BY JOE laurich, staff writer
Men’s basketball Head Coach Travis Steele has been extremely active on the transfer market, and this year has been no different as he signed four players from very different situations.
Steele left no stone unturned as he and his team looked at sit out transfers, waiver transfers and Division II transfers. Steele has had mixed luck with transfers, but this group has shown a lot of promise from scrimmages and according to those around the program.
The first transfer to commit to Xavier for the 2020-2021 season was Nate Johnson who transferred from Gardner-Webb out of the Big South Conference.
Johnson is a 6-foot-4 guard with the ability to take over games with his shooting, making 41% of his threes and 82% of his free throws. He adds some much needed three-point shooting ability to a team that has desperately needed it for the past two years. Johnson also will provide experience for the team as he played in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Expect Johnson to contend for the starting three spot or to be one of the first players off the bench.
The next transfer is Bryan Griffin out of Division II Mercy College in New York.
Griffin is a 6-foot-8 hard-nosed center who can dominate the boards and attack the glass with his overt physicality. He led all of Division II in rebounds with an astounding 14.5 rebounds per game, and he also scored 19.6 points per game.
Griffin will be a fun player to watch this season as he loves to and will try to dunk the basketball whenever he gets the chance, much like recent graduate Tyrique Jones.
Griffin will play the role of backup center for most of the season.
The next transfer is Adam Kunkel.
Kunkel is from Union, Ky. which is less than 30 minutes from Xavier. He attended Belmont University for two years before deciding to transfer.
Initially, Kunkel was not looking for a waiver to immediately play and was going to use the year to bulk up and prepare his body for the physicality of Big East Basketball. However, the NCAA announced that they were giving winter athletes an extra year of eligibility, so Kunkel and the staff thought it would be a good decision to send in a waiver request.
Kunkel will be a valuable guard piece whenever he plays due to his outstanding three point shooting, where he shot 39% on over 200 attempts. He also averaged 16.5 points per game last year.
The final transfer is Ben Stanley from Hampton University. Stanley is a 6-foot-6 forward who averaged 22 points per game and over seven rebounds a game as a redshirt sophomore.
Stanley and the Xavier coaching staff submitted his waiver months ago, but on Friday it was denied by the NCAA.
Hampton chose not to offer in-person classes this semester, but Xavier’s hybrid classes provided Stanley a chance to improve academically. As a person with documented learning disabilities, this was influential in his decision to transfer to Xavier.
Hampton didn’t support Stanley’s transfer, which was a contributing factor in the NCAA’s decision to deny his waiver.
Xavier’s coaching staff has expressed their displeasure with the decision from the NCAA.
“There’s a lot of bullshit waivers, quite honestly, that are getting approved all over the country and then you have this young man who it’s all legit, and he’s getting penalized for it,” Steele said.
Xavier Director of Athletics Greg Christopher shared Steele’s frustration.
“It’s a broken structure,” he said. “It’s part of why the transfer rule is changing in January. It’s going to be voted on and changed. The problem is Ben Stanley is collateral damage and at the end of the day, Ben is being penalized because he has a learning disability and his former institution won’t support him.”
While he won’t be eligible to play this season, Stanley has eligibility remaining for next season and then an additional optional year of eligibility he could choose to take.
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