The 2009-2010 college basketball season received plenty of hype before it even began. The entrance of one of the most highly-touted freshmen classes in years onto the national scene had many fans excited about the directions their teams were heading.
Lost in the shadow of these freshman, though, were some very talented players anxious to get back on the court with a new team after sitting out a season.
Some of this year's most well-known transfers—namely Ben Hansbrough and Jeremiah Rivers—have been unable to turn their new programs around.
Meanwhile, some lesser-known transfers have taken their teams from relative anonymity back onto the national scene, while others have taken already established programs to the next level.
In my opinion, these are the ten transfers that have made the biggest impacts with their new teams.
Previous Team: Villanova
2009-2010 Stats: 10.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, .436 3PT percent
Grant has proven to be a valuable addition to a Hurricane team that needed to fill a void left by sweet-stroking guard Jack McClinton. Grant has aptly stepped in as a perimeter threat, coming off the bench for the U.
Miami will need Grant to step up even more down the stretch, as it seeks to gain an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Grant has been clutch thus far—hitting three treys apiece in wins over Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech—but Miami may need even more from the Villanova transfer if it plans to improve on its 3-7 conference record.
Previous Team: Duke
2009-2010 Stats: 8.7 PPG, 6.0 APG, .393 3PT percent
King is quite possibly the nation’s best sixth man this year. Jay Wright can always count on King to bring intensity to the floor, and it rubs off on his teammates. King has helped the Wildcats deal with the loss of forwards Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark, providing some needed depth to a guard-heavy Villanova squad.
King—a former McDonald's All-American—brings consistent energy on the defensive end, and a confident outside shot to the lineup. He has been a big factor in Villanova’s strong start, and the Wildcats will need his spark off the bench if they plan to make a Final Four run.
Previous Team: Louisville
2009-2010 Stats: 14.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, .576 FG percent
Caracter has finally started to show signs of maturity, slowly growing into the player many hoped he would become. There was never any question about his talent—Caracter was a top-25 recruit in 2006—but his attitude was often in doubt. Caracter was often suspended in his time under Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, and after becoming academically ineligible in 2008, transferred to UTEP.
This year Caracter has exploded onto the Conference USA and national scene, playing efficiently and consistently for a much-improved Miners squad. With the help of ASU transfer Christian Polk, UTEP recently ended Memphis’ conference win streak at 64.
The Miners now sit atop C-USA and look primed to make their first tournament appearance since the 04-05 season, thanks in large part to dominant post play of Caracter.
Previous Team: Connecticut
2009-2010 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, .564 FG percent
Any team with a backcourt featuring Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente is going to win its fair share of games. Add in the frontcourt presence of a do-it-all player like Kelly, though, and you have a top 10 team.
The UConn transfer has blossomed under Head Coach Frank Martin, joining Jamar Samuels and Dominique Sutton on a front line that can hold its own with perennial Big 12 powers Kansas and Texas.
In addition to becoming a surprisingly efficient scoring threat, Kelly has provided the intangibles—he averages nearly three offensive rebounds and two blocks per game—that have Kansas State looking primed for a deep tournament run.
Previous Team: New Mexico State
2009-2010 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG
The road to Seton Hall has not been easy for Herb Pope. A former Parade All-American, Pope’s career and life were put on hold after he was shot four times at a party in his hometown of Aliquippa, PA during his senior year of high school. Pope eventually recovered, but was blindsided once again as former New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus left for the NBA.
Pope has finally found his rhythm again, becoming one of the Big East’s best big men and one of the nation’s best rebounders. Pope and the unpredictable Jeremy Hazell have teamed to lead Seton Hall back onto the national scene. While the Pirates’ boast just a 13-9 record, they have lost three overtime games and nearly upset top-10 powers Syracuse and West Virginia.
Five of Seton Hall’s final seven opponents currently own losing conference records. As long as Pope continues to average a double-double, the Pirates will be in a position to win games, and could sneak their way into the tournament with strong play down the stretch.
