By Joe Henricksen

Call it an epidemic, but transfers are tough to stop

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The transfer of Alex Foster from De La Salle to Seton Academy earlier this summer is significant. So far it's the most high-profile in-state transfer to date.

And in ways it does re-shape the landscape of high school basketball in Illinois, particularly for Class 2A programs around the Chicago area and Illinois with visions of bringing home one of the four state trophies next March from Peoria. In all likelihood, Seton will be bringing one of those trophies again this season. With the arrival of Foster, Seton Academy looks more than ready to make another run to Peoria in 2A, with the possibility of improving on last year's third-place state finish.

Foster will likely be one of a few highly-regarded players to move this offseason. Simeon already has picked up a future impact player in 6-4 junior Dante Ingram, who is officially enrolled at the South Side state power after transferring from Danville. In addition, 6-8 Russell Woods, one of the better prospects in the Class of 2013, is expected to be at Simeon and bolster the Wolverines frontline after transferring in from Leo.

Kyle Davis jetted out of Hyde Park in the middle of last season. He couldn't wait. He sat out the remainder of the the 2011-2012 season while he attended Morgan Park and is preparing for his senior year.

There are plenty of other transfers that have either already gone down or will before school opens this fall.

Believe it or not, prior to this past offseason, the amount of transfers -- particularly high-profile transfers -- has actually been a little more quiet the past couple of years. But that's also in comparison to a run of years where we saw a crazy number of high-profile transfers in the Chicago area.

There are currently 400-plus Division I transfers in college basketball. Yes, that number is right and grows by the day ... 400-PLUS TRANSFERS. This year alone! This is an entirely different blog topic and story for a future date, but the movement in high school basketball with players transferring from high school to high school, along with the constant changing of teams in the AAU world each spring and summer, is a microcosm of what is happening at the collegiate level.

It's an ongoing issue, dating back decades. But the transfer of student-athletes, especially in the sports of high school basketball, never seems to slow down or get better.

How many of these transfers taking place in Illinois high school basketball have anything to do with:

A. The family is growing and needs a bigger home, thus they leave the district they are in to find a suitable home.
B. Mom or dad needs to move because of a new job or a job transfer.
C. The family would like a better school district, maybe a more diverse district, for their son.
D. There is a change in the family structure and status.

There are surely a few legitimate transfers that fall under A, B, C or D over the years when it comes to a "basketball player/student-athlete" changing schools. People do move, even ones with basketball-playing sons. But they are far and few between. Then it's a matter of trying to sort out each and every transfer. Not easy.

There is certainly a case to be made for whose place it is for anyone to tell a parent or family where they should live or why they should move or what school they should send their child to. It's for this reason that those people who shout "something has to be done about all these transfers" really don't have a lot of room to talk. Many can assume the reasons behind the moves, but only certain people truly know the reasons and factors behind the decision.

And do you think the IHSA has the manpower and the access to chase down all the facts for every transfer of a student-athlete in the state, to investigate the legitimacy of every move? I'm not talking just the high-profile ones. There are transfers on a much smaller basketball scale, as well as others that are strictly sports related as well.

Yes, I know, where there is smoke there is usually fire. But to investigate these transfers takes an inordinate amount of time (Or maybe you were thinking they would only look into basketball transfers?). And then there is the whole proving a family is sending their kid to a different school for basketball reasons only.

There are those who have told me the IHSA needs to institute a rule like they have in college, where every student-athlete must sit out one year if they transfer schools -- no matter the reason. So you're going to tell the out-of-state family or a family in Bloomington or Aurora or the Quad Cities, whose father has a new job in the Chicago area or has been involuntarily transferred, that his son or daughter can't play sports next year if they move to Gurnee? Or Schaumburg? Or Tinley Park, Lincolnshire or Joliet? Or if they move to the city and the family wants his son to attend St. Ignatius or Whitney Young?

Or, again, are we just going to have a basketball-only rule and police in place for student-athletes that transfer? Please.

