Mark Pope and Dan Majerle have a thing or two in common.
They’re both in the rare group of college coaches that played in the NBA, and both their names, to some degree or another, were relevant as coaching searches churned this offseason. But, most important for their respective programs, the two WAC coaches continue to excel on the high major transfer market.
Pope, whose 2017-18 Utah Valley team was led almost exclusively by transfers (including ones from Utah and Xavier), talked about why he’s relied heavily on that route.
“I knew coming into this, who knew Utah Valley, right? I knew coming into this, for us to get the talent we wanted it was going to be hard with freshmen,” he said. “You have to find a really unique individual that knows what he wants to turn down that signing day glitz and come to our place and put faith in us. So we’ve been able to get much better talent with the transfer route.”
On Tuesday, he landed his future point guard in Oklahoma State transfer Brandon Averette. The rising junior was originally slated to play in the mid-major ranks, signing with Brad Underwood at Stephen F. Austin before following Underwood to Stillwater.
In his two years as a Cowboy, Averette started seven games while being a legitimate part of OSU’s rotation as a sophomore. He averaged 6.3 points per game last season, while flashing promise as a creator (26.9% assist rate). This has Pope excited for what he’ll eventually get on the court in 2019-2020.
“I think he’s probably faster than a cheetah,” said Pope. “He will continue the extraordinary legacy of point guard play at Utah Valley. Brandon has a calm, hungry demeanor that is going to translate into some tremendous leadership for our team. His athleticism is unparalleled in college basketball. I couldn’t be more excited to coach Brandon. He’s incredibly talented. Our expectation is that Brandon will help us continue the upward trajectory that our team has been on over the past three years. I really believe that he can help us take it to another level.”
Meanwhile, Majerle has yet again scored his own high major transfer wins this offseason.
Grand Canyon unsurprisingly got a commitment from Illinois grad transfer forward Michael Finke (9.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG). Finke’s younger brother Tim, an incoming freshman at GCU, is Majerle’s biggest recruiting coup in Phoenix, as the four star wing held offers from Notre Dame, Oregon, Iowa State among others. While they’re drastically different players, the older Finke should help assume some of the minutes lost with Keonta Vernon’s graduation.
It’s the second consecutive offseason the Lopes have banked on a family connection to land an impact grad transfer, after Oregon’s Casey Benson joined his brother TJ, an assistant coach, last year.
Majerle also dipped into two other high major programs for a pair of guards that will have two years of eligibility after sitting out this upcoming season. Carlos Johnson (Washington, 8.5 MPG) and Isiah Brown (Northwestern, 10.8 MPG) both got spot action last season, and both were three-star prospects coming out of high school.
For both coaches, it’s not that loading up on transfers is an outside-the-box plan. But over the past few years, they’ve continually landed players from high major schools, and in a league like the WAC, that infusion of talent will pay dividends more often than not.