Why is Iowa State’s transfer model so successful?

On Wednesday, former junior college standout Jameel McKay announced he would transfer from Marquette after less than half a semester and enroll at Iowa State.

This should surprise no one. Not the transfer after not even playing a game for (presumably) no off-the-court issues, that’s just weird. But the fact that McKay has decided to defect to Ames, where transfers seem to flock like a successful Island of Misfit Toys. Since Fred Hoiberg took over the Cyclones prior to the 2010-11 season, the program has had 13 different JuCo or four-year school transfers.

The Mayor has successfully parlayed a mix of freshman and transfers into two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, but can this continue?

In defense of Hoiberg, he’s not bringing in players with troubled pasts or chemistry issues. He seeks out players that are looking for a home after leaving a program — let’s focus on four-year players for now — and brings them in to his system. That’s not without a few red flag cases. Korie Lucious was kicked off the team at Michigan State, came to Ames and enjoyed a solid senior season. He also brought in a player like Royce White, an elite talent who still battles severe anxiety disorders, which has hindered his ability to fly on team charters. He catered a bit to White (he rarely, if ever, flew to  a game. Driving to the Cyclones NCAA Tournament second round loss to Kentucky in 2012) and got a ton out of him, and White ended up as a first round NBA Draft pick.

Junior college players are seen as plug-and-play guys. Depending on the program and the coach leading it, some schools really use these players, some don’t. Hoiberg is the former, obviously. Since his first season, Hoiberg has had nine JuCo transfers on his roster. Five of them have finished in the top five in scoring for the Cyclones at the end of the season. He gets the most out of the  talent that he brings in offensively. Hoiberg doesn’t view junior college players as simply hole-fillers for a season or two. Which is probably why he gets so many good ones. Two JuCo Top 100 players, Dustin Hogue and K.J. Bluford, committed to the Cyclones prior to this season.

It’s not necessarily a new practice. With the supposed transfer culture going around in college basketball, roster turnover has made it more common to expect a bevy of new players yearly. Before Iowa State, mid-and-low major programs have thrived off bringing in transfers. But not many high major teams, which is what the Cyclones are doing, well.

Got a problem or suggestion with the piece? Got an idea for a better one? Reach David Harten at tbbchronicles@gmail.com or on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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