By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
The recent news that former UK player Johnny Juzang has finalized his list of potential transfer locations came as a little bit of a surprise. Not that he had finalized a list but some of the schools that were included on his final list.
When Juzang announced in early March that he was transferring from UK the thinking seemed to be that he was homesick and wanted to head back to the West Coast to be nearer his family in Los Angeles.
In fact, in an article for The Athletic, Kyle Tucker quoted Juzang’s father, Maxie Juzang, as saying the reason for leaving was exactly that — homesickness.
The elder Juzang said, “When you think about being homesick, I’m not sure how he played at the end was much of a factor. Johnny was young, so it took him a little longer to adjust mentally and maturity-wise, and the fact that me and my wife both work and didn’t get out there near as much as we thought we might really made it tough. Still, it was a tough decision to leave, because Johnny loved the coaches, loved the teammates, loved the stage. I think he choked up a little bit having to tell Cal. It was emotional.”
All of that was very believable until I saw the list of potential transfer locations — UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, Texas Tech, Notre Dame and Villanova.
I can understand UCLA, of course, and maybe Oregon but Arizona is a pretty long drive from Los Angeles and Texas Tech, Notre Dame and Villanova aren’t any easier to get to than UK — all would require a lengthy flight.
So it appears that unless Juzang picks UCLA, the transfer probably had more to do with playing time or coaching style than homesickness. One never knows what goes through the minds of 18-year old players as they — or their parents and friends — decide what is best for their future but in looking back at the track record of the 12 players that have transferred during John Calipari’s 11 seasons at UK it doesn’t appear that a transfer has benefited any of them when it came to success as a professional player.
I realize that not every player that left UK hoped to enhance their NBA draft stock but most came to UK with the idea that they would one day play professional basketball in the NBA. The fact that John Calipari puts players in the NBA is a key point for any highly ranked high school player looking at UK as a potential final destination for college.
With that being said it seems odd that players continue to believe the grass is always greener somewhere else when the results from previous transfers don’t seem to bear that out.
Granted, if a player, like Brad Calipari or even Jemarl Baker, is transferring to get more playing time I understand that completely but, in a list that includes Kyle Wiltjer, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee, Sacha Killyea-Jones and Quade Green, it doesn’t appear that circumstances leading up to an NBA contract for those players have worked out great once they left UK.
Also I realize that everyone makes their own decisions in life and accepts the consequences of those decisions but hopefully future players will see that hard work under tough circumstances, like Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley did over the last 2-3 years, can pay huge dividends at a school like UK and decide to stick it out and make it work for them.
American poet and novelist James Oppenheim said, “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”
Those are wise words for all of us to consider no matter what our circumstances are.