Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Just Because I Transferred Doesn't Mean You Should Too

Since my first blog post, several younger college players have asked me: "Should I transfer?"

Realization #1:
At some point, everyone wants to transfer.

The thought usually creeps in during your freshman year. 

After all the lovey-dovey, one-on-one recruitment praise wears off, most start to realize there are ten to twelve other teammates fighting for the spotlight, too. It's not all about you anymore, Dorothy. Suddenly the high school star who has waltzed through life now has some competition.

For many of us, after the first year starring as "role player," pride begins to sink in.

"Why doesn't coach play me more?"
"I hate it here."
"I should have gone to..."

Realization #2:
Everyone thinks they're going to be the man.

At Oklahoma I thought I was going to be the freshman phenom.

Let me tell you why.

I've already explained why my heart was never fully invested in Oklahoma's program. 

Still, I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to be the best there ever was. 

Coming from a small private high school in Texas, I could never shake a comparison to one of Liberty Christian's greatest basketball stars, Whitney Hand. Whitney had signed to play at Oklahoma four years before me. 

It's all people talked about. 

Since we were four years apart, I never got to play with her in high school. Due to the dreaded injury bug, she got a few extra years at Oklahoma. Meaning, we finally became teammates.

As much as I love, admire, and respect Whitney, during my freshman year I so badly wanted to be different than Whitney. I didn't want to follow in her footsteps; I wanted footsteps of my own. I had always wanted to "one-up" her in a way. I didn't want to go to Oklahoma like Whitney, I wanted to go to (fill in the blank) like Nicole. 

I had to come to grips that Whitney was the star here too, and I was not.

Realization #3:
All college coaches are slightly nuts.

All of them. Every single one. 

They're full of passion for this game. As nice and caring as they were to you back in high school, as soon as you sign on the dotted line and officially become a student-athlete, you belong to them. 

That's why it's so important to pick a coach who doesn't falsely recruit you. 

CAUTION: Don't fall for one-liners.

"You'll start right away."
"You will be the face of our program."
"Those other schools don't have what we have here."

Most will say whatever they can to get you to sign that National Letter of Intent. And once you're there, don't expect all those empty promises to magically come true. You have to earn your spot now.

You want a coach to like you right off the bat? Learn how to play defense.

Realization #4:
If you can find a coach who ultimately cares for your well-being at the end of the day, you're in the right hands. 

Yes, most will scream their heads off. Yes, their expectations are extremely high. But hey, that's their job.

Realization #5:
Your teammates will be different than you.

Hate to break it to ya kid, but it's hiiiiiiiighly likely you wouldn't be friends with half of your teammates if it weren't for that round rubber ball. 

Granted, you need to hold your future teammates to a certain standard.

But let's face it--there will be teammates who are just flat out not like you. In any way, shape, or form. You have to find a way to play with them anyway. They're your teammates. Someone has to pass you the ball. They have to trust you, and you have to trust them. 

This next sentence may shock you.

You don't even have to be friends with them. 

At the end of the day, what matters most is what happens on the court. You don't have to treat them to a cup of coffee off of it.

This can be hard. But just because something is hard, doesn't mean a certain someone should transfer. 

Realization #6:
Know your role. 

I know you're used to being the star. 

You're used to everyone loving you. You're a cool, hard working, natural-born athlete. However, that does not necessarily mean your college teammates are cool and hard working, too. 

Sometimes they do bad things on the weekends. Sometimes they don't even work as hard as you, yet they get all the praise. But as long as you put forth continued effort and stay true to yourself, you should never feel defeated. You'll grow from it at the end of the day, and especially at the end of the season.

For me, that took a long time to grasp. I thought I was going to be the All-American freshman who would be an immediate starter, take our team to the Final Four, and be the face of Sports Illustrated. 

I thought our team was going to be different than all of the rest, because I was on it. 

If I can tell you one thing about freshman year, it's that only about 5% of D1 athletes get to live out that pipe dream their first year. Don't get down on yourself, though. Remember, you're a freshman. (Or a 5th year senior...)

Realization #7:
Make mistakes. 

