PICK 'N' ROLL
Pick 'n' Roll:
Originally Published: Dec 16, 2012

For some transfers, Christmas comes early

By Robbi Pickeral
ESPN.com

Missouri guard Jabari Brown isn't quite sure whether he'll be able to sleep Sunday night.

"I know I'll have a little bit of jitters, but I also know I'll be mostly excited,'' he said late last week. "I haven't played for a long, long time, but I know I'm ready."

Jabari Brown
Kelly KlineJabari Brown will bring an offensive boost to the Missouri Tigers.

Monday (sleepless night before or not), the 6-foot-5, former four-star prospect is scheduled to play in his first college basketball game since he started twice, and scored 12 points, as a freshman at Oregon last November.

He's one of a large number of men's college basketball players who opted to transfer last season. But he's also part of a smaller subset of that group that left their previous schools by the end of the first semester of 2011-12. After sitting out the NCAA-mandated year, many are allowed to play again beginning this week.

Finally.

"It's an amazing feeling, counting down these days,'' said Georgia Tech's Stacey Poole, who decided to transfer from Kentucky after last season's blue/white game and should be available to play next Saturday, after his fall semester grade becomes official. "It's kind of like Christmas when you were little, when you thought there was a Santa Claus, and you don't know what gifts you're going to get. It's that exciting feeling."

Adding a player 8-to-10 games into a season can be a boon to a team, especially because that player has already had that transfer year to practice, and learn, with his new squad. But it can also be tricky. As ESPN.com's Andy Katz wrote last week, the player has to find the right fit as far as minutes, position and chemistry -- and the entire team has to make that fit work.

"It's always difficult to join the rotation midseason,'' UNLV coach Dave Rice told Katz. "It usually works out, just not as quickly as you would like.''

No. 20 UNLV looks to have a pretty good "fit" for Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch -- as well as a need to fit him into the rotation fast. With leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Mike Moser out for an indefinite period of time after dislocating his elbow last weekend, Rebels fans are hoping the former McDonalds High School All-American forward (who started six of 10 games before opting to transfer) can immediately pick up some of the slack.

The same goes for Brown at No. 12 Missouri, which will be looking for some extra offense after Michael Dixon Jr. -- who had been suspended since the beginning of the season -- announced last month that he would transfer.

"I try not to look at it as pressure; I just look at it as more reason for me to step up,'' said Brown, who averaged 23.8 points as a senior in high school and was ranked No. 26 among ESPN's top 100 recruits in 2011. "He was a great player here. I just want to ease the blow of him leaving."

Drew Gordon
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriKeala King will help a Long Beach State backcourt that's been hit with injuries.

And although Long Beach State coach Dan Monson has never had more than one player added to his team after the holidays, he's looking forward to getting guard Keala King and forwards Tony Freeland and Edgar Garibay -- formerly of Arizona State, DePaul and Loyola Marymount, respectively -- eligible as early as Tuesday's game at UCLA. The 49ers have been shorthanded with injuries to guards Branford Jones and Jerramy King.

Providence's Sidiki Johnson is another midseason transfer who could immediately slide into the frontcourt mix when he makes his debut against Colgate on Tuesday. San Diego State forward James Johnson, a transfer from Virginia, is expected to make his Aztecs debut, also Tuesday, against NAIA school Point Loma Nazarene.

And La Salle guard Tyrone Garland, a midseason transfer from Virginia Tech, played 22 minutes off the bench and scored nine points in his first game for the Explorers on Saturday night.

Some midseason transfers, such as Poole at Georgia Tech, may have a little more work to do in order to make an immediate impact. After all, he joins a rotation that is already two-deep on the wings, and coach Brian Gregory has said Poole will have to earn his place and minutes.

Even so, Poole said transferring first semester last season -- even though it meant not earning an NCAA title with the Wildcats -- was worth it.

"I could have stayed, I could have had a ring ... but I kind of knew my time would be limited and stuff like that,'' he said. "And going into my second year, I thought it was time for a change.

"I wish I could have started earlier with [Tech] and played that first game this season. And I know I have to blend in, probably coming off the bench. But once I get my feet wet, I should be fine. I know how to play the game, just sitting out and watching, I know where I can strive to fit in. I just can't wait to get in there."

Brown said the key to making the last two semesters fly by quickly -- and to fitting into the mix midseason -- was focusing on improving his overall game and not thinking about the next game in which he'd get to play. Which is why, now that he's finally allowing himself to think about it, Monday's matchup with South Carolina State can't get here fast enough. It may be late December already, but he knows he can make a difference.

"Will I sleep Sunday night? That's a good question,'' he said. "I don't know. But I do know I'm ready to get back...

MORE NCAAB COVERAGE