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Purdue Basketball And The Growing Transfer Problem

Under Matt Painter 15 players have left the Purdue basketball program in nine years with eligibility remaining. This is a major problem facing the Boilers.

Joe Robbins

We like to make fun of "Creaning" with our neighbors to the south, as Tom Crean is notorious for oversigning on players, then allegedly influencing some to leave in favor of the next new hot player. The most notorious example was Ron Patterson, who allegedly did not have the grades to make it into Indiana even though the requirements to make it into a state school in Indiana is often "has pulse". Indiana cut ties to Patterson, where he ended up at Syracuse, while Crean held onto the legendary Peter Jurkin instead.

At Purdue, however, we have a bigger problem in a similar area. Transfers have been rampant for Matt Painter ever since his first season in 2005-06. It reached epidemic proportions recently as Ronnie Johnson became the fifth player to leave the program for another school within a calendar year. Let's look back at the entire Painter era and see how big of a problem it is.

Chris Lutz - Lutz started 24 games for Matt Painter's first team that went 9-19 and he averaged 9.2 points as a freshman, where he was good enough to make the all-Big Ten freshman team. The next season he shot 47% from three and scored 16 as Purdue beat Arizona in its return to the NCAA Tournament. Lutz looked like he was going to be a three-point specialist for two more seasons, but abruptly left for Marshall once the Baby Boilers got on campus. He played two seasons for the Thundering Herd and is now playing professionally in the Philippines, where he is also a member of their National Team.

Just imagine if he had been a junior and senior three-point specialist when the Baby Boilers were freshmen and sophomores.

Korey Spates - Spates got off to a rough start at Purdue, as some off the court issues led to his dismissal from the team in January of 2006. He started the season with a six-day suspension and was really the first victim of Painter's disciplinary policies. Spates averaged 10.1 points per game in 15 games and three starts and could have been an excellent senior point guard when the Baby Boilers were sophomores, but he was long gone by then.

Spates was suppose to continue his career at Kent State, but never played college basketball again.

Nate Minnoy - Minnoy was another promising young player on Painter's first team that did not last in West Lafayette. He averaged over 10 points per game before tearing his MCL after 13 games in December. He missed the rest of the season and then transferred to Schoolcraft College for a season where he used a year of eligibility as a JuCo. He played for a season at Central Michigan before ending his career at the NAIA level at Lee University.

Minnoy clearly had issues where he could not make up his damn mind. You don't go from averaging 10 points per game as a freshman in the Big Ten to struggling at the NAIA level without having something go wrong. He is now an assistant coach at a high school in Michigan.

Gordon Watt - Watt was a transfer from Boston College that became eligible during the 2006-07 season. He started 33 of 34 games and averaged 7.1 points as Purdue returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. That would be his only season in West Lafayette, as a DWI in October 2007 had him dismissed from the program before his junior season. It was his second alcohol-related arrest at Purdue.

Jonathan Uchendu - Uchendu played in 27 games as a reserve freshman in 2006-07 and averaged 1.8 points per game. The 6'11" center was a developmental player that would have provided nice depth in the following years as Purdue was very thin in the post. Unfortunately, Uchendu did not stick around. He transferred to Arkansas-Little Rock. He never played college basketball again, and his story has a tragic ending. On November 7, 2009 he was struck by a car and killed walking along Interstate 430 in Arkansas.

Dan Vandervieren - Vandervieren was very much an unknown at Purdue. He lasted just one season, 2006-07, as a deep reserve where he played in 18 games and averaged 1.7 points. The 6'10" 250 pound center was also a developmental big man that did not stick around. He eventually transferred to Colorado State, where he averaged 6.2 points per game in one season. After that he disappeared for awhile, but ended up in the NBA D-league for 18 games two seasons ago. He also has some boss tattoos now, too.

Scott Martin - Martin was labeled as "The Traitor" for a long time around here, as he left Purdue and the Baby Boilers after averaging 8.5 points per game. he was supposed to be part of the class that returned Purdue to the Final Four, and had he stayed, maybe he proves to be the depth needed to make up for Robbie Hummel when he eventually went down.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Martin transferred to Notre Dame, tore his ACL twice, got a sixth year of eligibility, and finally finished his college career last season. He is now playing professionally over in England.

Patrick Bade - I don't consider Bade to be a transfer, as he stayed at Purdue, but changed sports. He played basketball for two years before moving over to football, where he finished this past season as a walk-on tight end with a handful of career receptions.

John Hart - Things stabilized for awhile after the Martin transfer, but Hart would be the first to go after a long break. Hart redshirted as a true freshman and his memorable game at Illinois in 2009-10 played a large role in Purdue winning the Big Ten title that season. Hart would battle injuries in three seasons and could have been a valuable addition as a shooter on last season's team. His redshirt allowed him to graduate early, however, and rather than stay at Purdue he moved on to IUPUI, where he averaged 14.2 points per game in 19 games before being declared academically ineligible at midseason. At the time he was shooting almost 39% from three, where he would have been extremely valuable had he stayed at Purdue.

