By Kevin Sweeney
If you are a college basketball fan, chances are your team has been hit with multiple transfers in the past few seasons.
We all know how common transfers have become in college basketball, and some have gone as far as to call it an epidemic. Last offseason, over 700 players transferred from D-1 schools, overtaking the record from the previous season.
Perhaps no program has been hit harder by transfers in the last 5 season than the Niagara Purple Eagles of the MAAC Conference. Ever since the departure of longtime head coach Joe Mihalich for Hofstra after the 2012-13 season, the turnover from year to year of the Niagara roster has been high. An average of 6 players with eligibility remaining have departed the program per year since Mihalich left the program. This has made the rebuilding project for 4th year head coach Chris Casey very difficult, as he has assembled some talented players but has been unable to keep them in Buffalo for extended periods of time. In fact, it could be argued that there are 4 teams in college basketball, including 2 Atlantic 10 squads, whose best player came from Niagara. For fun, lets take a look at the roster Niagara could have if none of these guys had left the program:
Point Guard: Tahjere McCall (Tennessee State)- McCall is originally a Mihalich recruit who played 2 seasons with the Purple Eagles before departing after year 1 of the Casey era. Meanwhile, he’s blossomed into one of the best players in the Ohio Valley conference. He’s a stat-sheet stuffer who excels at getting to the basket while being an excellent perimeter defender at the other end of the floor. McCall has posted averages of 12.8 points, 6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.8 steals per game, and is a big reason why Tennessee State is off to its best start since moving to D-1 in 1977. He would undoubtedly be an excellent contributor for this Niagara team.
Backup: Kahlil Dukes (Niagara)- Dukes has been outstanding this season in his first season with Niagara, averaging over 15 points per game for the Purple Eagles. He would certainly see a lot of time off the bench.
Shooting Guard: Emile Blackman (Duquesne)- Blackman was the one of the first players to join the Purple Eagles after the departure of Mihalich, following Casey from LIU-Post. Despite beginning his career at the Division 2 level, Blackman immediately became the best scorer on the Purple Eagles once he became eligible in the 2014-15 season. After last season, he announced that he would graduate and transfer to Duquense for his final season of eligibility. He has thrived in his new home, leading the Dukes in scoring with 11.4 points per game. His athleticism and scoring ability would provide a huge boost to Niagara this season.
Backup: Wesley Myers (Maine)- This is a tough guy to keep on the bench, as Myers has averaged over 14 points per game in his first season at Maine following 2 seasons in Buffalo. A good athlete with nice touch from beyond the arc, Myers would be a valuable commodity for the Purple Eagles.
Small Forward: Matt Scott (Niagara)- Scott is the only current Purple Eagle who would be starting for this squad. Scott’s development in his 3 years at Niagara has been incredible to watch, from averaging just 5 points per game as a freshman to now averaging almost 18 points and 7 rebounds per game as a junior. He has blossomed into perhaps the most complete player on this team, as his ability to rebound, guard multiple positions, and knock down jump shots is unmatched. This is an all-MAAC caliber player who would definitely be a key cog for this hypothetical team.
Backup: Ramone Snowden (James Madison)- Snowden’s first season at James Madison hasn’t been real smooth, as he has averaged just 5 points per game after averaging over 10 points and 6 rebounds per game in his final season with the Purple Eagles. Nevertheless, Snowden is a versatile player who would be a nice bench option for Niagara.
Power Forward: Dominique Reid (Unaffiliated)- Reid’s story is a cautionary one for future players about making bad decisions. Reid burst onto the scene in his freshman season at Niagara and looked like a star in the making, making the MAAC All-Freshman team. However, he was arrested for grand larceny & identity theft following the season and was forced to leave the program. He spent last season at Polk State College (JUCO), but is not currently listed on the roster for the coming season. If not for Reid’s off-the-court troubles, he would likely be one of the stars of this team.
Backup: Marvin Prochet (Niagara)- Prochet, currently in his sophomore season for the Purple Eagles, would be solid bench big man. He brings a shot-blocking presence, with 1.4 blocks per game, while also having a nice touch from mid-range.
Center: T.J. Cline (Richmond)- Cline has been the most successful since transferring from Niagara following Mihalich’s departure. After a solid freshman season for Niagara in 2012-13, Cline moved on to Richmond, where he has been a star. He has averaged double figures in scoring in each of his 3 seasons with the Spiders, and has a chance to average 20 points per game this season. His ability to step out and knock down threes while being one of the primary distributors (5.1 assists per game) is hard to find at the mid-major level. He would likely be the best big man in the MAAC, as he will likely contend for all-A10 honors this season.
Backup: Dominic Robb (Niagara)- Robb is a serviceable center who currently starts for the Purple Eagles. A fierce competitor and good rebounder, Robb would be a good player to have coming off the bench.
How well would this team do? I think it would be the best mid-major in the country. The team has all the experience and talent necessary to make a deep run in March. The craziest part is that Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, stars at Niagara before following Mihalich to Hofstra, finished their careers last season. With those two, it might be a top-25 level team.