As each season comes to a close, we all fear it. We dread it more than a Monday morning, knowing it’s inevitable, yet maybe if we just don’t think about it, it somehow will never arrive. Then, like clockwork, there it is:
This past season featured many former NEC players across the college basketball landscape; one even played in the Final Four. Don’t expect players to stop leaving Northeast Conference schools anytime soon, because in almost every case it worked out very well for the individual players.
Let's take a look at the following guys who played in higher level leagues this past season (also known as “up-transfers”):
Marcquise Reed (Robert Morris to Clemson)- The 2015 NEC ROY, Reed parlayed that strong freshman season into a spot in the ACC, and it has paid off. As a junior this past season, Reed started all 35 games for the Tigers, leading the team in scoring (15.8 pg) and usage (24.2%), while earning 2nd team All-ACC honors. He averaged 14 ppg in the NCAA tournament, leading Clemson to the Sweet 16, where they lost by four to Kansas.
Matt Mobley (Central Connecticut St. to St. Bonaventure)- Near and dear to my heart, Mobley exploded onto the seen as a sophomore at CCSU where he scored 17.2 ppg after averaging just 7 ppg as a freshman, earning 2nd team All-NEC. However, after the Blue Devils finished just 5-26 overall in 2014-15, Mobley headed to the A-10 where he flourished under former Robert Morris head coach Mark Schmidt, earning 2nd team All-Atlantic 10 honors as a junior and being named to the first team as a senior. He averaged over 18 ppg in both seasons for the Bonnies, and helped lead them to the Round of 32. The up-transfer couldn’t have worked out better for Mobley, who has certainly put himself in a position to earn a paycheck playing basketball somewhere.
Marques Townes (Fairleigh Dickinson to Loyola-Chicago)- Townes averaged 11.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg as a sophomore at FDU, improving his 3P% from 29.3% as a freshman to 34%. After sitting out a year, Townes started every game for the for the Ramblers, averaging 11 ppg and being named to the MVC All-Tournament Team, which Loyola won. Oh, and he helped lead the team into the Final Four.
Cane Broome (Sacred Heart to Cincinnati)- Perhaps no one exemplified the heart ache of the NEC transfer problem more than Cane Broome. After winning NEC POY as a sophomore in 2016-17, Broome left SHU for Cincinnati. After sitting out a year, Broome averaged 20.5 mpg across 34 games (including three starts), chipping in 8 points and 3 assists per game. While the Bearcats asked much less of Broome in terms of scoring than the Pioneers did, Broome made leaps as a point guard, posting a 27.8% assist rate in conference play (up from 18.3% as a sophomore in the NEC), which ranked 7th in the AAC. Broome clearly bet on himself and it paid off.
Stephen Jiggetts (Fairleigh Dickinson to South Florida)- Perhaps more of an under the radar transfer when compared to some of the previous players, Jiggetts parlayed a solid, if unspectacular, three year career at FDU into an opportunity to play in the AAC. Sure, USF was terrible this past season (10-22 overall), but Jiggetts proved he belonged, leading the team in scoring and assists (12.5 ppg and 3.3 apg), while starting all 32 games for the Bulls.
Nura Zanna (LIU to Houston)- Zanna was one of the best big-men in the league two seasons ago, averaging 9 points and 9 boards a game while shooting 65% from the field in conference play. The grad transfer was a rotation player for the Cougars this past season, getting about 15 mpg and chipping in 3 ppg and 4 rpg. He played 27 minutes in Houston’s 1st round win over San Diego St.
Mawdo Sallah (Mount St. Mary’s to Kansas St.)- One of the more head-scratching transfers after the 2017 season was the big man from the Mount, who had a solid sophomore campaign; 6 points and 5 boards in 20 minutes per game. But for him to end up in the Big 12 was somewhat surprising, and it didn’t really pay off, at least not in terms of basketball. Sallah played just 8 mpg across 21 appearances, averaging 1.8 points and 1.9 rebounds a game. However, given Sallah’s circumstances, it wasn’t a terrible move; he was immediately eligible after his sophomore year, and has already transferred to Radford as an ultra-rare double grad transfer. The Big South champs lose their starting center to graduation, and he will likely step in and garner significant minutes for the expected league favorite.
Some other notable transfers:
Jairus Lyles (Robert Morris to UMBC)- The America East POY began his career at VCU before transferring to Robert Morris, however he sat out the 14-15 season due to transfer rules, then left for UMBC. Lyles scored 28 points in the Retrievers’ historic upset over #1 seed Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, which punctuated a decorated career at UMBC.
Elijah Minnie (Robert Morris to Eastern Michigan)- Minnie spent two seasons as a solid rotation player for Andy Toole, and as a sophomore chipped in 12 points and 6.5 boards per game for the Colonials before being dismissed from the team in early February of that season due to disciplinary issues. After sitting out the 16-17 season due to transfer rules, the 6’8” stretch-4 exploded in the MAC, averaging 17 ppg and shooting 34% from three/55% from two/81% from the foul line (54.6% eFG%). He was also one of the better defensive players in the league, as he finished 3rd in block rate and 4th in steal rate, and was named to the All-MAC third team.
B.K. Ashe and Charles Clover (Mount St. Mary’s to Longwood)- After averaging 14 ppg for Jamion Christian in 2016, Ashe left as a “sit one, play one”, which was confusing in a lot of ways. He had a fine season for Longwood (13 points and 5 boards per game), but he could have been a focal point on the 2017 Mount team that won the league. Glover, however, left as a grad transfer after averaging just 4.5 mpg as a junior and really flourished at Longwood, averaging 9 ppg in 27.5 mpg. (It’s worth mentioning that Longwood was one of the very worst teams in D-1, finishing 7-26 overall and rated #340 at Kenpom).
This upcoming season, we will see a whole new crop of former NEC players test their talents against better competition. Nisre Zouzoua and Corey Henson (Nevada); Miles Wilson (Miami), Josh Nebo (Texas A&M),Quincy McKnight (Seton Hall), Elijah Long (Texas), and Braden Burke (Michigan State) will all be eligible for their teams in November. If history is any measure of what’s to come, it’s likely that most of these players will have some success.