Posted by Eric Angevine
We've talked recently about the practice of grabbing grad students as transfers for one-year tours of duty. North Carolina and Tennessee did it with, respectively, Justin Knox (formerly at Alabama) and John Fields (formerly at UNC-Wilmington). Both players had completed their degrees but retained a year of eligibility due to sitting out a season along the way. As prospective grad students, both players became free to pursue immediate playing time elsewhere, as long as they chose a course of study that was unavailable at the institution they had been attending.
Those two big men provided depth and little else, but that hasn't stopped programs in need from pursuing similar situations when they arise. I suggested last week that N.C. State might look at Ole Miss grad Trevor Gaskins as an experienced gap-filler this season. Another case has come up at Michigan State, where Tom Izzo is battling three other big-time programs for the future services of a Valparaiso graduate. The Detroit Free Press has the story:
Wood retains his year of eligibility because he started out at Southern Illinois and sat out a year before playing two for Homer Drew at Valpo. He stayed on track academically while also becoming the team's leading scoring option, which brings him to this point, where he is eligible to play for a third school, this time one in the sport's highest collegiate echelon.
Tom Izzo rounded out his coaching staff April 20 with 31-year-old Dane Fife, who left his head coaching job at Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne. Now Izzo might fill out his roster with Brandon Wood, a 6-foot-2 guard who led Valparaiso in scoring last season.
Because Wood will receive his degree in sports marketing May 15, he can transfer to another Division I school and play right away, so long as it offers a graduate program Valparaiso doesn't. He said he also has interest from Purdue, Connecticut and Florida State.
Prior to Monday's meeting, Wood had discussed the possibility of a transfer in phone conversations with Izzo, assistant coach Mike Garland and MSU senior forward Draymond Green.
Wood initiated the contact with MSU because he thinks he could benefit from a year at the highest level of college basketball.
Wood's approach actually seems very smart. He's built a reputation as a strong player and done well academically. He has put his name in the NBA draft pool, but has already announced that he plans to gather information and withdraw, presumably to attend one of the four schools listed by the Free Press. That's four NCAA tourney schools, including the national champs, by the way. In fact, Wood scored 20 on Purdue - one of his suitors - just last season.
Each of those programs could obviously use a dynamic and level-headed player like Wood, as well. Michigan State has suffered from a rash of injuries and defections over the past two years, and some very public personality conflicts have arisen between the head coach and some of his players. Wood won't be the antidote to that kind of thing, but he seems like a lock not to add stress to the mix of his own accord. Whether his presence will incite rebellion amongst players who want more PT or not... who knows?
Brandon Wood has nothing but good choices here. He is likely to succeed wherever he transfers, he has his degree and he can likely amp up expectations for any school he joins.
Wood may not have had the smoothest ride thus far, but it's nice to see a true student-athlete with a bright future ahead of him, making sound decisions. We'll keep an eye on where this kid ends up.