Kelsey Barlow - Barlow was an excellent defender, an athletic point guard, and a Jekyl and Hyde player for almost three seasons in West Lafayette. He showed flashes of brilliance one moment before making a dumb play the next, earning him the nickname here of GDB (Godammit Barlow for a boneheaded play God Damn, Barlow! After a good play). He got himself suspended for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, making Purdue short-handed at the worst possible time. His visit to Where Else in February 2012 got teammate D.J. Byrd arrested and Barlow dismissed from the program. He finished his career averaging 14.8 points per game this past season at Illinois-Chicago

Sandi Marcius - The Chooch became the third member of the four-man recruiting class of 2009 to not finish his career in a Purdue basketball uniform. Marcius was limited his first season due to a foot injury, which led to his redshirt. He then played mostly as a backup or three seasons before coming on in the final 10 games of the 2012-13 season. It was hoped he would stay to push A.J. Hammons this season, but he graduated and transferred to DePaul. His departure was also kind of sour, as Purdue did not provide a scholarship for his last two classes so he could graduate in time to play at DePaul.

The Chooch doubled his season high in minutes this past year, but only averaged 4.8 points per game.

Anthony Johnson - Little AJ, as we called him, redshirted his freshman season before playing during 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. He averaged about five points per game but decided to walk after last season, costing himself a year of eligibility. He will have one year left next season when he becomes eligible at Northern Illinois.

Jacob Lawson - Lawson was one of two members in the now completely lost 2011 recruiting class. A spectacular dunker, he showed a bit of a midrange game last season, but his minutes waned late as Marcius came on. He left Purdue for Appalachian State after never averaging more than 2.4 points per game.

Donnie Hale - Hale was the second member of the 2009 class after spending a year at a prep school in new England specifically so he could come to Purdue. Coach Painter then redshirted him before he finally played as a freshman last season. He had some good moments and averaged 3.8 points per game, but suddenly decided to transfer just before practice started this last fall. He supposedly wanted to get closer to home due to having a young child in the Louisville area. Since he was going down a Division he was immediately eligible and he played in 19 games, averaging 4.7 points per game for 23-8 Bellarmine, who was eliminated from the D-II tournament by Indianapolis on Saturday.

Ronnie Johnson - Ronnie is the highest profile transfer since Scott Martin. A starter from day 1, he averaged more than 10 points per game in his two years on campus, but asked to leave this weekend. Boiled Sports had a great post about some of the issues behind Ronnie's transfer. We don't know where he will end up, but Butler seems like a strong possibility as the Bulldogs recruited him in HS and it would be a return home of sorts.

So, if you're counting, that is 15 players during coach Painter's nine seasons that have left the program before completing their eligibility. Some, like Spates, Barlow, and Watt were dismissed due to disciplinary issues, but others simply left the program for their own reasons. It is one thing to lose guys to the NBA because it is a sign you have a healthy program that is developing players. It is another to lose 15 guys in nine years when not a single one of them made it two the NBA. By my count only three (Lutz, Vandervieren, and Martin) played professionally at all.

This is a disturbing trend, especially with five transfers in less than a year. It is not coincidence that Painter's best stretch, from 2008-12, came with the fewest transfers. There was consistency on the roster and it led to consistency on the floor. Since late in the 2011-12 season, however, seven players (Hart, Barlow, Marcius, A. Johnson, Hale, Lawson, and R. Johnson) have left the team. All seven of those players could have been on last season's roster, and four of them should be upper class leaders on next season's team.

Maybe that is why they are not around anymore, however. Did we see much of the much-needed leadership out of any of those players during their tenure? Only Ronnie seemed to show that. The rest never had the minutes and fled the program in search of more rather than be part of the larger team goals. These defections have forced freshmen into bigger roles earlier in their careers and made Purdue extremely young for what will be a third season in a row next season.

So is this on Painter or the players? Blame probably lies in both camps. We don't know the true reasons for every transfer, but it takes two people to agree and move forward. The players chose not to agree with the goals and expectations Painter set for them and Painter's expectations in some cases may have not been what they had in mind. I always felt that some guys like Hale, Anthony Johnson, and Barlow were a bit out of position. Barlow, in my eyes, should have been a small forward that can rebound well with his athleticism. Hale I viewed as a Hummel-lite at the four with his ability to hit the midrange jumper and stretch defenses. Anthony Johnson was supposedly a great shooter in high school, but rarely attempt threes at Purdue.

Whatever the case, these transfers need to end. Purdue will not improve until there is roster stability, and now the 2014-15 season looks like a lost season unless the five incoming freshmen can immediately contribute on a level similar to the Baby Boilers.