Twitter @luke_jackson10 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox