After months of waiting, Wednesday’s decision by the NCAA Division I Council to approve a blanket waiver for immediate eligibility to transfers freed dozens of college basketball players stuck in limbo. While many high-profile transfers like Kentucky’s Olivier Sarr and Texas Tech’s Mac McClung long ago received waivers for immediate eligibly, many others had been denied or still had cases pending.
Wednesday’s ruling ends the need for a waiver and means that — barring other eligibility issues — athletes will now be allowed to play this season. The decision comes after an October ruling from the council that the 2020-21 season will not count against a player’s eligibility due to the impact of COVID-19 on the season. At that point, many transfers who had planned to sit out the season began to apply to become eligible immediately.
But many coaches expressed frustration with the NCAA’s lack of uniformity in its decision to grant waivers to some players and not others. With all that bickering now in the past, here is a look at the 10 players and programs that are positioned to benefit the most from Wednesday’s decision.
Considering that Miami coach Jim Larranaga is fearful of having just six scholarship players available against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, this one is huge for the Hurricanes. They have been hit hard hard by injuries and need able bodies. Olaniyi should be plenty capable of helping after averaging 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game at Stony Brook last season. Clearly, playing in the ACC will be a step up, but there’s no denying he’ll have a chance to shine.
Guards Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson have been shouldering a heavy load for the Flyers this season, and Weaver — a former top-50 prospect — should be able to help ease the burden after averaging 5.9 points and making 34% of his 3-pointers in two seasons at USC.
“In our situation, we did not request a waiver for Elijah, but with the rule, certainly if it passes, we hope to have him available,” coach Anthony Grant said Monday on his weekly radio show. “Don’t know when his availability would happen, but certainly if the rule does pass, we’d be pretty thrilled if we could get him available.”
The Fighting Irish are lean on depth, and coach Mike Brey believes Wertz can help immediately. The 6-foot-4 guard hit 40% of his 3-pointers at Santa Clara last season. If nothing else, he should be able to provide some breathers for a group of four players who are averaging more than 36 minutes per game through the Fighting Irish’s first four contests.
The Panthers are 4-1 and have rebounded nicely since losing their opener to Saint Francis (PA). But with three players accounting for 69.2% of the team’s scoring, third-year coach Jeff Capel is still looking for depth. The 6-foot-4 Sibande should be able to provide it after averaging 15.1 points in three seasons at Miami (Ohio).
“If he’s cleared, he’ll play right away,” Capel said.
Butler has played just one game this season — a 66-62 win over Western Michigan — so it’s premature to declare the Bulldogs to be in desperate need of help. But they are replacing their top two scorers and were picked to finish eighth in the Big East. So getting a veteran like Hodges eligible would be nice. The former Southern Conference Freshman of the Year at ETSU developed into a force during his three seasons with the Bucs. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, he’s a defensively versatile wing who averaged 12.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game for a 30-win team last season.
The Tigers need a jolt of some sort after a 4-3 start, and perhaps Williams can provide it. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 64.8% from the floor for Evansville last season. He hit 45.5% of his 3-pointers for the Purple Aces and brings an element of floor spacing that the Tigers’ other bigs are not providing.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman at Hampton last season by earning All-Big South honors while averaging 22 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Musketeers have had their last three games postponed due to COVID-19 issues, but Stanley’s addition will bolster the depth of a team that is off to a 7-0 start that includes wins over Cincinnati and Oklahoma.
Anei averaged 7.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in two seasons at Oklahoma State before landing at SMU as a transfer this offseason. So the 6-foot-10 big man ought to be able help a Mustangs team that is already off to a 4-0 start. In fact, he could pair with veteran forwards Ethan Chargois and Feron Hunt to give SMU one of the best front courts in the AAC as the Mustangs come off of probation and look to challenge Houston for a league title.
Denzel Mahoney, Mitch Ballock and Marcus Zegarowski are each hoisting more than seven 3-point attempts per game. So it’s not like the Bluejays are in desperate need of another shooter. But Creighton’s system relies heavily on the long ball, and if O’Connell can regain the touch he showed as a freshman at Duke in the 2017-18 season, he’ll fit in nicely on a team with lofty expectations. The former top-100 prospect hit 48.9% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman before dipping to just 27.3% as a junior for the Blue Devils last season.
Hyder started 24 games at Fresno State last season and averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. He is probably not going to be a star for Cal, but he should be able to help a team that’s off to an 0-3 start in Pac-12 play. The Bears took a step forward from three league wins to seven last year in coach Mark Fox’s first season at the helm, but if they are going to continue that upward trajectory, they need a boost. Maybe Hyder can help provide it.