More than 350 players have been granted transfer requests since the conclusion of the college basketball season. The number may well approach 500 within the next few weeks. The rampant movement strikes both ways for new Niagara University coach Chris Casey. While the Purple Eagles have two starters leaving the program, transience within the college game also affords ample opportunity to find quality replacements.
Casey finished cleaning out his office at Long Island C.W. Post on Monday and Tuesday was making the drive cross-state to set up home base on Monteagle Ridge. He arrived to find the cupboard barer than when he was named last week to replace the departed Joe Mihalich. All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference guard Juan’ya Green and leading rebounder Ameen Tanksley have been given permission to transfer and will finish their careers elsewhere, likely in proximity to their native Philadelphia. Both are free to transfer to Hofstra and follow Mihalich if they wish, but would likely have to sit out a season anywhere they go.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Casey said. “Anytime there’s change there’s the possibility of that happening. I’m disappointed not in them. I’m disappointed I don’t get an opportunity to coach them. By all accounts they’re two wonderful kids and they’re obviously very good basketball players. So I’m disappointed I don’t have the opportunity to coach them. I certainly wish them well. They’ve made important contributions to Niagara basketball and the Niagara University community.”
Casey’s first challenge is in filling the void, a task magnified by the timing. The late signing period has already passed. But the growing list of players set to transfer as well as the junior college ranks provide an avenue to fill vacancies with shorter-term solutions. Canisius College and Niagara both have had success in those areas, the Griffs with Division I transfers and St. Bonaventure with Juco talent.
“They’re all pools that you have to recruit from,” Casey said. “There’s quality people and quality players in all those areas – the transfer route, the high school route, the junior college route. I don’t have a stance where I want to avoid any of those areas. I just want to get character kids and I want to get hard-working kids and I want to get talented kids who are serious about doing well in school and being good citizens and working hard on the court. You can find them by looking in any of those areas.
“We do have some work to do. It’s late in the game but recruiting is a constant thing. Recruiting never stops and it’s the lifeblood of your program. You just go out and you turn over every stone and try to find the best players you can to add back to your ranks. And we will. We’ll find some good guys.”
Casey and his staff, consisting predominantly of his C.W. Post assistants, will get right to work on replacing the missing pieces. As of Tuesday, he said no other Niagara players were seeking transfers. If that holds true the Purple Eagles still will return a solid nucleus in all-MAAC guard Antoine Mason, all-freshman team member T.J. Cline and freshman point guard Tahjere McCall. It’s a start but the departures mean there’s a long way to go to get the 19-win program back where it was.
“I can’t make any predictions on it obviously,” Casey said. “We’re going to go out and turn over every rock and make the team as good as it can be.”