With two open scholarships at his disposal, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle is ready to start fishing in uncharted waters.
Earlier this week CU announced that guards Thomas Akyazili and Bryce Peters are leaving the program, with Akyazili set to return to his native Belgium to play professionally and Peters opting to transfer after just one season with the Buffaloes.
Like last year, when Tre'Shaun Fletcher and Kenan Guzonjic left the program, Boyle and his staff will spend the spring attempting to use the open roster spots to bolster the team's overall depth. Unlike any previous season, however, Boyle admits he will scour a resource he previously shied away from — the graduate transfer market.
"We're going to look at the graduate transfer market, which we've never done before," Boyle said. "We'll see what we can get and what's available. We're involved right now with a couple. We'll see if we can get that done. We may or may not. We've got a lot of oars in the water, so to speak. We recruit all season because of these kinds of scenarios. It's just the nature of college basketball today."
What makes graduate transfers alluring is they are eligible immediately instead of having to sit out a season as is the standard for undergraduate transfers. While Boyle would not comment on CU's targets, on Friday CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported Rutgers graduate transfer Nigel Johnson was planning to visit Colorado. However, Johnson committed to Virginia over the weekend.
A number of potential impact players remain on a market that has turned into college basketball's equivalent of free agency. Point guard Kendall Smith averaged at least 15 points the past two seasons for Cal State-Northridge, shooting .448 from the floor this past season. Guard Elijah Brown averaged almost 19 points for New Mexico — a team CU begins a home-and-home series against next season — though a report from CBS Sports has linked Brown with Gonzaga, Iowa State, Northwestern, Oregon, and St. Mary's.
Guard Egor Koulechov, a prolific scorer for two seasons at Rice, is set to visit Oklahoma this weekend according to a report on Scout.com. Perhaps most intriguing is former Pitt player Cameron Johnson, a 6-foot-8 guard who averaged 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds with a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. What is most enticing about Johnson is that he graduated in three years while taking a redshirt along the way, meaning he still has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
On a personal level Boyle still is not a fan of the ever-increasing rash of transfers that has completely altered the college basketball landscape. Yet it is a landscape he nonetheless readily accepts as a potential vehicle for improving his program.
"I think it's a reflection on the day in age we live in. Our society, the way kids are brought up today," Boyle said. "Kids transfer high schools at an alarming rate. They change AAU teams at an alarming rate. I'm not saying that's the case in every situation. There are legitimate reasons for kids to transfers. But once you see the numbers today versus what it was even five years ago, it's staggering."
While Akyazili's defection was understandable — the sophomore saw his playing time decrease this past season, and he has a chance to earn a paycheck back home — Peters' one season at CU proved more frustrating. The 6-foot-4 guard displayed flashes of a versatile scoring ability, yet that was far overshadowed by the off-court issues that left Peters suspended for a full quarter of the Buffs' season.
"Part of our job as coaches is to help educate young men, and we have a framework and standards and expectations of all our players. When those aren't met, we have to address those situations," Boyle said. "Unfortunately Bryce was unable to do what he needed to do to be a member of this program. Hopefully the next place he lands he can figure those things out."