|Birch was at Pitt for not even a semester before transferring to UNLV. (AP)|
Jabari Brown lasted just two games and a grand total of 51 minutes under Dana Altman in Eugene, Ore. Khem Birch started six of his first 10 collegiate games at Pittsburgh before deciding to bolt.
Both will make their debuts with their new teams Monday night. They come with legitimate concerns after leaving their first collegiate stops with such a lack of patience. Brown was a McDonald's All-American coming out of Oakland, Calif., regarded as a pivotal recruit for Altman in his quest to make theDucks relevant. Birch came to Pittsburgh as the highest-rated player in Panthers history, a 6-foot-9 raw and athletic shot-blocker who grew up in Canada and bounced around to a couple of prep schools.
Brown averaged 25.5 minutes per game in Eugene before leaving just two games into the season. Birch was also receiving plenty of playing time, about 18 minutes over his final seven games, but was unhappy socially at the school and departed after just the 10th game of the season.
Brown will take the court Monday night for Frank Haith against South Carolina State. Brown is a 6-foot-5, 205-pound wing the Tigers are hoping will be able to make shots from the perimeter. With the loss of Michael Dixon, who left amid sexual-assault allegations, Haith desperately needs someone who can keep defenses honest. It'll take some of the pressure off Phil Pressey -- and give the speedy point guard someone to kick the ball to in the halfcourt and in transition.
Missouri is shooting 35 percent from long range through the first nine games of the season, but the Tigers don't possess a lights-out shooter from deep. Right now it's Laurence Bowers, who is 11 of 19 from beyond the arc. If Brown can fill that void, it would add a key element to this team -- which possesses one of the top floor leaders, a couple of quality bigs in Alex Orakhi and Laurence Bowers -- and athletic wings in Keion Bell and Ernest Ross.
Rice told CBSSports.com that Birch will come off the bench Monday night down in El Paso against UTEP. He's a long, athletic big man who runs the court extremely well and also will provide the Runnin' Rebels with a prolific shot-blocker. He averaged 4.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his brief stint under Jamie Dixon, and will likely provide UNLV with a defensive presence. The Runnin' Rebels recently lost veteran forward Mike Moser for the next month or so due to a dislocated elbow, so Birch should receive extensive time on the court. When Moser returns, however, it'll be interesting to see what Rice does -- and whether he can effectively put up a frontline of Moser, freshman Anthony Bennett and Birch.
Transfers usually come with baggage. Sometimes it works, but seemingly more often than not, it backfires. Both Haith and Rice have rolled the dice with multiple transfers. Haith added Oriakhi (UConn), Bell (Pepperdine) and Ross (Auburn) while Rice brought in Bryce Dejean-Jones (USC) and Roscoe Smith (UConn), who is sitting out this season. The jury remains out on virtually all of them except for maybe Oriakhi, who is nearly averaging a doubole-double thus far.
There's no doubting that both Brown and Birch have talent and could address a legitimate need to their new teams. Brown could be the perimeter shooter that could take Missouri to the Final Four, even without Dixon. UNLV has all the depth and talent, but could use a big-time shot-blocker who can outrun opposing big men and get easy buckets in transition.
Both have waited for the past year -- and both begin their second chances Monday night.