From Peon to Pedestal: Small-College Transfers Excelling in NCAA DI Tourney
After previously toiling in relative obscurity, former small-college standouts Chris Flemmings (transferred from Barton NC to UNC Wilmington) and Duncan Robinson (Williams MA to Michigan) made significant contributions in the last two NCAA DI Tournaments.
But Flemmings and Robinson aren't the only transfer players to go from nowhere to Cloud Nine in the NCAA playoffs. Arkansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Iowa, Kansas State, Louisville, Marquette, Nevada and Wisconsin featured small-college transfers in regular rotations of previous NCAA tourney squads.
Of course, the most prominent player in history in this category is all-time great Elgin Baylor (Seattle). Consider this alphabetical list of more than 20 transfer players who went from non-Division I schools to center stage in the NCAA Division I Tournament prior to Flemmings and Robinson:
Scott Barnes, C (Eastern Montana 81-82/Fresno State 84-85)
Averaged 9.7 ppg and 4.8 rpg for Eastern Montana before averaging 11.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg for Fresno State. Barnes was an All-PCAA second-team selection as a senior when he led the Bulldogs in rebounding (7.4 rpg). Grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds against Karl Malone-led Louisiana Tech when Fresno bowed to the Bulldogs in the first round of the 1984 NCAA playoffs.
Elgin Baylor, F (College of Idaho 55/Seattle 57-58)
Averaged 31.3 ppg and 18.9 rpg for College of Idaho (now Albertson College) before averaging 31.2 ppg and 19.8 rpg for Seattle. He was an NCAA unanimous first-team All-American and Final Four Most Outstanding Player as a junior in 1957-58.
Davion Berry, G-F (Cal State Montery Bay 10-11/Weber State 13-14)
Game-high 24 points in 68-59 opening-game defeat against Arizona in 2014.
Don Boldebuck, C (Nebraska Wesleyan 52-53/Houston 55-56)
Averaged more than 20 ppg for Nebraska Wesleyan before averaging 23 ppg and 17 rpg in leading Houston in scoring and rebounding both of his seasons with the Cougars. He paced them in scoring in both of their NCAA playoff games in 1956.
Mike Born, G (Nebraska-Omaha 85-86/Iowa State 88-89)
Averaged 10.5 ppg for Nebraska-Omaha before averaging 8.6 ppg and 2.5 apg for two NCAA Tournament teams at Iowa State. Scored six points in each of his NCAA playoff games.
Jim Boylan, G (Assumption MA 74-75/Marquette 77-78)
Fifth-leading scorer for 1977 NCAA Tournament champion. He scored 14 points in the tourney final against Phil Ford-led North Carolina.
Jon Bryant, G (St. Cloud State MN 96-97/Wisconsin 99-00)
All-North Central Conference selection and team MVP with 17.3 ppg as a sophomore after being named NCC Freshman of the Year when he hit 57.4% of his three-point attempts. Third-leading scorer for the Badgers burst on the national scene with seven three-pointers, including four in a zone-busting 1 1/2-minute stretch late in the game, to help the Badgers rally to a 66-56 over Fresno State in the first round of 2000 West Regional.
Ronnie Clark, G (Florida Southern 00/Colorado State 02-04)
Sunshine State Conference freshman of the year was CSU's third-leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer in 2003 when the Rams played Duke tough before bowing in the opening round.
Terry Connolly, F (Shepherd WV 87-88/Richmond 90-91)
Averaged 8.2 ppg each of his two seasons with Spider NCAA playoff teams. Member of first #15 seed to defeat a #2 seed (Syracuse in 1991).
Travis DeCuire, G (Chaminade HI 90/Montana 92-94)
Led Chaminade in scoring with 10.9 ppg as a freshman in 1989-90. Averaged 6.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 5 apg for the Grizzlies, including Big Sky Conference-leading 7.1 apg as a senior. Competing against eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, DeCuire scored six points in a 78-68 reversal against Florida State in the 1992 NCAA playoffs.
Mike Hanson, G (Tennessee-Martin 89/Louisiana State 91-93)
Scored 40 points vs. LSU as a freshman when leading UTM in scoring (20 ppg) and assists. Erupted for 31 points against both Tennessee and Illinois as a sophomore when he was the Tigers' third-leading scorer (12.7 ppg) before his playing time decreased significantly his final two seasons. Member of three LSU teams participating in the NCAA playoffs.
John Harrell, G (North Carolina Central 76/Duke 78-79)
Averaged 15.7 ppg and led N.C. Central in assists in 1975-76. Averaged 5.1 ppg for Duke's NCAA Tournament runner-up in 1977-78 before playing sparingly the next season.
Curtis High, G (Tennessee-Martin 81-82/Nevada-Reno 84-85)
Tennessee-Martin's second-leading scorer as a freshman (14.3 ppg) and sophomore (12.6 ppg). Led UNR in scoring and assists as a junior (13.3 ppg, 6.3 apg) and senior (17.8 ppg, 6 apg) for two NCAA tourney squads. All-Big Sky first-team selection in 1984-85. Scored a team-high 21 points in 1984 first-round loss to Detlef Schrempf-led Washington.
