Friday, July 18, 2008

Attrition: Voluntary Transfers

Not worried about the guys that voluntarily transferred during Felton's tenure. Just not worried. Why not? Because they couldn't play!

I'm joking a bit, here. It takes a lot to play Division 1 basketball, and as long as a player suits up in the red and black, I will be one of their loudest and most optimistic fans. I wouldn't publicly put down their talent.

However, if the players voluntarily decide to go elsewhere, it's appropriate to look at the cold hard facts.

I. Transfers

The Athens Banner Herald recently named six players who have voluntarily transferred out of Felton's program: Buzz Wehunt, Channing Toney, Younes Idrissi, Kendrick Johnson, Rashaad Singleton, and Jeremy Jacob.

As I recall, the paper lamented Jeremy Jacob's transfer and bemoaned the pattern of player departures, as if there had been a huge loss when each player left.

I understand the sentiment, but the facts just don't support all that angst.

II. Player Productivity

Looking at the information available from Georgia's website (the records only go back to 2004), here's what we find.

1. Buzz Wehunt

Played in 2004/2005. Missed all of his free throws. Averaged 0.5 point per game.

2. Channing Toney

Played 2004/2005. Averaged 9 points per game, but shot just 36% from the floor. In 2005/2006 his shooting percentage went up, but his average went down to 8 points per game.

3. Younes Idrissi

Played in 2004/2005. Shot 40% from the floor, 54% from the line, and scored 3 pts per game. In 2005/2006, Idrissi shot 40% from the floor, 66% on free throws, and scored an average of 6 points per game.

4. Kendrick Johnson

Guy had a lot of potential, but injuries limited his effectiveness. He shot 46% from the floor, 50% from the line and averaged 2 pts per game.

5. Rashaad Singleton

I appreciate his hard work in the weight room and his efforts to get better. But the production just wasn't there, and Felton was right to try to spark him to improve.

In 2005/2006, Singleton shot 44% from the floor, 25% from the free throw line, and averaged just 1.9 pts per game. In 2006/2007, Singleton scored 3 pts per game. In his final abbreviated season with the Dawgs, he scored 2.7 pts per game, and shot 33% from the line.

6. Jeremy Jacob

Would have liked to see what he could do. We'll never know. But looking at his actual, rather than potential, production, we do know that in 6 games, Jacob shot just 40% from the floor and 57% from the line. He averaged 5 pts per game. Most of his production came against Jacksonville State. He didn't play in any conference games, so no one knows what the impact would have been once Jacob faced the better defenses. His scoring average would have likely gone down, rather than up, if the Wisconsin game is any indication (0 pts with 0 rebounds in 7 minutes).

III. Analysis

Georgia lost a total of 27.3 points per game due to the transfer of the 6 players. That's an average of 4.5 points per player.

Looking at each player's own production, rather than the average of the transfers as a group, the result is not much better. In my opinion, a very modest, very modest, offensive output for a player would be 6 pts a game, 45% from the floor, and 65% from the line.

Of the 6 transfers, only one averaged 6 pts a game for their career. Channing Toney. And his offensive contribution was arguably about to go down, because he had lost his starting position. Likewise, of the 6 transfers, only one had a career shooting percentage of 45% or better, and that was Kendrick Johnson. Although he technically qualifies, it's hard to give him much credit since he only scored 2 points per game. And finally, only one of the transfers had a career free throw shooting average of 65% or better.

The team certainly didn't lose much offensively when these players left.

Rebounding? Georgia is not a great rebounding team. The team averaged 3.9, 3.7 and 3.6 rebounds per player over the last three years. Did any of the 6 transfers beat the player average in any of those years? Nope.

Georgia did not lose a dominant or even average rebounder when the transfers decided to go elsewhere.

Could the transfers have helped defensively or given some stability to the program by sticking around? Possibly. This question is harder to assess. But in my view, there wasn't a shutdown defender in the group, and if the players were unhappy enough to transfer, there is little likelihood that by staying they would have contributed much to the morale of the team.

Other questions to ask in assessing the loss of the voluntary transfers are: Would any of these guys have started on the 2008/2009 team? If Georgia were able somehow to bring them back, which current players would you want to kick off the team in order to make room?

