UND hoops coach Jones adjusting to new era of transfers

GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota men’s basketball coach Brian Jones searched a relevant statistic recently.
He discovered the NCAA men’s basketball graduate transfer list features more than 100 names.
In 2011, the grad transfer list had 15 players.
The gap between those two numbers speaks to the new era in college hoops.
And that’s just one portion of the transfer rush. The website VerbalCommits.com tracks Division I transfers and the current list stands at 685, with one of the most recent additions Fighting Hawks’ star guard Geno Crandall, who has decided to utilize the graduate transfer rule.
His destination is unknown.
The new landscape, which leaves mid-major programs like UND vulnerable to the teams in the high-major ranks, has meant a learning curve for everyone.
“One thing you didn’t have to do even five years ago was constantly recruit your current roster,” Jones said. “That’s the frustrating thing. You’re investing in your kids, which is good, but now you’re looking over your shoulder.”
One area sure to be impacted by the rising number of grad transfers is using a freshman redshirt.
Crandall redshirted his rookie year. By redshirting, players have a better chance to graduate as a junior in terms of remaining eligibility.
“You use to redshirt kids to develop and now you’re worrying about that fifth year,” Jones said. “The stick-to-it-ness is gone. Kids leave when they don’t play, kids leave when they play and kids leave to be at a high level. It’s a culture I’m not excited about in my sport.”
With that said, Jones also realizes the landscape is the new reality. Tightening transfer restrictions doesn’t appear to be the momentum of recent NCAA rules.
“We have to find ways to adjust to it,” he said. “That’s where we’re at. You can’t fight it. How do we manage it? That’s what we’re still trying to work through.”
With high-major programs snatching up talent from mid-major programs, where does that leave schools like UND? Is there a counter maneuver?
“You get kids who don’t play for years at a high major that were probably talented enough but haven’t had the opportunities,” Jones said. “Even then, though, you have a learning curve because they’re out of rhythm. Playing in practice and playing in games are two very different things.”
Jones also wondered whether mid-major schools will look to obtain graduate transfers from the NCAA Division II ranks, which is a rare move right now.
In the last two years, UND has been faced with the losses of three graduate transfers — with Crandall joining the 2017 exits of Carson Shanks (Loyola Chicago) and Drick Bernstine (Washington State).
“Honestly, losing Geno is big, but I love our offseason,” Jones said. “We had to make some changes in our roster and it had to do with getting back to our North Dakota way and the culture that allowed us to make a run two years ago.
“As coaches, we sat back and evaluated ourselves and had some hard conversations with ourselves and with our team. We’re back on track, and I’m excited about where we’re going.”