Cunliffe the latest Jayhawk to impact growing transfer trend and Kansas basketball

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) watches from the bench between Kansas forward Billy Preston, left, and Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Late last month, Sam Cunliffe became the 17th Kansas basketball player to the leave the program for another Div. I opportunity during Bill Self’s first 15 years at Kansas.

That number, which does not include players who left basketball altogether, has been balanced out by Self bringing in 14 Div. I transfers during that same time.

Three of those players — forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson and point guard Charlie Moore — are on the 2018-19 roster and the Jayhawks are hoping that that trio will enjoy the same kind of success that players like Malik Newman, Tarik Black and Jeff Withey experienced in the past.

“These guys will all be terrific players here,” said Self shortly after the end of the 2017-18 season of the Lawson brothers and Moore, who all transferred to KU in April of 2017.

While that certainly is the hope for every player that Self and his coaching staff bring to campus, factors exist that do not always make that possible.

From limited playing time to struggling to adapt to the culture and everything in between, the 17 transfers who have left KU have done so most often in search of a better fit.

“Being here, man, I’m telling you, it humbles you a lot,” Cunliffe said about a month before announcing his departure.

Cunliffe, who announced Tuesday that he was transferring to Evansville, is the latest example of one of the hard, cold facts that comes with playing at Kansas. Not every player the Jayhawks sign turns out to be the next Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham or Landen Lucas, program guys who make the most of their four or even five years in Lawrence and put in a ton of work along the way.

But, as evident by the number of transfers Self has welcomed into his program, it’s not just Kansas that has seen a high number of departures during the past couple of decades.

According to a study conducted by the NCAA, the results of which were released last December and updated last month, 40 percent of men’s basketball players who enter a Div. I program directly out of high school depart their initial school by the end of their sophomore year.

Shortly after landing Moore and the Lawson brothers — along with former William & Mary grad transfer Jack Whitman, who left KU without ever playing and did not continue his playing career after that — Self discussed what some have deemed “an epidemic” in college basketball.

“It’s not the coaches running guys off,” Self told the Journal-World last spring. “It’s a societal problem. How many kids switch high schools when things don’t go well or how many kids drop a class if they flunk the first test? People want immediate results and a lot of times that can’t be the case for all 13 on scholarship to get immediate results.”

The recent NCAA study on college basketball transfers also addressed that issue, examining where the 689 transfers who changed addresses prior to the 2017-18 season ended up after leaving.

According to the study, 48 percent went to another Div. I program, 26 percent went to the NAIA or junior college route and the remaining 26 percent transferred to Div. II or Div. III programs.

History shows that good things could be ahead for Cunliffe. Of the 17 players who have left Self’s program to pursue other Div. I opportunities, nine went on to play meaningful minutes at their next school, with four of them doing it at programs that have made the Final Four in the past six seasons.

By comparison, four of the 14 players who have transferred to KU have played meaningful minutes for the Jayhawks, though that number figures to rise to seven, with both Lawsons and Moore all expected to be a part of the rotation during the upcoming season and perhaps beyond.

Prior to his decision to leave Kansas, Cunliffe said he felt his down time with the program, during his redshirt year, had prepared him to compete for a regular role. Newman, who sat out the 2016-17 season after transferring to KU from Mississippi State, said the same thing prior to starting 33 of 39 games for the Jayhawks during their run to the Final Four last season.

Redshirting during a transfer year is far from the only path to success at Kansas. But because it has worked out for a handful of players in the recent past, it continues to be a motivating factor for athletes on both sides of the coin.

Said Cunliffe before leaving: “The thing about coming here, last year especially, those guys that were in front of me had been here. And now, for me, looking at the guys coming in, I feel like I have an advantage just from knowing things and being here and knowing what coach wants. I’m not saying those other guys can’t play, it just helps you out a lot to be able to know those things. Especially here because coach pays attention to so many details.”

Added Dedric Lawson earlier this summer: “Coach (Self) made it easy for me to sit out. He always made us feel a part of the team and he made us travel and things like that. Overall, it was a pretty good sit-out year.”

The following is a quick list of the Jayhawks who either came to KU from another Division I school or left Kansas for another Division I school during Self’s 15 years in Lawrence.

