The NCAA Division I council is meeting on Wednesday, and the results of that meeting could have a big impact on next season for Nebraska.
The NCAA has the option to vote on the proposed rule changes regarding immediate eligibility for transfers. Or it could kick the can down the line to January.
The Transfer Waiver Working Group suggested a one-time transfer waiver that would grant immediate eligibility to first-time transfers who meet specific requirements. In late April, the Division I Board of Directors did agree to lift the moratorium on transfer legislation for this cycle, allowing the topic to be discussed by the council, but it also recommended that the suggested changes to the waiver process are “not appropriate at this time.”
That recommendation isn’t the final nail in the coffin of getting transfers immediately eligible, but it certainly doesn’t bode well about what the council might decide on Wednesday.
Fred Hoiberg has added three transfers to his 2020-21 roster that will have to sit out next season without a rule change or waiver — Wisconsin guard Kobe King, Pitt guard Trey McGowens and Division-II Indianapolis forward Trevor Lakes.
Lakes is planning to put the redshirt year to good use as he makes the transition to the Division I level, but the other two want to play if they can, and they’ll have to go through the waiver process if the rule doesn’t change for next season.
“We’re weighing all that right now and we’re certainly going to do everything we can to support the student-athletes,” Hoiberg told reporters during a conference call. “We’ll see how everything plays out. Obviously there’s legislation on the table right now as far as a one-time transfer rule where they’re immediately eligible. We don’t know how that will all play out. We’ll see how things go. Obviously with the waiver with Shamiel [Stevenson] last year we thought we had a great case to get him immediately eligible and unfortunately that was denied. We’ll certainly do everything we can to help those guys out and hopefully, if they don’t pass a rule this year, to get them both on the floor.”
Stevenson’s first coach at Pitt was fired after is freshman year, and his coach at Nevada left for another job after Stevenson’s redshirt year there that followed his first transfer. Yet Stevenson couldn’t get a waiver.
King’s case will likely have some complicating factors that could help strengthen his case, but I’m not sure what McGowens’ case would be. Nebraska definitely needs at least one of them to be eligible for 2020-21, though.
The 2019-20 roster was guard-heavy with very little depth or size in the frontcourt. Year two looks to be the exact opposite. The only traditional guard currently eligible to play is Western Illinois graduate transfer Kobe Webster. Dalano Banton, the 6-foot-8 transfer from Western Illinois who redshirted his pas season will handle the ball quite a bit as well, but will he be able to defend opposing ones and twos?
After those two, you’re probably looking at Western Nebraska Community College transfer Teddy Allen as your next ball-handler, and Hoiberg sees him as more of a tweener forward at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds than a true guard. Stevenson could also provide some on-ball equity in a pinch, though I’m not sure he’d be maximized as a ball-handler and guard defender at his size, strength and versatility.
So to recap, Nebraska has three centers (Derrick Walker, Yvan Ouedraogo and Eduardo Andre), five forwards (Allen, Stevenson, Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Lat Mayen and Akol Arop), one guard (Webster) and one, well, whatever you want to classify Banton as. Nebraska could really use another true guard or two to balance out the roster a bit.
If Hoiberg feels like he can go all in on Banton as a primary initiator and split most of the point guard minutes between him and Webster, then a redshirt year for McGowens wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as Hoiberg reshapes him into a pain guard after he spent his two seasons at Pitt primarily as an off-guard alongside one-time Nebraska signee Xavier Johnson.
King, on the other hand, could really help right away. He has 31 games and nine starts against Big Ten competition under his belt. With a 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, physicality is one of the first things Hoiberg mentioned when discussing the Wisconsin native.
“He’s a guy that you can definitely invert the floor with him because of his ability to post,” Hoiberg said. “It’s one of the best things that he does. He’s got great strength, he’s got a great body. When we played [the Badgers] the first time — I actually just watched that game — he was averaging almost 15 points per game and through nine Big Ten games he was leading Wisconsin in scoring. He’s a guy who can get to the free-throw line at a high rate as well. I think as we get guys to campus, I like his shooting stroke and I think he’s going to become a very, very reliable 3-point shooter.
“Again, a guy that played in a great system defensively. What they did at Wisconsin and what he did at Wisconsin his first two years, another guy with strength and physicality that can guard multiple positions.”
Assistant coach and lead recruiter Matt Abdelmassih told reporters last spring that he prefers adding at least a couple of sit-out transfers every year because it’s hard to keep 13 eligible scholarship players healthy, and those transfers get a year to work ogler on he scout team and learn Nebraska’s system. Nebraska had three such transfers in year one under Hoiberg. If the rule change does go through, will Nebraska have to change its recruiting strategy?
“I guess we’ll cross that bridge if it happens,” Hoiberg said. “Right now I think the biggest thing we try to do is get the talent to where we need it and the size to where we need it to compete in the Big Ten. That stuff will play itself as far as who works their way into the rotation, who’s playing and if there are some potential guys that do sit out. I think the way you go about it is to just bring in as much talent to compete at this level as you can.”
The odds of the one-time transfer rule being voted into existence and going into effect for the 2020-21 season seem low, but Wednesday’s meeting by the committee will still be worth keeping an eye on. If the rule doesn’t pass, Nebraska will have to rely on the waiver process and hope for better luck than Stevenson had.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.