But what this blog is about and what the real beef out there is, at least publicly, relates to basketball. It's happening in other sports, too, but the central focus and the total number of transfers -- and, no, I have no statistics to back this claim up -- sure seems to be basketball. And it always has been.

The movement of student-athletes in high school for the sole purpose of basketball is more common now than ever. The majority in the basketball world blames the AAU culture and influences. Though it has been going on for quite some time, particularly in the city, it's now almost becoming accepted.

This comes down to personal beliefs. This comes down to whether you believe that reason alone -- basketball and the success and notoriety that may or may not come with it -- is enough to get up and move your household, uproot the academic setting and environment the student is already in, disrupt the comfort level he has at the school and leave friends and teammates behind. Is basketball worth all that?

There is also the little elephant in the room, which is showing student-athletes how easy it is to get out of something. All of these high school transfers show the student-athlete that they can easily get up and leave when something doesn't go their way. Really, when it gets down to it, the basketball transfer occurs as a result of this. When things go bad -- a player's minutes decrease, their role isn't what mom or dad want it to be, their team isn't very strong, they aren't playing the right position, they disagree with the coach, there is a problem with an administrator, there is an eligibility issue, they don't think the coach is doing enough to develop the player, or they don't think the coach is promoting the player enough and on and on and on -- they pack up and leave.

It's become easy. It's become accepted. It's a mentality that has taken on a life of its own, beginning with how easy it is to switch AAU teams -- and listening to those AAU people who are in their ear. It starts the moment kids are freshmen in high school and now, sadly, it extends all the way to leaving a college program after a year or two.

Coming next: A look at the many high-level players that have transferred in recent years from Chicago area high schools and the impact they had at their new school.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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11 Comments

Joe, I disagree with your "please".
If the IHSA words the rule correctly, then students would sit out a year if they transfer from IHSA school to IHSA school.
none the less, even if a kid is ineligible, they still can practice with the team and sit on the bench at games. NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. the IHSA should be about school first and start promoting that concept by banning all transfers from one IHSA schol to another. IT IS SPORTS RELATED (at least in basketball like you said). If the IHSA instituted a rule such as i propose, you would see most of the basketball transfers wouldnt happen . that would prove that they are sports related.

If moving is the issue, then howabout a milage rule like non-boundaried schools have. for instance, if you transfer to a school located 50 miles from your original school, you are ineligible. I dont feel the need for this, but it would be a negotiation with those whom do.
SImple enough, move schools and you do not play. Lets bring loyalty, integrity and committment back to IHSA basketball.

To Phil K: I do understand your issue with all the transfers. But how and why should everything be so clear cut when transferring? A one-year ban for every single transfer? That would mean my two kids, who just moved with me and my wife, would not have been eligible to play their sophomore and junior year of basketball and volleyball. I found a new job. The commute was killing me, both time and mileage/gas. So we moved from one suburban high school to another suburban high school that are probably 20-30 minutes from one another. But because their parent had to make the move, they should suffer the consequences and not be allowed to play sports for an entire year? Just as the story indicated, every transfer is not the same and can't be treated the same. The question is how do you come up with a plan to differentiate between the two.

Tom, Your kids can play, just not in the games. They can practice, and join their team, sitting on the bench at games. Is sports just about playing the game, or is it about the journey? If so, I hope your kids arent asked to red shirt in college, they'll probably refuse and quit. This "my kid wont play". They still can enjoy the ride and learn about sportsmanship while cheering their friends on from the bench. They may even learn more about the game they play by listening to the coach all game long instead of being selfish and only thinking about THEIR playing time.

For those students whom play individual sports, maybe this rule could apply to team sports only, since the majority of 'transfers for sports reasons' are team sport athletes.

Is PHIL K kidding? Feel free to have disgust over all the transfers but how can you defend your statement given to Tom and his kids. Yes lets tell the kids to work hard all year, put their time in, do NOTHING wrong, except their dad has a new job so they must move and not play their senior year. No memories lost there. Clueless people. And Phil K, if a kid redshirts in college he doesn't lose a year of eligibility. Can't do that in high school. Reading idiotic statements like this leave you just scratching your head.

