DURHAM --Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t accepted many transfers in his 33 seasons at Duke.
But the quality of the previous three transfers to play for Coach K may have something to do with the high expectations surrounding transfer No. 4 — Mississippi State’s Rodney Hood.
“Talk to just about anyone in the Duke program and they’ll tell you the same thing: Hood was the most talented player on the roster last season while sitting out following his transfer from Starkville,” Jeff Goodman recently wrote for ESPN.
Hood’s addition is a primary reason that Duke is projected as a top 10 team in 2013-14, despite the loss of last season’s three top scorers.
All those expectations are being heaped on the shoulders of a slender 6-8 swingman who averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in just under 33 minutes a game in 2011-12. Of course, those are freshman numbers. Hood has had an extra season behind the scenes, working on his game and his body — and learning what the Duke program is all about. “I got a lot stronger and spent a lot of time in the weight room and got more comfortable handling the ball and playing on the blue team and second team and working on my ball-handling skills,” Hood told ESPN’s Andy Katz. “I just plan on coming in and making some noise. I can’t promise this or that. But I will help my team win and get us in the best position to win.”
Transfers are becoming more and more a part of college basketball. The graduate rule — allowing players who have graduated with eligibility left to transfer without penalty — and the NCAA’s increasing generosity in granting waivers to the rule requiring transfers to sit out a season has created what ESPN terms a “free agent market” every spring.
Krzyzewski noted the growing phenomenon last summer.
“There is so much recruitment for transfers right now. It’s incredible,” Coach K said. “The recruiting of transfers and of those fifth-year players. They get recruited harder than high school kids for that intense period. It’s not a good time.”
The ACC will be flooded with transfers this season. Maryland is adding 6-9 Evan Smotrycz from Michigan. Virginia adds 6-8 South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill. N.C. State adds 6-6 LSU transfer Ralston Turner. Miami may or may not be able to add point guard Angel Rodriguez, a second-team All-Big 12 pick last season, who is still waiting on the NCAA’s ruling on his waiver request. And thanks to the ACC’s recent expansion, two transfers will be eligible to play against their old schools — ex-Duke swingman Michael Gbinije will play for Syracuse and ex-Notre Dame swingman Alex Dragicevich will play at Boston College.
But by all accounts, Rodney Hood is the prize. And a check of Krzyzewski’s brief but spectacular history of success with transfers would seem to support that claim. Just look at the three players he brought in:
Roshown McLeod — In two seasons at St. John’s, McLeod averaged 6.7 and 7.8 points a game. But he immediately became a key player for the 1997 Duke team that won the ACC regular season title and returned to the top 10 after a two-year absence. McLeod averaged 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in ‘97. A natural power forward at 6-8, he moved into the middle at midseason and was Duke’s tallest player down the stretch. A year later, McLeod earned first-team All-ACC honors as he averaged 15.3 points and 5.6 rebounds for a team that finished 15-1 in the ACC. He became the 20th pick in the first round of the NBA draft.
Dahntay Jones – He averaged 10.7 and 16.0 points in two seasons at Rutgers before coming to Duke and sitting out the 2001 championship season. He moved into the starting lineup in 2001-02 and was a solid contributor — 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds — on a team that won the ACC and finished No. 1 in the national polls. A year later, he was the only senior starter on a young team that again won the ACC championship. Jones led the team with 17.7 points a game and added 5.5 rebounds to earn first-team All-ACC honors. By an amazing coincidence, he was, like McLeod, the 20th player taken in the draft.
Seth Curry — He led the nation’s freshmen in scoring when he averaged 20.2 points a game at Liberty in 2008-09. Duke won the national championship as he sat out the 2010 season after transferring. Curry began the next year as a sixth-man, but after freshman Kyrie Irving was hurt, Curry moved into the starting lineup and proved a deadly 3-point shooter (.435 percent), averaging 9.0 points a game for an ACC championship team. He upped that to 13.2 for a top 10 team as a junior. As he senior, he was hobbled by a leg injury that required surgery after the season, but the sharpshooting guard still averaged 17.5 points a game for an Elite Eight team. He made the coaches All-ACC first team.
