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Chuck Landon: MU can succeed with juco transfers

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 12:31 AM

Conversation, conjecture and criticism.

The opinions among Marshall's fans have run that gamut on the topic of junior college transfers in coach Tom Herrion's men's basketball program.

Some fans are concerned.

Some are alarmed.

Some just don't plain like it.

Many Marshall fans don't seem to believe that is the way to build an NCAA Division I basketball program.

They point to Marshall having four juco transfers on the 2012-13 team -- Dennis Tinnon, Rob Goff, Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver. Then, they see at least four or five on next year's squad -- Pittman, Scarver and recruits Shawn Smith and Justin Edmonds. And they question the direction of the program.

Here's two words for those skeptics: Wichita State.

The same Shockers that are coached by former Marshall assistant Gregg Marshall and will play Louisville at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta?

That's the one.

Well, guess how many junior college transfers are on Wichita State's roster?

Six.

That's right, six.

The list includes the Shockers' three leading scorers. Cleanthony Early leads Wichita State with 13.7 points after spending the last two years at Sullivan junior college. Shot-blocking Carl Hall is next at 12.5 points after transferring from NW Florida State junior college. Then, guard Malcolm Armstead is averaging 10.9 points after joining the program from Chipola junior college.

Reserves include Nick Wiggins, who transferred from Wabash (Ill.) Valley junior college, and Chadrack Lutile, who was at Chipola, Vincennes and Coffeyville first.

The sixth is Kadeem Coleby, who played juco ball at Odessa (Texas) and Daytona State (Fla.) before spending a season with Louisiana-Lafayette. Coleby is sitting out this season because ULL would not release him.

The point is Wichita State has built its Final Four program around juco transfers.

Welcome to life at the mid-majors level.

A steady diet of junior college transfers is just about the only way for a mid-major program to have success year-in and year-out in today's collegiate basketball world. That's because mid-majors simply can't recruit enough high-level prep stars that are capable of being impact players.

So, such mid-major coaches as Gregg Marshall and Tom Herrion turn to the juco route.

Sometimes it pays dividends, as it has for Wichita State. Sometimes it doesn't, as was the case for Marshall this season.

But neither result is because of junior college transfers, per se. The key is chemistry. Wichita State has wonderful chemistry, thanks to such role players as Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet.

Marshall, on the other hand, never developed chemistry after losing freshman point guard Kareem Canty to academic ineligibity.

Yes, one missing player can make that big of a difference.

Just ask John Calipari.

When Nerlens Noel suffered a season-ending knee injury, Kentucky fell completely apart. Even before Noel's injury, the Wildcats weren't playing at their usual level because Ryan Harrow wasn't a quality point guard. That's why Harrow already has transferred to Georgia State.

But I digress.

The point is junior college transfers are a way of life at the mid-major level and the Herd faithful needs to accept that fact.

Wichita State fans certainly have.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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