SO Cali, your saying the only thing that matters is the kid playing a game. ITS A GAME. A 'student's life is not over if he cant play a game. I guess we should also change the rules for the kid whom works his butt off all offseason but still isnt better than someone else on the team. BY your selfish logic, we should probably force teh coach to play the kid. Afterall, he did nothing wrong either. ITS A GAME! If the kid's life is ruined because he cant play because his dad moved, there are more serious issues going on in that household and with that kid's life.
Instead of just criticizing, howabout you provide another practical way to stop the insane transfer situations in the IHSA.
BY the way, Indiana has more strict transfer rules, so i guess all those Indiana teenagers whom are 'screwed' by their rules are destined for misery and doom because they have to sit on the bench.

Why are any of you bothering with trying to have any reason or logic with Phil K? He clearly doesn't get it.

I second Steve Wilston's post! But I'll try anyway. The point being that the kid who moves homes and to a new school district because his parents have a new job and have to move did nothing wrong. So why would a student-athlete be punished for that?Why is that so difficult to understand for Phil K?

To Phil K: You do understand you barely make any sense to the masses here. You just compared the "hard-working kid who works his butt off in the offseason but still isn't better" to the "transfer kid who moved because his parents changed jobs." Lets see the difference? Hmmmm, one kid is allowed to play, compete for playing time and the other isn't.

Why is it so hard to understand not playing in a game should not damage a child's mentality that much. If it does, the parenting in that household is very poor. ITS A GAME PEOPLE! You can still enjoy it while sitting on the bench and cheering or standing in a fan section. Many a good times have happened in the good student sections in high school.
DOnt like it, come up woth an alternative that would end this transfer madness without hurting anyone's feelings, since we seem to live in this care-bear society.

Howabout this, any program that annually gets high profile transfers is banned from postseason play. In this sense, the Simeon's, Curie's Morgan Park's, Seton's will either stop recruiting players from other high schools, or tell them "no, you probably should stay where you are" when the kid asks the coach to transfer or face a postseason ban for that year.
How about that idea?

Phil K get a clue..where did you attend school, under a rock? You definitely should have transferred!

Phil, the season hasn't started and you already have people riled up! And I can see why. One big difference between high school and college is that the college player is on scholarship already and has 5 years to complete 4 years of eligibility. The high school player has 4 years to complete 4 years and isn't getting paid (Scholarship) to play.

And let's be honest we are not typically talking about the average high school player here. No one is worried about the average player transferring from one school to another. No large power shift results from that transfer. We are talking about the high profile, elite or soon to be elite, players.If their parents meet the district requirements (i.e. live in the district) then they should be eligible.

Sure it is about getting your child an opportunity to play at a high level, exposure, making them a better player, potentially getting them into a higher quality academic high school and university. It may also be about the father and mother moving to create a better family life. Does it get abused? Yes, there are certainly many cases where it does.

A couple of things really bother me about your rules; it would give all the power to the schools and the coaches, neither of which are infallible, and limit the player and his families options.

The other is that the life of a high school athlete is extremely short - a one year penalty (not being able to play) is 25% of their potential career for a player who is on varsity from his freshman year. For a junior who has to sit out it could be 50% of his varsity career. That is too high a price to pay.

If you want a simple rule, how about this - if a basketball player transfers, for any reason they sit out the first 6 games of the season. Roughly 20-25% of the season. Yes they can practice with the team and they can dress in street clothes and watch those games, but they don't play for those first 6 games. The number of games is the variable to be decided, but a straight forward, simple rule, would have everyone on the same page.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on August 21, 2012 6:55 AM.

And your top 25 prospects in 2013 ... was the previous entry in this blog.

The significant impact of transfers in prep hoops is the next entry in this blog.

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