COLUMBIA, Mo. • By Monday afternoon, the Missouri basketball team has gone almost a whole day without adding another transfer.
I kid. Sort of.
When Frank Haith arrived at Mizzou a little more two years ago, he inherited a talented, ready-made roster, which included sophomores Kadeem Green and Phil Pressey, junior Mike Dixon and seniors Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Steve Moore, Matt Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe. Ricky Kreklow, another sophomore-to-be, transferred to Cal shortly after Haith arrived.
That left Haith with just nine scholarship players — the NCAA maximum is 13 for men’s basketball —and nine became seven when Bowers suffered a serious knee injury and Green left the team.
Haith still had enough talent to produce 30 wins in his debut season, but there wasn’t much depth to build a foundation for the program. Why? Because when Haith was introduced as the Mizzou coach April 4, 2011, the Tigers simply didn’t have an incoming freshman class. Outgoing coach Mike Anderson left three open scholarships on the table when he departed for Arkansas and hadn’t signed anyone the previous fall or collected a verbal commitment.
One of those three spots was supposed to be for star recruit Tony Mitchell, who wound up not qualifying and instead headed to North Texas. Another scholarship had belonged to John Underwood, who transferred during the previous season. Anderson hoped to sign Sikeston’s Otto Porter — last seen tugging on a Washington Wizards cap at Thursday’s NBA draft — but he chose Georgetown.
Haith would later add some pieces to the mix in the early signing period with four high school players and a junior college transfer, but in the short term, he loaded up on Division I transfers. First came Earnest Ross, Auburn’s leading scorer and rebounder. Then came Keion Bell, Pepperdine’s leading scorer. In December, Oregon Duck Jabari Brown left his flock for the Tigers. The next spring, Connecticut’s Alex Oriakhi brought his 2011 national championship ring to Mizzou.
This season, another Division I import is expected to assume a significant role, Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson.
In May, Mizzou became the landing spot for Baylor wing Quddus Bello, who goes by Deuce, as in school No. 2.
On Sunday, Louisville center Zach Price became Missouri’s seventh Division I transfer under Haith, perhaps making Mizzou the poster program for college basketball’s transfer madness.
College basketball players are transferring like never before — more than 400 have left Division I rosters since the end of the season — and while coaches demonize the AAU circuit for fostering the transfer culture, most are opening their doors to the latest free agents, even the traditional power schools who have historically built their rosters with elite high school recruits. Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Syracuse, Connecticut, Indiana, Georgetown and Florida have all taken in high-profile Division I transfers recently. Illinois has five Division I transfers on its current roster.
On one hand, the Tigers broke even in the transfer market this offseason, losing Dominique Bull (George Washington) and Negus Webster-Chan (Hawaii) in exchange for Bello and Price. Haith also signed four high school players for the 2013 class, all of whom are on campus and going through summer workouts.
On the other hand, is seven D-I transfers over three years too many for one program? Is Haith using a savvy approach by capitalizing on the transfer culture? Or is he binging on transfers at the expense of building his roster by more conventional methods?
Mizzou’s projected 2014-15 roster will include five transfers, four from other Division I schools and one junior college import. Is that too many transfers for a coach in his fourth year at a program? Or is Haith rewriting his own chapter for Roster Building 101?
Ultimately, Haith’s recruiting philosophy will be measured in wins and losses. If the mix of transfers and homegrown players leads to banners inside Mizzou Arena, Haith will be praised for mastering the challenge of roster fusion. If not, his tactics will come under scrutiny.
As of today, here’s how Missouri’s 2014-15 roster will look based on commitments and signings and assuming zero early defections. (Walk-on players are not listed.)
Jabari Brown, 6-5, 214, Sr., Oakland, Calif./Oregon
Keanau Post, 6-11, 268, Sr., Victoria, British Columbia/Southwestern Illinois C.C.
Jordan Clarkson, 6-5, 193, Sr., San Antonio, Texas/Tulsa
Zach Price, 6-10, 250, Jr., Cleveland, OH/Louisville
Deuce Bello, 6-4, 177, Jr., Greensboro, N.C./Baylor
Stefan Jankovic, 6-11, 242, Jr., Mississauga, Ontario/Huntington Prep
Ryan Rosburg, 6-10, 252, Jr., Chesterfield, Mo./Marquette H.S.
Wes Clark, 6-0, 171, So., Detroit, Mich./Romulus H.S.
Johnathan Williams III, 6-9, 208, So., Memphis, Tenn./Southwind H.S.
Shane Rector, 6-1, 171, So., Bronx, N.Y./South Kent School (Conn.)
Torren Jones, 6-8, So., Chandler, Ariz./La Lumiere School (Ind.)
Chris Sandifer, 6-6, 190, Fr., Los Angeles, Calif./ Junipero Serra H.S.