By Kevin Sweeney
It’s always difficult to adjust to a new team.
That struggle is magnified when you are starting mid-season, as many players do now thanks to the transfer rule that allows players who transfer before the beginning of the spring semester can play for their new team after the fall semester of the following season. This does have its drawbacks, as a player spends two full years of eligibility for two “half-seasons”, if you will. Also, many players struggle to fit in mid-year to a team that already has chemistry. That’s why some players like Duke transfer Semi Ojeyele, who is now at SMU, elect to sit out the full 1.5 seasons before beginning full play.
There are other reasons for not being eligible until mid-season. Some players are forced to sit the first semester by the NCAA, and others have chosen to graduate from high school and enroll early in college.
Let’s examine some players who became eligible mid-season and their play so far:
Sedrick Barefield and David Collette-Utah
Perhaps no two players have had a bigger impact on their team in all of college basketball than Barefield and Collette, who weren’t eligible until December 17. Since, the Utes are 6-3 and look every bit the part of an NCAA Tournament team. Barefield, who transferred in from SMU, where he didn’t score a single point in his 5 games, burst onto the scene with a combined 53 points in his first two games. He’s cooled off a bit since, but has solidified a guard unit that was struggling before his arrival. The 6-8 forward Collette, whose time at Utah State ended in rather strange fashion, is averaging almost 15 points per game, good for a tie for the team lead. He’s posted double digit point totals in every game he’s played this season.
Jevon Thomas-Seton Hall
Not all mid-season transfers live up to the hype, and Thomas is an example of that. After leaving Kansas State following his sophomore season, Thomas was on track to be able to play at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. However, his timeline was pushed back when he was suspended from school in February for choking a graduate assistant during a intramural basketball game. Regardless, Thomas drew rave reviews in practice and summer workouts and was expected to be the starting point guard once he became eligible on December 23. That hasn’t gone according to plan, as Thomas has gotten little playing time and has been ineffective when given a chance to play. Seton Hall needs Thomas to step up, as they have lost 3 straight and the current point guard situation is a big reason why.
The five-star center sent the college basketball world into a frenzy when he elected to graduate early from high school to enroll at Auburn after the first semester. Just 3 days after the news broke, Wiley was on the floor for the Tigers against Mercer. He hasn’t been a star, averaging 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, but has been a valuable role player in the frontcourt. Wiley’s play will be critical as Auburn looks to make a push into NCAA Tournament consideration.
Keith Frazier-North Texas
I saw North Texas as a dark horse contender in Conference USA, and Frazier was a big reason why. A double-digit scorer at SMU, Frazier elected to transfer after it was made public that he was at the center of the NCAA recruiting investigation into the SMU program. However, Frazier, and the Mean Green as a whole, have been disappointing. Frazier played just 4 games after becoming eligible in mid-December before getting into a car accident that left him with a sore knee. He is thought to be close to returning, though. When he does, he’ll need to drastically improve on his 8 points per game if the Mean Green want to turn around an 0-5 start to league play.
Omer Yurtseven-North Carolina State
Yurtseven was forced to sit the first 9 games of the season by the NCAA after playing professionally in his native Turkey prior to coming to the United States. The skilled big man was supposed to combined with freshman sensation Dennis Smith Jr. to help bring NC State back to the NCAA Tournament. However, Yurtseven hasn’t quite gotten going, and neither has the Wolfpack. He’s averaging 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in his 10 games this season. He did have a breakout performance last time out vs Pitt, posting his first career double-double with 12 points and 16 boards. If he can play at that level all season, NC State has a chance to turn things around in the final 6 weeks of the regular season.