Roy Howard, F (Tarleton State TX 89/Texas-El Paso 91-93)
Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Freshman of the Year when he led Tarleton State in scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.5 rpg). UTEP's second-leading rebounder as a senior (6.5 rpg). Averaged 4.2 ppg and 4.4 rpg for 1992 NCAA playoff team that upset #1 seed Kansas in the Midwest Regional.
Avery Johnson, G (Cameron OK 85/Southern LA 87-88)
Averaged a modest 4.3 ppg for Cameron before leading the nation in assists with Southern for two NCAA tourney teams. Distributed a total of 17 assists in NCAA playoff games against Temple and Kentucky. Shares NCAA single-game record for most assists with 22. Went on to become principal playmaker for the San Antonio Spurs' NBA champion before coaching in the pros prior to accepting a similar job at Alabama.
Fred Lewis, F (Tampa 88/South Florida 90-92)
Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year when he averaged 15.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg. Averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game for USF. He was the Bulls' second-leading rebounder all three seasons, including two NCAA playoff teams.
Bob Lochmueller, F (Oakland City IN/Louisville 50-52)
Averaged 15 ppg in his career with the Cardinals, leading their first NCAA Tournament team in scoring as a junior (19 ppg).
Tony Massop, C (Sacramento State 87/Kansas State 89-90)
Averaged 10.3 ppg and 8 rpg as a sophomore at Sacramento State. Averaged 5.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg as a junior and 8.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg as a senior for a pair of NCAA tourney teams. He was the Wildcats' leading rebounder in 1989-90.
Bret Mundt, C (Bethel TN/Memphis State 88-89)
Averaged 5.1 ppg and 3.6 rpg in 1987-88 and 6.2 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 1988-89 for a pair of NCAA tourney teams. Scored 13 points when the Tigers lost to Purdue in 1988 Midwest Regional.
Tucker Neale, G (Ashland OH 91/Colgate 93-95)
Averaged 23.1 ppg for Colgate's first NCAA playoff team in 1995.
Aaron Preece, G (Illinois College/Bradley 49-51)
Sixth-leading scorer for the Braves' 1950 NCAA and NIT runner-up tallied 12 points in each of the NCAA Final Four games.
Nevil Shed, F (North Carolina A&T/Texas Western 65-67)
"The Shadow" sank the free throw in 1966 NCAA championship game against Kentucky, giving the Miners a lead they never relinquished. He averaged 10.6 ppg and 7.9 rpg for the national titlist.
Bill Sherwood, C-F (Oglethorpe GA 84-85/Oregon State 87-88)
Averaged 7.7 ppg in 1986-87 and 14.7 ppg in 1987-88 for the Beavers. Outscored teammate Gary Payton with 17 points in OSU's 70-61 loss to Louisville in 1988 Southeast Regional.
Scott Snider, C (Pacific Lutheran WA 92-93/Gonzaga 95-96)
Led Pacific Lutheran in scoring as a freshman with 11.9 ppg before averaging 14 ppg and 5.6 rpg as a sophomore. Led the WCC in field-goal shooting (62.9%) as a senior when he averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.4 rpg after averaging 5.2 ppg and 4.2 rpg the previous year for the Zags' first NCAA Tournament team.
Johnny Taylor, F (Knoxville TN 94/Tenn.-Chattanooga 96-97)
Averaged 18.2 ppg and 8.1 rpg with UTC before becoming an NBA first-round draft choice. Southern Conference Player of the Year for UTC team upsetting Georgia and Illinois in the 1997 Southeast Regional.
Chad Townsend, G (St. Edward's TX 95/Murray State 97-98)
Averaged 22.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg in his final season at St. Edward's. All-OVC second-team selection averaged 13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg and a school-record 7.1 apg as a junior when he was OVC Tournament MVP. Played in two NCAA tourneys with the Racers.
Joel Tribelhorn, G (Fort Lewis CO 85-87/Colorado State 89)
Finished third on Fort Lewis' career scoring list with 1,390 points after setting school single-season records for most points (635 in 1986-87), highest scoring average (24.4 ppg in 1985-86) and best three-point field-goal shooting (50% in 1986-87). The NAIA All-American second-team selection as a junior became an All-WAC second-team pick as a senior when he was CSU's second-leading scorer (13.8 ppg), led the Rams in field-goal shooting (53.9%) and paced the league in three-point shooting (56.3%). Scored a game-high 20 points when CSU upset Florida, 68-46, in the 1989 Midwest Regional.
Roosevelt Wallace, F (Virginia Union/Arkansas 91-92)
Averaged 8.8 ppg and 5.7 rpg for the Razorbacks' 1992 NCAA playoff squad.