The worst thing you can do, especially as a freshman, is try to be perfect all the time. Let your coaches coach you. And trust me, you need to be coached. This ain't high school anymore, Toto.

The truth is, not many people play their freshman year. The sadder truth, not many people put their pride aside and learn from why they didn't. 

Instead, they transfer.

Realization #8:
Don't bolt too soon.

This is an opportunity of a lifetime. You're with the best of the best. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

So here's the deal:

What's more important to you? What is your heart set on? Are you escaping confrontation with teammates? Do you try to avoid certain individuals? Are you giving them a chance? Have you talked to your coaches? Do they know how you feel? Is playing time your motivating factor? Is your confidence low and that's what's causing you to have all these doubts? Are you looking for a way out, or can your issues be mended?

If you have at least one or two girls on the team who share your same morals and values, I would say trust the process and lean on them for strength and guidance. If you are truly in a tough place and there doesn't appear to be any type of safe haven, maybe you really should consider the "T" word. 

At OU I gave it time. I believe there's a lesson to be learned in waiting, in trying to tackle your issues head on instead of fleeing from them. 

Don't get me wrong, at some point you have to stick up for yourself. But until you hit your breaking point, I would strongly advise seeing where this year takes you.

Whether you play 40 minutes a game, or sit 40 minutes a game, YOU were a contributing factor. Yes, you.

How do you think your star teammates get better every day? The answer better be you. You better be pushing them each practice; you better have the mindset that one day that could be you in their shoes, and that one day could be tomorrow. Sometimes that's the role of a freshman, but that role is just as important. High-level basketball takes high-level patience.

When I think of patience, one of my best friends, Kari Korver, comes to mind. Her freshman year at UCLA was hell. I won't get into the details, but let's just say I don't think anyone else has ever had worse. Her sophomore year didn't get much better either. She tore her ACL for the second time in her playing career and had to sit out for those dreaded 7-9 months. 

Realization: #9
Ask yourself these questions:

"If I get injured this year, will I be okay here? Will I want to run away, or do the people here have my best interests at heart?"

Kari stuck it out. She wanted to be at UCLA and no one was going to stop her. She wasn't going to quit. 

And you know what, look where she is now. Kari Korver is the cornerstone of UCLA basketball. She is one of the best shooters in the country. She has broken an abundance of records. But what matters most is the leader and friend that she is to all who are lucky enough to cross her path. The lifelong respect she has gained from a multitude of teammates--and the happiness she exudes every time she dons those four letters across her chest--is immeasurable. Others radiate just by being around her. What a college career she has had so far. And she still has a final season to go.

Kari is an example of a player who stayed. A player who picked a program, because it's the place where her heart was led. She had countless hardships and learned from each and every one. 

Realization #10:
Stats, prestige, recognition, and celebrity are all crap. 

It's okay to believe you're the best in the gym. That you're All-American status. That you got game.

However, if that's all you're playing for, your play will soon show it. Your lack of respect will show it. 

What I truly care about now are relationships. I want nothing more than to see Kari have her best year yet at UCLA. And by golly, that's exactly what's going to happen. I want to see each and every one of my teammates shine this year. To see my coaches push us until our potential becomes who we really are. 

I will do whatever it takes to win; and if that's as a role player, I will be the best role player there is. If that's to put up points, you'll find me in the gym shooting until my arms fall off. 

UCLA is where I'm meant to be. I'm happy.  And let me tell you, once I let all of my pridefulness go, my anxieties left with it and fulfilling friendships came flooding in. 

When you're where you're meant to be, you'll know it. Don't run when the going gets tough. Embrace it. Embrace the suck.

Just because I transferred doesn't mean you should too.


  1. Awesome Blog. Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. A very nice and accurate read. Thanks for it.

  3. There is a whole lot of wisdom here, I'm really impressed with your presence of mind and independence Bill Wilson

  4. And THIS is why I watch you! I see it (the drive, the passion, the heart) when you set foot on the court, even for 10 min. You're everywhere. You're a true team player. That's why you're my favorite. I'll follow your yellow brick road!

    #gonnareaditagaintmw #ThisTerplovesThatBruin

  5. Wow, absolutely fantastic blog. I am very glad to have such useful information.