That means that all three of K’s previous transfers became first-team All-ACC selections and two of the three were first-round NBA draft picks.
Those are high standards for Hood to try and match.
Just to put his quest into perspective, here’s a list of the top 10 transfers in Duke basketball history. The No. 1 spot goes to a pre-Krzyzewski transfer:
1. Ed Koffenberger (1946-47) — The 6-2 Delaware native enlisted in the Navy’s V-12 (officer training program) in 1944 and was assigned to the University of North Carolina, where he played football for the ’44 Tar Heels. That fall, Koffenberger was transferred to Duke to study engineering. He played a little football at Duke, but became a star on the basketball court, leading the 1946 Blue Devils to the Southern Conference championship. He earned second-team All-America honors in ’46 and ’47. Even though Koffenberger played just two seasons for the Blue Devils, he finished his career with 733 points, a scoring record that would stand until Dick Groat surpassed it in 1951. Koffenberger, who was also a second-team All-America in lacrosse, won the Teague Award as the outstanding amateur athlete in North Carolina in 1947.
5. Bob Bender (1978-80) — Bender was a freshman on Indiana’s 1976 NCAA championship team, but he played little and transferred to Duke midway through the 1977 season. He was projected to become Duke’s starting point guard when he became eligible, but by the time Bender joined the team in late December, the starting job belonged to John Harrell (see below). The two essentially split the job for the rest of the season — Harrell started, but Bender averaged slightly more minutes — as Duke made an improbable run to the national championship game. Bender started 60 of 61 games over the next two seasons, leading the team in assists, while averaging just over six points a game for his Duke career. His stats were modest, but his value was demonstrated at the end of the 1979 season. Bender scored a career high 16 points in a victory over N.C. State in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, but after the game, he was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. His absence proved crucial as Duke lost close games to UNC in the ACC title game and to St. John’s in the NCAA opener.
6. Bob Vernon (1957-58) — A transfer from Campbell College, Vernon was a starter on a remarkable Duke team, the 1958 ACC regular season champions. The 6-0 Riverside, N.J., native was part of a three-guard lineup (along with Bucky Allen and Bobby Joe Harris). He was the No. 2 scorer on the ’58 team, averaging 12.2 points a game.
7. John Harrell (1978-79) — Harrell, a Durham native who starred at Hillside High, played one season at North Carolina Central before transferring across town to Duke. Not much was expected of him, but in the weeks before Bender became eligible, Harrell seized the point guard job and made it his own. He never scored much and his assist totals weren’t high, but Harrell was a steady ball-handler whose greatest moment came in the closing seconds of the 1978 Final Four victory over Notre Dame, when he went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch to clinch the victory. Unfortunately, Harrell did not play well in 1979, losing his starting job to Bender.
8. Bill Reigel (1953) — A transfer from Duquesne, the 6-4 left-hander played in the middle for Duke’s last Southern Conference team. He averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds for an 17-8 team. In a game vs. Wake Forest he hit 11-of-18 from the field and 16-of-19 from the free throw line for 38 points.
9. Larry Saunders (1970-71) — The 6-9 transfer from Northwestern played alongside Randy Denton for two seasons under Bucky Waters, averaging 9.0 points and 7.3 rebounds. His best game came in an ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest — 29 points and 12 rebounds. He led the ACC in field goal percentage at .636 in 1970.
10. Dick Whiting (1946) — A small-college All-America at Muhlenberg College, Whiting was, like his teammate Ed Koffenberger, assigned to Duke by the Navy. He was the top guard and the No. 3 scorer on Duke’s 1946 Southern Conference champs.
Rodney Hood, assuming his recent Achilles injury is not too serious, ought to crack that list next season. If he’s anywhere near as good as Coach K’s other three transfers, he should wind up near the top of the list.
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