Duke Basketball: Analyzing the Blue Devils' Transfer Trend

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Duke Basketball: Analyzing the Blue Devils' Transfer Trend
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It has been a debate that has picked up more steam in recent years: Does Duke have a transfer problem?

Depending on whom you ask, you will get a myriad of answers. There are those who say that the Blue Devils absolutely have a problem.

Then there are others who say it isn't a big deal because the transfers are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Those who feel Duke is bleeding talent faster than they can replace it point the finger squarely at Coach Mike Krzyzewski. They feel his propensity to use a small bench as a season progresses leads budding talent to seek greener pastures.

They feel Krzyzewski is too rigid in his ways and needs to play the players regardless.

I am not one of those people, but I also realize it is a hot topic which has picked up legs already this year following the transfer of sophomore forward Olek Czyz back in December.

There has been recent speculation that the lack of playing time for freshman Andre Dawkins may lead him to transfer, even though there is no evidence to back that up.

I thought it might be interesting to break down some of the transfers, so I brainstormed a list. I came up with 10 transfers in the Coach K era at Duke.

While there may be more I have forgotten, I thought I would focus on these. Some  of these names Duke fans will remember, and some they may not.

For this trip down memory lane, I will discuss the 10 players and what they did at Duke and beyond, and whether it was truly a loss in the long run for the Blue Devils to have lost these guys.

 

Billy McCaffrey

McCaffrey was a sophomore on Duke's 1991 National Championship team. He was a player in the mold of John Scheyer, although he was more of a pure shooter than anything else.

I will always remember Duke radio announcer Bob Harris' call where he exclaimed after McCaffrey buried a three that he would rather shoot with a hand in his face then eat when he was hungry.

In two seasons at Duke, McCaffrey averaged slightly more than 19 minutes per game. In those 19 minutes, he averaged nine points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game.

He was a productive player but ultimately opted to transfer to Vanderbilt.

His reasons were said to be more playing time, but in a 1993 interview with Sports Illustrated McCaffrey's said Vanderbilt offered him a chance to fulfill his desire to be a starter.

Of the 10 transfers I will mention, McCaffrey was arguably one of the most successful players to leave Duke. At Vandy, he averaged 20 points, almost four assists and three rebounds per game in two seasons.

So in terms of a loss his production was good but ultimately it didn't hurt Duke, as they had guys like Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, and Thomas Hill to fill the void.

 

Joey Beard

Joey Beard was a highly touted recruit and enrolled at Duke in 1994. Coming off two National Championships, Beard was expected to be a key player.

In his one season he played in 16 games, scored slightly more than one point, and  grabbed a half a rebound per game.

It was clear he wasn't happy with his playing time at Duke, so he took his services to Boston University. He had some moderate success playing for the Terriers but never lived up to the hype that followed him to Duke.

Beard was one of many high-profile busts to come Duke's way.

 

Mike Chappell

Chappell was the second biggest disappointing transfer behind McCaffre at Duke.

He was a highly athletic wing forward who played for Duke during the critical 1997-1998 seasons, which helped re-establish Duke's dominance at the end of the 1990s.

In his two seasons, Chappell averaged 13.3 minutes per game, more than five points, and one rebound per game.

Despite being a regular starter, Chappell transferred back home to Michigan State. He believed he would lose playing time when Duke's dynamite recruiting class of 1998 which featured the likes of Elton Brand and Shane Battier.

In his two seasons at Michigan State, Chappell averaged about the same amount of minutes at just under 14, fewer points just over five per game, and about two rebounds per game.

So statistically, Chappell didn't see much if any change at his new school. While his loss was a disappointment, his lack of confidence in his own ability to win playing time, more than anything else, seemed to lead to his transfer.

Krzyzewski surely will not try and recruit the best players he can because a current player wants to make sure he is going to get his minutes. Call me old fashioned, but you earn your minutes.

Chappell played for a successful Spartans team, but ultimately his career path wasn't elevated by his decision.

 

Chris Burgess

Burgess was the fourth or fifth "second coming" of Christian Laettner. The California product was ranked as high as first in his class.

However, it was clear from the start that the big man didn't want to play that way and his status was quickly surpassed as fellow freshman Elton Brand established himself as Duke's best player.

In his two years in Durham, Burgess averaged 14 minutes, less than five points per game and four rebounds in 75 games in a Duke uniform.

Unhappy with playing time and conflicts between Krzyzewski and Burgess' father Ken ultimately led to his transfer to Utah, where he played for then-coach Rick Majerus.

For the Utes, he averaged just over 20 minutes and scored slightly more than four points, and grabbed three rebounds per game. So despite more playing time, his production any wasn't better at his new school.

In the long run, he was an effective rebounder but the chemistry issues and alleged parental meddling probably led his transfer to be a positive one for Duke.

 

Andre Sweet

Sweet enrolled at Duke in 2001 and many fans dreamed of headlines that featured Sweet-Love in reference to fellow freshman and football player Reggie Love.

Those headlines never panned out, and Sweet transferred after he could not keep up academically.

In the seven games he played, he showed athleticism. He could have potentially been a contributor on Duke's eventual 2001 National Championship team that lacked back court depth.

He averaged 11 minutes, and four points per game while in Durham.

Sweet transferred to Seton Hall, where he had a decent career, playing about 27 minutes per game. He averaged nine points in three seasons.

His transfer was out of Duke's control but has since made fans leery of the academic eligibility of incoming recruits.

 

Eric Boateng

Boateng began the most prolific string of transfers from Duke in 2006. As a freshman, he averaged less than one point and one rebound in 20 games.

