Yesterday, Paul Jesperson announced that he would transfer out of the Virginia program. Transfers are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in college basketball, and UVA has not been an exception to this rule in recent seasons. Since Coach Bennett took the job, nine players have departed early, eight to other college programs and one to the professional ranks. Here's a look back at the circumstances surrounding their departures and where they stand now.
John Bradenburg - July 2009, transferred to Colgate after freshman year
After a freshman year in which he rarely saw the court, John Brandenburg never played for Coach Bennett, transferring out months after he was hired. Brandenburg averaged just 1 point in 3.3 minutes per game in his freshman season. The Daily Progress speculated that the 6'-11" center from St. Louis, who was highly regarded as a recruit, would fit well in Bennett's system, but he abruptly decided to transfer to Colgate instead.
At Colgate, Brandenburg was little more than a role player. He just completed his senior season, in which he averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds in 19.6 minutes. The Colgate Raiders finished 11-21 this season out in the Patriot League.
Sylven Landesberg - March 2010, went pro in Israel after sophomore year
Isn't it amazing to think that Sylven was in line to play with Mike Scott last season in the Big Dance? Landesberg carried a miserable UVA squad back in Dave Leitao's last season, averaging 16.6 PPG on his way to an ACC Freshman of the Year award. Despite a similarly statistically strong second season, Sylven never jived with Coach Bennett (i.e. he didn't care to play defense) and ended up suspended for the ACC Tournament after he failed to meet his academic obligations....by failing to show up for an attendance-only art class. Make no mistake about it, Sylven was a great player - check out these highlights for a refresher. However, he never seemed to have the best team-first attitude.
After that suspension, Landesberg went pro; he went undrafted and played a bit of NBA Summer League before heading to Israel. As Sylven's father is Jewish, he gained citizenship and played 3 seasons with Maccabi Haifa, where he starred, averaging 20.7 ppg, before moving this past summer to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel's premier team.
Tel Aviv's season is currently underway. The team plays simultaneously in both the Israeli league as well as the Euroleague; Sylven averages 6 points and 4 ppg, respectively, in the two. Landesberg and Tel Aviv took on Real Madrid last Wednesday and Friday in European play, then Bnai Hasharon Sunday in the Israeli league.
Tristan Spurlock - March 2010, transferred to UCF after freshman year
After originally committing to Dave Leitao, Tristan Spurlock eventually decided to reaffirm his plan to attend Virginia. Despite his superior athleticism, Spurlock struggled to pick up the Packline defense and averaged just 5 minutes per game his freshman year. His discontent was an open secret, and he announced that he would transfer upon the season's conclusion.
Spurlock has gone on to have some success at Central Florida. He averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes per game and will have a chance to play in the American Athletic Conference (the former Big East) next season.
Jeff Jones - April 2010, transferred to Rider after junior year
UVA basketball fans will remember Jones as another highly-touted recruit that just never quite panned out as hoped. Though a solid offensive player, who shot 43.5% from behind the arc his junior season, he was often streaky and saw his playing time seriously diminished when the free-shooter never bought into Coach Bennett's system (sound familiar?). Jeff Jones's father told the Daily Progress at the time that while Jeff loved Virginia and the coaches, the new system just "wasn't a great fit."
Jones sat out a year and played his 2011-2012 season at Rider, where he was predictably a major contributor, shooting 40% on threes and averaging 13.6 ppg. His decision to sacrifice his Virginia degree to play in a more comfortable basketball situation was an interesting one. Nonetheless, Jones clearly enjoyed his experience at Virginia and had kind words about the fans and coaches. He is not currently coaching ODU.
Update (4/16 5PM): Jones is currently playing professionally in Europe. He started in Hungary, and is now playing for "Amicale" in Luxembourg. He played in one game with his first team, scoring 2 points, but has yet to see the court for Amicale. Thanks to @tmsportsllc for pointing this out.
Billy Baron - February 2011, transferred to Rhode Island midway through freshman year
Baron originally committed to play for his father at URI, but decided to change his commitment late and play at UVA. After igniting the JPJ crowd in his debut against William and Mary, sinking 5 of 6 threes and scoring 19, the point guard's productivity and playing time dwindled. Around the start of ACC play, Baron changed his mind, deciding to go back and play for Rhode Island.
It's tough not to feel for Baron, as his path has been a tough one. Baron became eligible to play again in mid-December 2011 and averaged 32 minutes and 13 points per game down the stretch. However, after a 7-24 year, Jim Baron was fired. Billy had an offer from Purdue and seriously considered staying at Rhode Island, but ultimately decided to follow his father to Canisius. He received a waiver from the NCAA to play right away, and turned in another solid season, this time averaging 17 points and 5 assists, while improving his three-point shooting to 38.2%. Billy is in line to have a huge senior year for his third college team.
Will Regan - April 2011, transferred to Buffalo after freshman year
As a first-year big man that came in as more of a compliment to Bennett's first class, Will Regan played sparingly before deciding to transfer, primarily for reasons not related to basketball.
Regan decided to play close to home at the University of Buffalo. From a basketball perspective, Regan has been killing it. He averaged 11 points per game but really came on strong late, including a 36 point outburst against Ball State in the MAC tournament. Most surprising has been his three-point stroke, where he shot 42% on the year on 113 attempts
KT Harrell - December 2011, transferred to Auburn halfway through sophomore year
KT Harrell came in as another one of the "Six Shooters" recruiting class and was one of the more promising players his freshman season, not to mention a fan favorite. He showed an impressive old-school mid-range game, shot 42% on threes, and earned time in the starting lineup.
However, an early-season shooting slump his second-year seemed to demoralize him. His playing time dwindled as he shot 19% on threes and 31.5% on twos, at which point he abruptly announced his departure. KT really could have been an important contributor (and the Hoos could've used him on their injury-ravaged tournament team). Obviously, there are things going on in these students' lives besides basketball; however, the Harrells noted that the decision was a result of playing time and lack of comfort with UVA's slow pace.
Because KT failed to choose a school before the start of the second semester, he missed a half season of playing time in addition to the year he had to sit out. (Thus, leaving mid-season ended up costing him half of a season of play). He'll be eligible to resume his junior season of basketball next year and should be an important part of a team that went 3-15 in the SEC last year.
James Johnson - December 2011, transferred to SDSU halfway through sophomore year
Another one of the "Six Shooter" class, James Johnson decided to redshirt his first season at Virginia, using the year off to develop what was promised to be limitless potential. Then, he played in a few games before calling it quits. (Okay, UVA fans may be a little bitter about this one. After taking advantage of a redshirt scholarship year, he could have at least finished a season in which UVA was perilously thin in the front-court. He would've had plenty of playing time if he waited a few more weeks too. Ultimately, it's Johnson's future, but this one confused me).
Because Johnson enrolled quickly with SDSU, he was eligible to play as of this January; he did lose a year of eligibility because he had already used his redshirt year. Johnson returned to average 1 point in 4 minutes per game and did not appear in SDSU's NCAA matchups with Oklahoma and Florida Gulf Coast.
Interestingly, it's not a stretch to infer how the various transfers leading up to Jesperson's were interconnected (is it?). Landesberg, Spurlock, and Jones all left in the same offseason, opening up three more scholarships and leading to a large six-man UVA recruiting class. The depth of that class squeezed individuals for playing time, ultimately playing into the transfer decisions of four of its members. Despite a plan to redshirt, the attrition forced Paul Jesperson into action; if he had followed his original path, the situation facing Paul may have led to his making a different calculation.