IV. Final Thoughts

Voluntary transfers happen. Attrition takes place. I don't want to encourage players to leave the program. And we don't know all the facts involved in the decisions of previous players who chose to leave. But am I worried that the program is substantially worse for their departure? Not at all. My take is that after these players left, the coaching staff was able, and should continue to be able, to maintain, if not upgrade, the talent on the roster via the recruiting process.

Beyond that, I want to cheer for guys that want to be at Georgia. Guys that will pull together for the name on the front of the jersey. Like seniors Sundiata Gaines and Dave Bliss, who busted it in the classroom, proudly wore the G on their uniform in the good and bad times, and closed out a four-year career by propelling the Dawgs to victory in the 2008 SEC Tournament Championship.

Recruiting: Torin Walker

Okay. Georgia's got three 'ships available for 2009. One has been claimed by Demario Mayfield, and one is ostensibly being saved for Derrick Favors.

Who gets the last one?

Since UGA has just one center, Albert Jackson, on the roster, Georgia is apparently pursuing several big men, including Shawn Kemp, Jr., Terrance Shannon and Daniel Miller. Ari Stewart, an athletic wing, is also in the mix.

Another possible signee is Torin Walker. Walker is out of Columbus, Georgia, and you don't hear too much about him. But according to this link, the kid has some serious athleticism.

Justin Young, basketball analyst for the Rivals network, seems to like him. Scroll down a bit in the attached article to get Justin's take.

Walker may not be the total package yet, but you can do a lot with a 6' 9", 230 lb guy who leaps over 30 inches and has great speed. The picture from the Sparqs website indicates that Walker might have his best physical development days ahead of him. If he hits the weights and convinces himself that he needs to play physically all the time, he could end up as a real enforcer down low. I am reminded of Steve Thomas, who was an anchor for a very good Georgia team that also included Jarvis Hayes, Ezra Williams and Chris Daniels.

If Torin Walker has a good attitude and grades, he could be a great signee. We'll see how this all turns out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Felton's Still Optimistic

So says the article from the Athens Banner Herald.

Me? Not so much. It isn't the fact that Jeremy Jacob left or that Billy Humphrey got dismissed. It's the combination of those things, the loss of Sundiata Gaines, and the reality that UGA's main competitors will be much, much better.

SEC East in 08/09

1. Vanderbilt

Vandy lost Shan Foster. True. And although you can't dismiss the impact of a player of his caliber, I expect Vandy to be better this coming year. They had a monster recruiting class. These guys can play. Add their new big guys to Ogilvy, and they're not your father's old immobile team. Pun intended/attempted. Oh well. Vandy might not shoot as many deep threes next year, but they won't have to. They can run their motion offense in that weird gym of theirs and punish you inside.

2. Kentucky

Kentucky is better. At least, I think they will be better. Crawford and Bradley were huge for them in carrying the scoring load. They're gone. But if Patterson and Meeks come back healthy and Kentucky gets into school a couple of the kids that they have recruited, UK will be tough as nails.

3. Florida

Florida will be better. Donovan always has them prepared to play. And they won a bunch of games last year, in what should have been a rebuilding year for them. Speights went to the pro's, but the freshmen coming in have a ton of promise. Donovan needed big guys and he went out and got them.

4. South Carolina

South Carolina will not be an easy game. They have no new recruits, but they are likely to play to their strengths under their new coach.

5. Tennessee

Hard for UT to get better. They won the SEC in convincing fashion. But despite the fact that Chris Lofton is gone, and that Duke Crews and Ramar Smith have moved on, UT is arguably at least as good. They still have Tyler Smith, JuJuan Smith, and a stable of big guys. And they add Cameron Tatum and Scotty Hopson, two elite scorers. Ouch.

The SEC was not as competitive, top to bottom, last year as in the years immediately prior. I'm predicting that the SEC will be back in a major way in 2008/2009.

Optimism is good. I like that in a coach. But in a year in which every team in the SEC will be better, Georgia better combine that optimism with some good old fashioned hard work during the off-season.

Billy the Kid Recruiter

"Doggone Billy," is what one coach had to say about the recruiting of younger and younger players.

