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The New Juco! By Tyre Pinder

04/27/2020, 2:00pm CDT
By Tyre Pinder

The dream of most high school basketball players is to play Division 1 for one of the blue blood schools, that being Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and the like. 

Shawn Kemp

Changing of the times

The way things used to work was high-level high school players get the best offers. If you needed a year to either develop physically, skill wise, or academically, the option was juco or junior college if you did not qualify academically to play DI basketball. This is a two-year system where players go to smaller, often community college type schools, and work on their craft or grades to attract bigger schools’ attention while still earning college credits. This is a system that has worked for decades as some good players, probably most notably Shawn Kemp, have made it to the NBA, and have had great success. However, despite this being a system that is proven to work well, there is a new trend that is “upsetting the balance”, and a new rule that could break it entirely. 

Seeking higher grounds for a clearer view

The grad transfer rule is here to stay. After the success that schools are experiencing bringing in grad transfers, it is safe to say that it is not a fad and that it is most likely going to be a primary option for years to come. The next evolution of this though is the rule being voted on most likely in May. This would allow players to be able to transfer schools once and be immediately eligible to play. If this rule is passed it could turn the NCAA transfer portal into a sort of free agency period. Mid-Major players are transferring up levels more and more and this is interesting because it is almost as if mid-major is the new juco. So, what does this mean for scholastic student-athletes, and what does this mean for the current state of the NCAA? I guess what we should ask ourselves is, so now what?

The transfer portal evolving and growing before our eyes

With the transfer of Justin Anisoke to Tennessee, Liam Robbins to Minnesota, and Jacob Toppin to Kentucky, it has indeed been a weird transfer portal year to this point to say the absolute least. Let’s not forget about Jacob Tape, a Columbia grad transfer, committing to Duke then de-committing, then recommitting to them again. (but like honestly what was that? It was truly bizarre) What is interesting about these prospects is that they are non-grad transfers that have gone from smaller schools to bigger schools to play big roles. This is not the norm for underclassmen especially, as Robbins and Toppin are. They clearly have the talent on tape, and pass the eye test with flying colors, but why weren’t they on these radars before? Players slip through the cracks every year, with some talented players being under recruited and ultimately choosing smaller schools than their talent may suggest, but for a school who has to recruit players more accessible to them finding a diamond in the rough is oftentimes a heaven-sent gift. For that to be stripped away is disheartening in the simplest of terms. While Robbins and Anisoke have their reasons for the transfers, both stating they would like to be closer to family, it’s glaringly apparent that the level of the schools they will be playing for next season are steps above their former teams. All three hope to be eligible to play immediately and will most likely be able to do so. How does this affect college basketball going forward?

The game of chess continues

The possible impending mass exodus of high school players to the G-League is a shadow looming over the NCAA basketball community. This move is perhaps a move by the NCAA to combat the loss of its potential new stars. A school may not get a Jalen Green or Isaiah Todd on campus going forward, but this rule allows them to still bring in a player that still allows them to compete at a high level and the entertainment at a premium. At the end of the day, the NCAA is in a sort of chess match with the NBA and is losing ground seemingly at an alarming rate. While the current state of basketball at all levels is changing now more than ever, all organizations involved must evolve to keep pace. That has brought amateur level here, to a possible defining crossroads. So, I ask again, so now what?

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