He did not see much action and much like Chappell saw Duke's next few recruiting classes as a sign his playing time might not increase. Boateng opted to transfer to Arizona State to play with former NC State coach Herb Sendek.

Boateng didn't find much early success there but now in his last season has earned a significant role and is averaging 26 minutes, eight points and six rebounds per game.

While his long-term contribution to Duke will never be known it is easy to say he would have never been a star, but he could have been a key role player.

 

Jamal Boykin

Boykin was a highly touted recruit coming into Duke, however, he wasn't as highly ranked until he committed to play for Krzyzewski.

Duke was his dream school and he committed without even taking an official visit. For the California native, a Blue Devil is what he wanted to be.

In an interview given earlier in the year prior to his matchup with former teammate Boateng, Boykin explained his reasons.

Like Boateng he saw the incoming classes as a road block to potential playing time. His time was greatly hampered in his second year in Durham, after he contracted mononucleosis.

Boykin said that while he was recovering he lost a lot of ground and feared he would never get it back, so he elected to transfer. He harbored no hard feelings for Duke.

While playing in only 29 games for the Blue Devils, he averaged about a point and a bit more than two rebounds per game.

He, like Boateng, didn't find a great deal of early success at his new school but he has earned a starting role this year and is currently averaging 11 points and six rebounds.

Boykin was a crowd favorite for his energy and love of the Duke program. His loss was a tough one, but ultimately ended up to be productive for him.

Had he known that several of Duke's incoming big men wouldn't pan out as well as predicted, he may have stayed longer.

 

Taylor King

The insanity over the transfers really reached a boiling point with Taylor King in 2008. King was another highly touted California prospect coming in.

He was tall, and Duke fans had hoped, in addition to his sweet stroke, he might help on the boards and in the interior, where Duke was not skilled or deep.

However, the word was King didn't work as hard in practice, wasn't committed to playing defense, and when he was in the game, he hung around the three-point line and fired at will when he did touch the ball.

While at Duke, he averaged five and a half points per game and played just under 10 minutes per game. In the end that wasn't enough for him as he saw his playing time dwindle toward the end of the season.

This was especially irksome with fans because of Duke's lack of depth and apparent fatigue issues.

King is, depending on which Duke fan you talk to, one of the most controversial transfers in Coach K's 30 years. Some saw beyond his obvious faults and felt he would have been a star.

They believed K's old-fashioned ways drove King and his potential away.

Others felt King's lack of work ethic could potentially poison the team, and his lack of desire and effort on the defensive end wasn't showing he was a team player.

While many expected him to go back to the West Coast, King opted to stay in the East and transferred to Villanova.

Nova, with King sitting out last season, decimated the Devils in the Sweet 16. King has earned positive minutes and by all accounts is much happier with the Wildcats.

While I'll admit he could shoot like there was no tomorrow, I'm not convinced his transfer was all that bad for Duke in the long run.

 

Elliot Williams

Most Duke fans understood Williams' decision to transfer to be with his ailing mother, but that hasn't stopped the conspiracy theorists who believe K's old-fashioned ways cost the Blue Devils this talented guard.

Williams was a non-factor for a majority of last year, and when he did play early, he seemed lost.

Following another ACC loss at Boston College during a particular rough stretch for the Blue Devils, Williams was inserted into the starting line up and helped power Duke to an ACC title win and a Sweet 16 appearance.

His athleticism and on-the-ball defensive pressure energized the Blue Devils. And while he only averaged under five points and three rebounds per game, Williams was expected to log significant minutes and be a key contributor this season.

However, his mother's illness led him to apply for a hardship waiver which was granted by the NCAA. The waiver is allowing him to star for his hometown Memphis Tigers this season.

Williams has said on multiple occasions that he didn't want to transfer from Duke but felt he had to be close to his mother.

It was a very tough break for Duke and potentially the most difficult transfer to have to take, but it was under the right circumstance and no one could fault him. Hopefully, it has shown some of the spoiled Blue Devils fans there is more to life than basketball.

 

Olek Czyz

Another fan favorite, Czyz wraps up the five transfers in four years for Duke. He was not highly touted but had obvious athleticism.

Unfortunately, he was not a skilled enough shooter or defender to get more playing time at Duke at the three or four spot.

While it is debatable whether he would have ever turned into more than a role player, his decision to transfer to Nevada was seen as another sign something must be wrong at Duke.

So, is there really a transfer problem?

I think when you weigh all the facts, look at all the numbers, Duke has lost three significant or potentially significant players: those being McCaffrey, Chappell, and Williams.

Other than that, Duke has lost role players. While they may have played important roles, they were not patient enough to wait around to find out what they ultimately could have achieved.

I believe very few transfers were a result of the coaching staff but more for individual, if not selfish, reasons.

The transfer debate will always be linked to two things: Krzyzewski's use of his bench players and his recruiting philosophy.

Duke fans complain about him not using his bench enough, but also complain when he doesn't have backups for top recruits who go elsewhere.

If Krzyzewski loads his roster with nothing but stars, someone is going to sit sometimes and someone isn't going to pan out. This is going to lead to unhappy players and or parents and you will have transfers.

That is just a fact.

Many times, you also have to wonder if the number of stars beside a recruit's name has more to do with the team recruiting them than their actual ability.

In the end the debate will rage on, however, as society and the mentality of young players change there will be more transfers...not just from Duke but other schools as well.

Duke just gets a lot of attention because it is Duke.

 

 

 

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