It's unfair to UK's coach Billy Gillespie to blame it all on him. And I will, unlike some magazines, explain early and clearly what is satire and what is not. My title, above, is.

However, Coach Stallings did have a point. Although it is unfair to assign all the blame to one guy, when you offer scholarships to an 8th-grader, as Coach Gillespie did, someone is going to say something.

How many of us knew much about anything in the 8th grade? How can coaches avoid undue influence? How can the public be sure that children are protected, the parents' interests are fully taken into account, and there was no candy passed under the table?

So, after the news about Gillespie's scholarship offer got out (though not necessarily because of it), someone did say something, and it was the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The NABC published a recommendation that coaches not accept commitments until the end of the prospective recruits' 10th grade year.

Given the concerns duly noted above about the problems of recruiting younger and younger players, the goals of the NABC are understandable. And most coaches are going to go along with it. That is, until somebody like Greg Oden shows up in their basketball camp. Physically advanced and socially mature, and a heck of a ball player at 15 years of age. Fully able to understand the nature of the recruiting war, and looking forward to a career in basketball. Maybe the potential recruit concentrated on another sport, or didn't play AAU ball, so nobody really knows about him but the coaching staff at the camp.

What's a coach to do? There are so many existing NCAA restrictions on when you can recruit and how. So many coaches that cheat or test the limits of the NCAA's rules. So much pressure from alumni and administration to win. The practical result is that ethical and hard-working coaches are going to use whatever is at their disposal (within the NCAA's allowed rules), including the recruitment of younger players, to gain a competitive advantage.

Can you imagine a rival coach swooping in and pledging a top ten player, a kid who was from your town, had been at your camp, who liked your school, who even liked you as a coach, but you never gave him an offer because you were waiting until he finished the 10th grade?

The bottom line is this: unless the NCAA says kids are off limits, the coaches are occasionally going to take a chance on a guy who they think is a can't miss prospect.

I imagine that had LeBron James during his 10th-grade year pledged to the Dawgs, I would have heartily commended the coaching staff for their hard work in securing his commitment early.

Who's kidding whom?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

UGA and Attrition

I'll be posting a bit more on this topic, but in the meantime, I wanted to link a couple of articles.

1. Overall Scholarship Numbers

I recently read an article about UGA's depth chart in football. They were 4-deep in most positions on the field. Man, I was psyched. Then I read some postings about UGA's basketball team and the transfer of Jeremy Jacob, and the excitement quickly died down.

I want both teams to succeed. And I think both teams will. However, the 4-deep depth chart in football raised an issue. The NCAA allocates a disproportionate number of scholarships for football, compared to basketball. Football has 22 players on the field, offense and defense. They are allotted 85 scholarships, or a roughly 4 to 1 ratio of scholarships to players in competition.

On the other hand, Basketball gets 13 scholarships for its 5 players on the court, or a ratio of roughly 2.5 to 1. With Title IX around, I doubt that there will be any move to raise the scholarship allotment for basketball.

However, the point should not be lost. There is a disparity between the numbers of scholarships alloted in the different sports, and the practical result is that whenever a basketball player transfers or leaves the program, it creates a huge public relations and scholarship management issue.

On the football side of the equation, attrition also happens. Guys voluntarily leave, or they do not do well in school, or they mess up in their off-the-field conduct. We as fans hear about it, but the loss of a football player or two doesn't cause us as much concern, because there is normally someone talented waiting to step into their shoes.

Kids are kids. There will be more arrests next summer, folks. But if a basketball player leaves and the coach scrambles to make adjustments, while the football coach seemingly deals with his turnover with ease, give the basketball coach some slack. It's not that the football coach is a great recruiter and the basketball coach is not. It's not that the football coach can control his kids and the basketball coach cannot. It is that the NCAA's scholarship limitations give the basketball coach almost no margin for error.

2. New Coaches and Cultural Change

When a new coach comes in, some guys will leave. It's only natural. And if the new coach arrives with an emphasis on academic effort and achievement, the number of players leaving will be even higher than normal.

I agree with Coach Bzdelik. As he states in the above article, attrition is not desired, but if it occurs because of high expectations and because guys are held accountable, then turnover among players can be seen as a positive. If Coach Bzdelik sticks to his guns and refuses to compromise, both the players and the program will benefit.