Transferring In (14)

Rodrick Stewart – 2006 – USC

Jeff Withey – 2009 – Arizona

Justin Wesley – 2010 – Lamar

Kevin Young – 2011 – Loyola-Marymount

Hunter Mickelson – 2013 – Arkansas

Tarik Black – 2013 – Memphis

Dwight Coleby – 2015 – Ole Miss

Evan Maxwell – 2016 – Liberty

Malik Newman – 2016 – Mississippi State

Sam Cunliffe – 2017 – Arizona State

Dedric Lawson – 2017 – Memphis•

K.J. Lawson – 2017 – Memphis•

Charlie Moore – 2017 – Cal•

Jack Whitman – 2017 – William & Mary

  • = on current roster

Transferring Out (17)

David Padgett – 2004 – Louisville

Omar Wilkes – 2004 – Cal

J.R. Giddens – 2005 – New Mexico

Alex Galindo – 2005 – Florida International

Micah Downs – 2006 – Gonzaga

C.J. Giles – 2006 – Oregon State

Quintrell Thomas – 2009 – UNLV

Royce Woolridge – 2011 – Washington State

Milton Doyle – 2012 – Loyola (Chicago)

Merv Lindsay – 2012 – New Mexico

Anrio Adams – 2013 – Ohio/Eastern Kentucky

Zach Peters – 2013 – Arizona

Andrew White III – 2014 – Nebraska/Syracuse

Conner Frankamp – 2014 – Wichita State

Carlton Bragg Jr. – 2017 – Arizona State/New Mexico

Dwight Coleby – 2017 – Western Kentucky

Sam Cunliffe – 2018 – Evansville


Carlton Bragg Jr. – 2017 – Arizona State/*New Mexico*

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Matt Tait

Excellent point. Completely spaced out updating that one... Wonder why. Thanks!

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Jacob Zutterman

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Peters leave KU for medical reasons?

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Matt Tait

That was definitely why he did not stay at Kansas (concussions, if I remember correctly), but he eventually attempted to continue his playing career at Arizona before walking away.

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Shannon Gustafson

What a strange path he went down...

6 months, 2 weeks ago


David Howell

What a pic of those three ................ A "we will never know, a maybe could be for this year potential stud, and a sorry things didn't work out here (Coaches recruited too well)" !

I hope the NCAA / FBI makes their decision soon on Silvio. He was really coming on last year.

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Shannon Gustafson

There is no decision needed for Silvio. He was cleared last year and he's still eligible. So no NCAA decision is needed for him to play this year and the FBI has no ability to say he can't play (though they can supply the NCAA with information that could be used against him by the NCAA, the ultimate decision is not the FBI's to make).

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Marius Rowlanski

"I hope the NCAA / FBI makes their decision soon on Silvio. "

Reread what Shannon wrote. I think the statement was extremely clear.

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Dirk Medema

By comparison, four of the 14 players who have transferred to KU have played meaningful minutes for the Jayhawks.

Rodrick Stewart – great teammate, but no meaningful minutes

Jeff Withey – meaningful minutes

Justin Wesley – isn't he Langford's cousin or something like that, and got a personal scholarship deal from Keith?

Kevin Young – meaningful minutes

Hunter Mickelson – starter = meaningful minutes, though oddly nonexistent after the 1st quarter of any game.

Tarik Black – meaningful minutes

Dwight Coleby – meaningful minutes waiting to be grasped when he transferred.

Malik Newman – meaningful minutes

I'm counting 5 transfers in as having meaningful minutes, and Dwight seemed to be on the verge when he finally started to get healthy again. Were Hunter's minutes too limited to be considered meaningful minutes even though he started? (Did anyone ever talk to Coach about that usage? It always seemed a bit curious to me.)

The numbers would seem to be 5 of 11 (1/2 from Dwight and 1/2 from Hunter?), and the 2 real misses are Maxwell and Whitman. 50% (+/-) success rate seems pretty phenomenal.

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Joe Ross

When you look at the talent-level of the players who transfer out, you realize immediately that Kansas is a program where each player has to take the onus upon himself to sink or swim. It's a tough reality at a place like KU. Sometimes, they swim immediately. Others need swimming lessons/time in the program. But if any of them wishes to be a Michael Phelps of the Court, it takes talent, discipline and hard work. The competition is very high, and this year is a crucible more than most others. Not surprised by the Cunliffe move in the slightest. Wish him well....

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Marius Rowlanski

I think Self has made a few errors in the transfer department but overall, he has gotten it right more often than not.

Completely agree that KU is a make or miss make University. There are those who made the team by their inner toughness and hard work.

If I had to pick Self's biggest miss, Andrew White lll was the tough-nosed guard who loves to drive but Brannen Greene had such a beautiful shooting motion, I think it might have swayed his opinion but obviously one or the other was going to leave.

Anybody missing Jack Whitman? Obviously no but what about Dwight Coleby? We were arguably one big away from a national championship

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Benz Junque

Dwight Coleby wasn't going to prevent Nova from hitting 250 three pointers against us.

6 months, 2 weeks ago


Brad Watson

Evansville is getting quality...Cunliffe to good to sit his entire career...I am extremely happy for the kid....He will do well...look forward to following the Evansville box scores.

6 months ago


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