Previous Team: Indiana
2009-2010 Stats: 19.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.8 APG
We all know Crawford as the kid who dunked on LeBron at a Nike camp this summer. But we should also get to know him as one of the nation’s most gifted scorers.
Crawford—who was part of the exodus from Indiana at the end of the Kelvin Sampson era—has quickly developed into a star for the Musketeers. Xavier, though, does not have control of the Atlantic 10 as it has in years past.
While there is no doubting the instant impact Crawford has had on this Xavier team, many argue that his shot selection and selfish play are hurting the Musketeers.
Crawford currently takes two times more shots than any other player in a Xavier uniform. If the Musketeers are to make their fifth consecutive tournament appearance, they will need Crawford to improve his own game and get teammates Jason Love and Terrell Holloway on track as well.
Previous Team: Duke
2009-2010 Stats: 19.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.9 APG
Williams is the exception to this list, as he was not forced to sit out a year upon transferring to Memphis. The former Blue Devil was given an exemption to the standard NCAA transfer rule because he moved closer to home to be with an ill family member.
Nothing seems to have distracted his game, though, as Williams is single-handedly keeping the Tigers in the NCAA tournament discussion. The former McDonald’s All-American has kept Memphis relevant while Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner looks to replenish talent in a program that was left in ruin when John Calipari fled for Kentucky.
Williams is doing most of the work on his own, as he is surrounded mostly by players who haven’t been much more than witnesses to the Derek Rose or Tyreke Evans show. It will be interesting to see if Williams has enough left to help the Tigers earn a bid to this year’s big dance.
Previous Team: Boston College
2009-2010 Stats: 16.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, .478 FG percent
Who, you ask? Shamari Spears has flown under the radar this season, but his impact on the 49ers cannot be denied.
Charlotte finished just 11-20 overall in 2008-2009, but this year has been a different story. Spears’ game is far from pretty, but his toughness is unquestionable, and this undersized power forward is leading the 49ers into uncharted territory.
Since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2005, Charlotte has never won a conference title. The former Boston College recruit is looking to change that, as he has led the 49ers into a tie with Richmond and Xavier atop the A-10 standings.
As March rolls around, you can be sure you’ll be hearing more from Shamari Spears.
Previous Team: Michigan
2009-2010 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 4.2 BPG
The Baylor Bears were expected to take a step backwards this year. The team that finished second in the NIT a year ago to Penn State lost starters Kevin Rogers, Josh Lomers, and Curtis Jerrells to graduation.
And yet, the Bears find themselves in the thick of the Big 12 race, on pace to improve on last year’s record. The reason? Ekpe Udoh.
The Michigan transfer from Edmond, OK has made great strides this year, becoming one of the best interior defenders in the country.
While his offensive game is still very raw, Udoh is quickly shooting up NBA draft boards into the top 15, as scouts are realizing his game-changing ability on the defensive end.
Udoh has helped Baylor garner marquee victories over Texas and Xavier, and will look to lead the Bears deep into the postseason.
Previous Team: Iowa State
2009-2010 Stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .534 FG percent
This was a no-brainer. The most talked about transfer of all has led the Orange to its best start in school history at 23-1, with no signs of slowing down.
Like Baylor, the ‘Cuse were expected to rebuild this year as they dealt with the losses of starters Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, and Jonny Flynn. Instead, Johnson has made everyone forget about the team of 08-09 by quickly turning the Orange into a title contender.
Johnson can literally do it all. A force in transition, a much improved perimeter shooter, and a tenacious rebounder, Johnson is projected as a top 10 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
His length and athleticism have been a perfect fit for Jim Boeheim’s zone defense, and Johnson’s unselfish play allows Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson, and Orinze Onuaku to get their looks as well.
Johnson’s impact at Syracuse thus far has been astonishing. It will be fun to see if he can match Carmelo Anthony and bring a championship to Syracuse in his first year.